Tesla hit with $1.27M subrogation claim from State Farm in 2020 house fire

FutureBoy

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Tesla hit with $1.27M subrogation claim from State Farm in 2020 house fire

ByJoey Klender
Posted on February 22, 2022


Tesla has been hit with a $1.27 million subrogation claim filed by State Farm related to a house fire that heavily damaged a home in Carmel, Indiana in 2020. State Farm claims that a “defect in design or manufacture” of the couple’s 2016 Tesla Model S started the fire, and is seeking the $1.27 million payout, along with any “other further relief as this Court deems equitable and just.”

On February 17, 2020, two years and one day before the case was filed by State Farm, a fire erupted at the residence of the Sencaj’s in Carmel, Indiana. The suit says the family drove the Model S around that day to complete various errands, later returning home and attaching the vehicle to the charger installed in the garage. State Farm says in the suit, “Investigation into the origin and cause of the Fire by STATE FARM, and experts retained to investigate on its behalf, revealed the Fire originated at the Tesla and was caused by a defective condition of the vehicle, which was present when the vehicle was placed into the stream of commerce by Defendant Tesla.”

The insurance firm then added, “Due to a defect in design or manufacture, upon information and belief, the Tesla vehicle’s electrical system failed, causing an electrical condition which ignited combustibles and resulted in the Fire.”

State Farm was obligated to pay approximately $1,271,702.26 to the Sencaj family “for fire-related damage to the Sencaj residence and its contents, additional living expenses incurred by the Sencaj family, and fire damage to the vehicles,” the documents say, according to RDN.

Subrogation is a legal term for a right held by insurance carriers to pursue a third party that caused an insurance loss to the insured.

The suit aims to find Tesla negligent in one of many terms, most of which have to do with the design, manufacturing, and assembly of components, battery packs, cells, or other related parts. State Farm says there are at least twenty ways Tesla showed negligence. The actions stem from negligence through its employees, agents, and/or representatives, and directly was negligent by letting an “unreasonably dangerous and defective” vehicle into the stream of commerce.

State Farm is seeking $1,271,702.26 and “other further relief as this Court deems equitable and just.”

Case No. 2022-CV-00342, State Farm vs. Tesla, Inc, is in the U.S. District Court of Indiana, Southern District is available below.

State Farm v Tesla by Joey Klender on Scribd

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FutureBoy

FutureBoy

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So do ICE car manufacturers get lawsuits like this? I get what State Farm is saying... but other cars have issues that result in fire as well. How many Bolt fires ended up in court like this? And how many ICE manufacturers have they sued?
 

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So do ICE car manufacturers get lawsuits like this? I get what State Farm is saying... but other cars have issues that result in fire as well. How many Bolt fires ended up in court like this? And how many ICE manufacturers have they sued?
I get what you are saying but it is possible that Tesla could be uniquely at fault where a manufacturer of an ICE vehicle wouldn't be.

I will point out first that there has to be some sort of evidence that the vehicle was defective if they are going to try to claim it was Teslas fault, I'm sure Tesla probably has access to the data from that charge just in case.

Now the reason I think that it's possible for the fault to be on the company of an electric car is because of how it's intended to be stored. If you have an ICE vehicle, it's supposed to be turned off when you are just leaving it for the night. An electric vehicle is intended to be plugged in over night to charge up.

If someone left their ICE truck running in a garage and it caught fire at some point during the night, i'm sure negligence of some level is going to be on the owner. But there is no argument for "you shouldn't have left your car plugged in" because that's the benefit of having an electric car and it's what everyone does.

I think most of it comes down to whether or not the owner could have reasonably forseen this happening. An internal defect with no service warnings would be something that no one would reasonably suspect of causing a fire. So I think that this could come down to proving it was the Tesla, proving there was no damage to the vehicle that could have caused this, and prove there was no way the owner could have reasonably forseen an issue with plugging in the car for the night.

If they can prove that, I think it is reasonable to think that Tesla is at fault. If I buy a Tesla and plug it in, only for it to burn my house down, i'd be looking for compensation too.
 


firsttruck

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Kia, Hyundai are paying out like three quarters of a billion dollars for their ICE fires.

-Crissa
Yup, vehicle makers being sued for damages to structures and other property is common if a defect is suspected.

