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Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co. v. White

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

December 18, 2013

PHILADELPHIA INDEMNITY INSURANCE COMPANY a/s/o Mirsan, L.P., d/b/a Sienna Ridge Apartments, Appellant
v.
Carmen A. WHITE, Appellee

Petition for review filed by, 01/30/2014

Page 253

From the 57th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas. Trial Court No. 2011-CI-16235. Honorable Peter Sakai, Judge Presiding.

For APPELLANT: Paul Vigushin, Law Offices of Paul Vigushin, P.C., Dallas, TX.

For APPELLEE: Sheryl Gray Rasmus, Rasmus Law Firm, Austin, TX.

OPINION

Page 254

Sandee Bryan Marion, Justice.

AFFIRMED

Appellant Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Company (" Philadelphia" ), as subrogee of Mirsan, L.P. d/b/a Sienna Ridge Apartments, sued appellee Carmen White for damages related to an apartment fire. Philadelphia alleged White caused the damage to her apartment and several adjacent apartments and she was liable for all damages according to a provision in her apartment lease. After a jury found in favor of Philadelphia, White moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (" JNOV" ), and the trial court granted the motion. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

After completing graduate school out-of-state, White obtained employment in San Antonio, Texas. Her friend recommended White live in her apartment complex, Sienna Ridge Apartments. White never visited the complex, but handled her rental agreement via telephone and email before moving to San Antonio. Although White did not negotiate the terms of the lease or hire an attorney to review the lease, she ultimately signed documents consisting of a rental application and a standard Texas Apartment Association (" TAA" ) lease contract. Once she moved into her apartment, White's parents purchased and gifted her a new washer and dryer. White connected the washer herself, but when she plugged the cord she had purchased for the dryer into the outlet, the outlet sparked. White then asked Sienna Ridge for assistance in connecting the dryer, and, about a week after she moved into the apartment, a Sienna Ridge maintenance man installed the dryer. Several days later, while using the dryer, a fire started inside the dryer. White's entire belongings perished in the fire, and her apartment and several adjacent units were destroyed.

White testified she had used the dryer two or three times prior to the day the fire occurred and experienced no problems. On the day of the fire, White placed several items inside the dryer, including two decorative pillows, sheets, a duvet, a blanket, and a bed pillow. After starting the dryer, she sat down to watch television and immediately began to smell a " burning smell" coming from the laundry area. She opened the dryer's door and saw flames inside the drum. She attempted to extinguish the flames with a fire extinguisher, but was unsuccessful because she was not able to get it to work. She left her apartment to call 911.

Sienna Ridge filed a damage claim with its insurance carrier, Philadelphia, which in turn, adjusted and ...


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