The manufacturers of fire suppression and alarm products require counsel who understand how these systems work, what causes them to fail, and which Underwriters Laboratories (UL) provisions and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes apply to their design, manufacture, installation and maintenance. With our extensive knowledge of the field, we can quickly identify potential problems—and solutions.
Shook attorneys have managed all types of fire protection and alarm litigation, including cases involving system design defects, installation defects, monitoring errors and maintenance deficiencies. Our work also includes claims involving defective manufacturing and design of fire suppression products.
We have also created a niche enforcing the contracts that govern the fire protection and alarm industry. We have leveraged key contract provisions—waiver of subrogation, limitation of damages, indemnity, insurance procurement and fee-shifting provisions—to achieve favorable results for clients during the early stages of litigation. Not only does this provide the client tremendous savings (both indemnity payouts and attorneys’ fees), but these efforts have also created favorable case law in jurisdictions throughout the United States.
In addition to defending lawsuits, our attorneys assist clients in proactively minimizing litigation risks. To this end, we have conducted risk assessment audits for products and business procedures; advised clients on product literature, labels and warnings, and best practices; and drafted contracts for national and regional clients that use favorable case law to allocate risk through limitation-of-liability, waiver-of-subrogation and indemnity provisions.
Select Published Opinions
Ram International v. ADT Sec. Services, Inc., 2011 WL5244936 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 3, 2011), aff’d, __ Fed. App’x __ (6th Cir. 2014)
Berman v. ADT LLC, 2013 WL 6916891 (D.N.J. Dec. 13, 2013)
Philadelphia Indem. Ins. Co. v. SimplexGrinnell LP, 937 F. Supp. 2d 1113 (N.D. Cal. 2013)
Nirvana International, Inc. v. ADT Security Services, Inc., 881 F. Supp. 2d 556 (S.D.N.Y. 2012), aff’d, 2013 WL 1982124 (2d Cir. May 15, 2013)
Valenzuela v. ADT Sec. Services, Inc., 820 F. Supp. 2d 1061 (C.D. Cal. 2010), aff’d, 475 Fed. App’x 115 (9th Cir. 2012)
Greenspan v. ADT Sec. Services, Inc., 444 Fed. Appx. 566 (3d Cir. 2011)
Spengler v. ADT Sec. Services, Inc., 505 F.3d 456 (6th Cir. 2007)
Van Peterson Fine Jewelers v. ADT Sec. Services, Inc., 390 S.W.3d 603 (Tex. Ct. App. 2012)
Travis v. ADT Security Services, Inc., 884 F. Supp. 2d 629 (E.D. Mich. 2012)
Lawson v. ADT Security Services, Inc., 899 F. Supp. 2d 1335 (M.D. Ga. 2012)
Jeannie’s Jewelers, Inc. v. ADT Security Services, Inc., 2012 WL 1869319 (E.D. Va. May 22, 2012)
Jhaveri v. ADT Sec. Services, Inc., 2012 WL 843315 (C.D. Cal. Mar. 6, 2012)
Nacol & Co. v. ADT Sec. Services, Inc., 2011 WL 1542716 (S.D. Tex. April 21, 2011)
Presbyterian Manors, Inc. v. SimplexGrinnell LP, 2010 WL 3880027 (D. Kan. Sept. 28, 2010)
Lala v. ADT Security Services, Inc., 2010 WL 4923452 (D.N.J. Nov. 29, 2010)
Corbett v. Firstline Security, Inc., 687 F. Supp. 2d 124 (E.D.N.Y. 2009)
Great American Insurance Co. v. SimplexGrinnell LP, 60 A.D.3d 456, 874 N.Y.S.2d 465 (N.Y. App. Div. 2009)
Matters involving fire suppression products:
- In 2013, in a case pending in Missouri state court, Shook received a defense verdict in a lawsuit involving the failure of a fire suppression system to activate during a kitchen fire that caused nearly $3 million in damage. Shook’s client performed semi-annual inspections of the fire suppression system, and the plaintiff alleged that Shook’s client failed to notice that a fusible link was improperly located. According to the plaintiff, the improperly placed fusible link allowed the fire to escape past the fire suppression system and into the kitchen ductwork. Shook argued that the fire quickly spread into the ductwork before the fusible link had time to respond and, regardless, the suppression system would not have been able to extinguish the fire given the amount of grease and other combustible material in the duct.