---------------------------------

Lawsuit claims Ford truck caused fatal fire Lawyers for the family of an Iowa woman killed in a house fire last month have sued Ford Motor Co., claiming a problem with the family's garaged F-150 pickup caused the blaze. Lawsuit blames defective cruise control switch.
2015 June 17
https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna8254944

---------------------------------

Ford sued over Town Car garage fire ORGANIZATIONS IN THIS STORY Madison County Circuit Court
A man has filed suit against Ford Motor Company, alleging a 1997 Lincoln Town Car he owned caught on fire, causing more than $100,000 worth of damages to his garage.
By Kelly Holleran
Dec 7, 2009
https://madisonrecord.com/stories/510567965-newsinator-ford-sued-over-town-car-garage-fire
.....
Dawson blames Ford for the damages he incurred after the fire because he claims the company negligently designed a car that was not safe due to the high flammability of its interior and because the car was manufactured with a speed control deactivation switch that could cause a fire under the hood regardless of whether or not the key was in the ignition. In addition to the money he says he is owed, Dawson is seeking economic damages, pre-judgment interest and costs.

---------------------------------

Illinois Auto Defect Lawsuit Blames Ford For Truck Fire That Burned House Down
A woman whose trailer home caught on fire when her neighbor’s Ford F-150 pickup caught fire is suing the automaker for Illinois automotive products liability. Guadalupe Mendez lost her home on September 12, 2006. Lawsuit blames defective cruise control switch.
By The Gilbert Law Group
September 21, 2011
https://www.thegilbertlawgroup.com/...nois-auto-defect-lawsuit-blames-ford-for-tru/

---------------------------------

Couple sue Ford, allege car fire destroyed garage Insurers join lawsuit, which seeks $141,000
By Dennis O'Brien - Baltimore Sun
Mar 20, 1997
https://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bs-xpm-1997-03-21-1997080028-story.html

.....
Clark and Jina Robbins of the 100 block of Groh Lane allege that Ford Motor Co. and Koons Ford of Annapolis were negligent in making and selling them the Crown Victoria automobile that caught fire two months after they purchased it in 1995. State Farm Fire and Casualty Co., which insured the garage, and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., which covered the car, joined the couple as plaintiffs to recover the $141,000 paid on the claim, according to the suit. The Robbinses are listed as plaintiffs as a legal requirement in the suit. The car had been driven 1,400 miles before it caught fire as Clark Robbins, returning from a shopping trip, was pulling into his garage Dec. 21. Within seconds, the suit said, it "exploded into a fireball."

---------------------------------

Insurance Company Sues Ford & dealership After Super Duty Fire Truck Burns
The fire department’s insurance company – Arch Insurance – has filed a lawsuit against both Shaffer Ford and Ford Motor Company in the Preston County Circuit Court.
By Brett Foote March 24, 2021
https://fordauthority.com/2021/03/insurance-company-sues-ford-after-super-duty-fire-truck-burns/

---------------------------------

Ford F-150 owner outraged over lack of property compensation after engine block heater catches fire
By Anne Drewa
Global News
Posted November 18, 2019
https://globalnews.ca/news/6186548/...ation-after-engine-block-heater-catches-fire/

.....
The Dorvault’s truck was eventually replaced through their insurance.

Still, they said the fire caused approximately $10,000 in property damage to their driveway and fence. “When they came to remove the truck they had to scrape it off the asphalt. It was actually glued to the asphalt,” Toni Dorvault said. Consumer Matters reached out to Ford Canada multiple times but received only a short statement. “We have put the Dorvaults in contact with the person handling their case and have apologized for the delay in our response” said Ford Canada.

For 10 months now, Ford Canada has not offered to pay for those repairs. The Dorvaults say they don’t want to make a claim under their home insurance for fear their premiums will climb. “It’s horrible because you feel like you’ve done something, but you haven’t done anything. The only thing you’re trying to do is get stuff that’s been damaged fixed,” Toni Dorvault said.

---------------------------------

Ford document: Millions of vehicles have fire risk
Their insurance company sent them $120,000 but rebuilding their home is estimated to cost $185,000. They are hoping Ford will reimburse them for the difference.
Jun 27, 2005
https://edition.cnn.com/2005/US/06/16/ford.vehicles/

