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Civil practice - Breach of contract.

Byline: Mass. Lawyers Weekly Staff

Where a defendant fire protection company moves for summary judgment in a breach of contract action, that motion is denied because even though the plaintiffs did not attach the entire contract to the amended complaint, they made a presentation of the relevant terms, its duration, and when it was formed.

"Plaintiffs Lexington Insurance Company brought this action against [defendant] Johnson Controls Fire Protection Limited Partnership for breach of contract and negligence. [O]ne of Defendant's technicians was at [the] property [in question]. Upon Plaintiffs' information and belief, the technician was performing repairs related to the pressurization issue in the attic's sprinkler system. While the technician was performing this work, a clapper valve in the dry system opened and released water into the system at a rate of 100 pounds per square inch. The technician subsequently allowed the sprinkler system to run for approximately nine minutes. As a result, a pipe fixture failed, which enabled water to escape causing extensive water damage.

"Defendant argues that a plaintiff seeking to recover for breach of contract must allege that 'he himself adequately performed under the contract.' Debnam v. FedEx Home Delivery, 2011 WL 1188437, at *1 (D. Mass. Mar. 31, 2011), aff'd, 766 F.3d 93 (1st Cir. 2014). Plaintiffs, however, note that prior to and on the date of the incident that caused water damage, Defendant's technicians were performing services pursuant to the contract. At this stage in the litigation, this Court must draw all reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs' favor. Fothergill v. United States, 566 F.3d, 248, 251 (1st Cir. 2009). Accordingly, the inference that Defendant would not have continued to perform on a contract that Plaintiffs had breached is certainly plausible, if not likely. Plaintiffs have pled with plausibility the existence of a valid and binding contract.

"Defendant points to Doyle v. Hasbro, Inc. for the proposition that a plaintiff must state the nature of an alleged contract with specificity in a breach claim. 103 F.3d 186, 195 (1st Cir. 1996). In Doyle, however, the court noted that there was 'no presentation of the terms of a contract, its duration, or even when it was formed. Nor does the Amended Complaint explain what obligations were imposed on each of the parties by the alleged contract.' ... Instead, the plaintiff in that case simply alleged that '[Defendant] and its executives failed to meet their contractual requirement.' Id. Although Plaintiffs did not attach the entire contract to their Amended Complaint, they have made a presentation of the relevant terms, its duration, and when it was formed. Thus, I find that Plaintiffs have also plausibly pled that Defendant breached the contract.

"[W]hile a breach of contract is not inherently unreasonable, '[i]t is settled that a claim in tort may arise from a contractual relationship' if a party breaches the duty to act reasonably while performing under the contract. Parent v. Stone & Webster Eng'g Corp., 408 Mass. 108, 113, 556 N.E.2d 1009 (1990) Therefore, in addition to its contractual obligations to maintain and inspect the sprinkler system, Defendant had a duty to act in a reasonable and in a workmanlike manner while performing these contractual obligations. "

Lexington Insurance Co., et al. v. Johnson Controls Fire Protection LP (Lawyers Weekly No. 02-553-18) (9 pages) (Hillman, J.) (Civil Action No. 18-10516-TSH) (Nov. 9, 2018).

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Title Annotation:Lexington Insurance Co. v. Johnson Controls Fire Protection LP, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts
Publication:Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
Date:Nov 19, 2018
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