- In 2013, in a case pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Shook obtained summary judgment for a fire suppression company in a case involving a premature activation of a sprinkler system. Shook’s client installed the sprinkler system, which activated when a soccer ball struck one of the sprinkler heads. The plaintiff sought to recover approximately $1 million in damages from Shook’s client. The plaintiff contended that Shook’s client failed to install head guards strong enough to protect the sprinklers from impacts and should have advised it to install a net to protect the sprinkler system. Shook argued that its client did not have a duty to do so; the court agreed, dismissing all claims against Shook’s client.
- In 2013, in a case pending in Utah state court, Shook obtained summary judgment for a fire suppression company in a case involving a premature activation of an INERGEN fire suppression system in a Utah data center. In that case, the plaintiff sought approximately $12 million in damages from Shook’s client. Shook argued that the plaintiff’s expert use an incorrect measure of damages and, as a result, the plaintiff could not prove its damage. The court agreed, limiting the plaintiff's damages to a fraction of its claim.
- In 2013, in a case pending in Massachusetts state court, Shook obtained summary judgment for a fire suppression company in a case involving an elbow fitting that separated on a riser pipe within a luxury apartment complex. When the elbow fitting failed, it caused approximately $9.8 million in water damage. Shook moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff agreed to waive its subrogation rights as to Shook’s client. The court agreed and dismissed the subrogated portion of the plaintiff’s claim.
Matters involving fire and burglary alarm systems:
- In 2013, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a motion to dismiss in favor of Shook’s client. The plaintiff alleged that its security system failed to detect a burglary that resulted in the theft of $2.4 million in jewelry from the plaintiff’s jewelry store. The plaintiff also alleged that the signature on the contract’s sixth page was a forgery and, as a result, a provision limiting the plaintiff’s recoverable damages in the event of a breach to $1,000 did not apply. The Southern District of New York granted Shook’s motion to dismiss.
- In 2012, Shook obtained a unanimous defense verdict following a three-day jury trial involving one of its alarm services clients. Burglars stole nearly four tons of stainless steel from plaintiff’s warehouse and storage yard in Houston, Texas. The plaintiff claimed that Hurricane Ike damaged part of its alarm system and Shook’s client failed to properly repair the system. Plaintiff further alleged that Shook’s client disabled sections of its alarm while making repairs. Plaintiff did not know when the steel was stolen and could not say whether the alarm system was armed at the time.
- In 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for Shook’s client, holding that any duty to provide alarm services arose solely from the parties’ contract. The plaintiffs alleged that Shook’s client failed to properly install, monitor and respond to signals from their jewelry store’s alarm system. Shook moved for summary judgment, arguing that our client did not owe a common-law duty to monitor and respond to alarm signals and, accordingly, the plaintiffs' claims for negligence and gross negligence should be dismissed. The Central District of California agreed and entered judgment in favor of Shook’s client.
- In 2012, the Central District of California granted a motion for judgment on the pleadings in favor of Shook’s client. Burglars stole various jewelry and loose diamonds worth millions from the plaintiffs’ home in California. The plaintiffs alleged that the criminals had inside knowledge of their alarm system and that an employee of Shook’s client conspired with the criminals. The court found that any failure to provide security services was a breach of contract and could not support the plaintiffs’ negligence and fraud-based claims. Accordingly, the court limited the plaintiffs’ damages to $1,500.
Aaron Kirkland & Jason Scott, Enforcing Exculpatory Provisions Against Meritless Claims, Law360, Mar. 17, 2014.
Charles C. Eblen & Kristi L. Burmeister, Minimize Liability from Freeze and Burst Lawsuits, Fire Protection Contractor Magazine, Dec. 2013.
Jason R. Scott, Requiring an Independent Tort Duty in Alarm Services Lawsuits, Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers Quarterly Report, Spring 2013.
Charles C. Eblen & Aaron K. Kirkland, Maximize Your Contract’s Exculpatory Provisions, Law360, New York, July 15, 2013.
Paul A. Williams, Charles C. Eblen & Kristina L. Burmeister, Minimizing Tort Liability With The Right Terms, Law360, Feb. 28, 2012.