KISSIMMEE, Florida (CNN) -- Early this year, Laura Hernandez nudged her husband, Nestor Oyola, as he slept in their Kissimmee home and asked him to put the Ford Expedition he had bought her the day before into the garage. She did not want to risk leaving it on the street, where it might be vandalized. "That was my dream, to have a Ford Expedition," she recalled to CNN about the $22,000 Eddie Bauer 2001 model SUV -- green with gold trim and leather seats. Oyola moved the Expedition and they went to sleep. After years of sharing a single car, the couple -- who moved five years ago to the United States from Puerto Rico -- were finally living the American dream: They owned two vehicles and their home. At 5 the next morning, half an hour after her husband had driven his SUV to work, Hernandez was awakened by barking from Chakuil, their Chihuahua mix. "He saved our lives," said Hernandez, who smelled smoke and roused her 15-year-old daughter, Rotsenmary. They had time to grab only the dog and their pet birds before flames spread from the garage and engulfed the house. Rotsenmary suffered a second-degree burn to her left leg; the charred remains of their 6-month-old cat -- Beethoven -- were found in a corner; the vehicle, the house and its contents were a total loss.
.....
Their insurance company sent them $120,000 but rebuilding their home is estimated to cost $185,000. They are hoping Ford will reimburse them for the difference. They are, once again, a one-car family. This one also is a Ford -- a 1997 Explorer -- and it, too, contains the suspect switch, which has not been recalled. The family parks it on the street instead of the garage.

---------------------------------
 

firsttruck

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I get what you are saying but it is possible that Tesla could be uniquely at fault where a manufacturer of an ICE vehicle wouldn't be.

I will point out first that there has to be some sort of evidence that the vehicle was defective if they are going to try to claim it was Teslas fault, I'm sure Tesla probably has access to the data from that charge just in case.

Now the reason I think that it's possible for the fault to be on the company of an electric car is because of how it's intended to be stored. If you have an ICE vehicle, it's supposed to be turned off when you are just leaving it for the night. An electric vehicle is intended to be plugged in over night to charge up.

If someone left their ICE truck running in a garage and it caught fire at some point during the night, i'm sure negligence of some level is going to be on the owner. But there is no argument for "you shouldn't have left your car plugged in" because that's the benefit of having an electric car and it's what everyone does.

I think most of it comes down to whether or not the owner could have reasonably forseen this happening. An internal defect with no service warnings would be something that no one would reasonably suspect of causing a fire. So I think that this could come down to proving it was the Tesla, proving there was no damage to the vehicle that could have caused this, and prove there was no way the owner could have reasonably forseen an issue with plugging in the car for the night.

If they can prove that, I think it is reasonable to think that Tesla is at fault. If I buy a Tesla and plug it in, only for it to burn my house down, i'd be looking for compensation too.
There are lots of devices in our homes & businesses that are plugged in 24 hours a day and there are others plugged in most of the night while we sleep. Some are found to be defective and cause fires. Even electronic device that have no battery or tiny batteries like desktop computers, TVs, set-top boxes, etc. In addition you have devices with high energy density batteries like laptop computers and smart cell phones.

There are lots of cases of smart phone fires in homes.

If a design or manufacturing defect is suspected the company is very likely to be sued.
 
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firsttruck

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All the years of FUD about exploding EVs when really it was the washing machines people should have been worried about.

------------------

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT OF LOUISIANA LIGHTHOUSE PROPERTY INSURANCE CORPORATION, AS LEGAL AND CONVENTIONAL SUBROGEE OF The Scotts'
This is a subrogation claim filed by Lighthouse Insurance Corporation ... The Scotts' garage was damaged when their BMW caught fire while inside.
Lighthouse contends that the fire was caused by a design defect in the BMW
Case 2:16-cv-14116-MLCF-KWR Document 172 Filed 01/19/18
19 ene 2018
https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg...v-14116/pdf/USCOURTS-laed-2_16-cv-14116-2.pdf

Apartment & insurance firm sue Apple over lethal iPad fire
The plaintiffs, Union Management and its subrogating insurance company, Greater New York Mutual Insurance Company, filed the case June 20 through the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
By Roger Fingas
Jun 24, 2019
https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/06/24/apartment-insurance-firm-sue-apple-over-lethal-ipad-fire

Faulty Apple iPad possible cause of a house fire, lawsuit filed.
The incident occurred at Michael Macaluso's resident in Milford. His insurance company, Allstate Insurance, paid over $142,000 to repair the fire damage.
By Anam Hamid Mar 28, 2021
https://www.phonearena.com/news/ipad-allegedly-caused-house-fire-insurer-sues-apple_id131070

Dell and Samsung Settle Wrongful Death Lawsuit Over Fatal Fire Ignited by Defective Laptop Battery
By Angela Underwood
Feb 23, 2018
https://norcalrecord.com/stories/511347860-dell-samsung-concede-wrongful-death

