stations, including temperatures, wind
velocity and wind direction.
11. Determine the names of the last occupant prior to the discovery of the loss
and get statements from them as well as
the building superintendant, plant engineer, tenants, maintenance personnel,
etc., concentrating on:
a) Temperatures in the building;
b) Time periods unoccupied;
c) Time of discovery of the loss and
the last time someone was in the
building prior to the loss;
d) Details of any surveillance system,
e.g., guards, sprinkler alarms, flow
sensors, temperature monitors, etc.;
e) Names and contact details of any
outside supervising or monitoring
f) Prior similar occurrences;
g) If already repaired, the names of the
repairing entities, and any written
h) Any admissions in post-loss meet-
ings with outside parties.
12. While the adjuster assigned to the
loss will be immediately concerned with
establishing the scope of the loss, taking
remedial measures to mitigate damages,
and providing service to the policyholder,
any and all of the tasks listed above can
be accomplished by subrogation counsel.
Potential Claims Arising from
the January 2014 Interruption in
On January 6, 2014, North Central Ohio
experienced a natural gas supply inter-
ruption that affected service to approxi-
mately 2,700 Ohio homes in parts of
North Ridgeville, Eaton Township, and
Elyria. The most likely source for the in-
terruption was a supply shortage arising
from the gas company’s regional supply
network. To properly restore the gas,
personnel from the gas company were
required to manually shut off the gas line
at individual homes. Crews were then re-
quired to re-enter each home to restore
gas service and ignite pilot lights. Lo-
gistically, this required the gas company
to obtain assistance from neighboring
counties and emergency services. Service
was restored for approximately 80 per-
cent of homeowners by January 8, and all
homeowners had service by January 10.
The gas company reported that numerous
homeowners experienced damage from
frozen pipes associated with the interrup-
tion in service.
in evaluating potential subrogation claims
against general contractors, subcontractors, architects and design engineers, consideration must also be given to the age
of the subject property and the last time
work was performed in the area where the
pipe freeze occurred. Virtually all states
have statutes of repose that bar suit filed
beyond a certain amount of time after the
substantial completion of construction.
The January 2014 freeze that hit the
continental United States will undoubtedly result in hundreds if not thousands
of property insurance claims. In Ohio,
claims against Columbia Gas will likely be
met with vigorous defenses based upon
published tariffs. With respect to freeze
claims unrelated to gas service interruptions, traditional subrogation evaluations
must be conducted.
1 NFPA Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations (2001 Ed.) § 9. 3. 6. 6.
2 Id. at § 9. 3. 6. 6.
Steve Halbeisen is a member of Cozen
O’Connor’s Dallas office, where he is chair of
the Subrogation & Recovery Department’s South
Central region. Steve has successfully litigated
a wide variety of property damage disputes
involving fires and explosions, product failures,
petrochemical plant damages, flood damages,
structural failures, material failures, heavy
equipment losses, tower collapses, fine arts losses
and construction defect losses, among others.
Mark E. Utke practices in the Subrogation
& Recovery Department of Cozen O’Connor’s
Philadelphia Office. Mark’s current practice
focuses on the prosecution of complex product
liability claims, construction defects, and fire
litigation matters. He routinely lectures on
subrogation and recovery issues and theories of
liability to insurance adjusters, insurance recovery
personnel, and professional associations.
Michael Melusky joined Cozen O’Connor in
2013 as an associate in the firm’s Litigation
Section. Michael graduated from Villanova
University School of Law, summa cum laude, and
Susquehanna University with a Bachelor of Arts
in political science. Michael was honored with
a Dean’s Merit Scholarship and participated in
Villanova Law Review.
UTILITY DAMAGE CLAIMS
Do You Ever Think You Might Be Overpaying?
WE CAN HELP!!
We audit utility company damage claims for both liability and damages.
Our compensation is a onetime per claim flat fee
that covers the life of the file. No charge for initial case review.