Samsung Settles Class-Action Lawsuit Over 'Exploding' Washing Machines Consumers who purchased the recalled high-efficiency top-load washing machines can now file a settlement claim
By Kimberly Janeway
February 08, 2019
https://www.consumerreports.org/washing-machines/samsung-settles-washer-lawsuit/

Samsung's Exploding Smartphone Suspected in South Carolina House Fire
By Matt Novak 9/08/2016
https://gizmodo.com/samsungs-exploding-smartphone-suspected-in-south-caroli-1786405495

Houston Fire Dept: SE Houston house fire started in now-recalled Samsung washing machine
By Steve Campion
November 4, 2016
https://abc13.com/samsung-recall-washing-machine-house-fire/1590733/

Samsung washing machine house fire action investigated
With more than 83,000 faulty machines still in households across Australia, consumers are encouraged to be aware of their rights and seek assistance if they experience loss or damage as a result of these devices.
20 sept 2017
https://www.shine.com.au/blog/produ...ashing-machine-house-fire-action-investigated
 
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DMC-81

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State Farm wants to collect premiums and have others pay.
I seriously doubt that State Farm is the only one involved in the practice of Subrogation claims. I had other insurance companies covering me, and this was their practice as well. My State Farm premiums went down by a significant percentage during Covid as people were driving less and so did State Farm's loss claims.

logically speaking, when an insurance company pursues an at-fault third party, it keeps premiums lower, whether that be a manufacturer with a defective product, a distracted driver who slams into your car, or some other third party.

In this case, it will be up to Tesla the defend against the claim of a defective product, same for Chevrolet in any of the Bolt fires, or Ford in any of the cruise control cases listed above.
 


happy intruder

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I seriously doubt that State Farm is the only one involved in the practice of Subrogation claims. I had other insurance companies covering me, and this was their practice as well. My State Farm premiums went down by a significant percentage during Covid as people were driving less and so did State Farm's loss claims.

logically speaking, when an insurance company pursues an at-fault third party, it keeps premiums lower, whether that be a manufacturer with a defective product, a distracted driver who slams into your car, or some other third party.

In this case, it will be up to Tesla the defend against the claim of a defective product, same for Chevrolet in any of the Bolt fires, or Ford in any of the cruise control cases listed above.
this is typical for insurance companies......we pay for coverage and have to plead with then to pay out or find out that there is some very very small print that disqualifies you claim......take a look at some of the home warranty and car warranty policies....

however in this case, it looks like the insurance company could not blame the owners and were forced to pay out....now they go after the manufacturer / company for the product or service......our country is beginning to be a sue / litigation society and full of lawyers looking for big payouts....

its also in the real estate industry......with housing in demand and people selling so quickly, paying 4-6 per cent is super crazy...if you have a 500,000 house, 30k plus there expenses just seems ridicules to me.....oh well, maybe I should have used my law degree instead if my engineering degree....

hope Tesla wins, but I doubt it....everybody is trying to sue them for any and everything
 
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John K

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I seriously doubt that State Farm is the only one involved in the practice of Subrogation claims. I had other insurance companies covering me, and this was their practice as well. My State Farm premiums went down by a significant percentage during Covid as people were driving less and so did State Farm's loss claims.

logically speaking, when an insurance company pursues an at-fault third party, it keeps premiums lower, whether that be a manufacturer with a defective product, a distracted driver who slams into your car, or some other third party.

In this case, it will be up to Tesla the defend against the claim of a defective product, same for Chevrolet in any of the Bolt fires, or Ford in any of the cruise control cases listed above.
I am a State Farm member so I have a right to complain. If Tesla is liable with a defective product, Tesla should be held to account. My hope is data and not emotion rules decisions.

My joke fell flat, moving on. Egg on my face and embarrassed.
 

Ogre

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So do ICE car manufacturers get lawsuits like this? I get what State Farm is saying... but other cars have issues that result in fire as well. How many Bolt fires ended up in court like this? And how many ICE manufacturers have they sued?
Yes.

Insurance companies are going to chase anyone they can to defray their payout costs.

It just doesn’t make news when Ford gets hit with a similar thing.
 

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In another life I was a fire investigator for a state agency. I was told by our legal staff, even if it was obvious by damage from a small fire, I wasn't able to state: "The fire originated in the electric toaster on the kitchen counter" instead, I was instructed to write "The fire originated in the AREA of the toaster on the kitchen counter" The staff attorney said we weren't professional engineers, and 25 years of experience investigating fires would still be picked apart on voir dire by a sharp lawyer. I retired shortly afterward. The damn lawyers are taking over what used to be an interesting and rewarding profession.
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