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Moonbeam Capital Investments, LLC v. Integrated Construction Solutions, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 13, 2020

Moonbeam Capital Investments, LLC, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Integrated Construction Solutions, Inc., Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [#42]

          GERSHWIN A. DRAIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         On August 21, 2018, Plaintiffs Moonbeam Capital Investments, LLC and The Travelers Indemnity Company (together, the “Plaintiffs”) filed the instant negligence and contractual indemnity claims against Defendant Integrated Construction Solutions, Inc. (“Defendant”). ECF No. 1.

         Presently before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on August 30, 2019. ECF No. 42. Plaintiffs filed a Response on September 20, 2019. ECF No. 47. Defendant filed its Reply on October 3, 2019. ECF No. 51. A hearing on Defendant's Motion was scheduled for January 16, 2020. After reviewing the parties' briefs, the Court finds that no hearing on the Motion is necessary. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2). For the reasons that follow, the Court will DENY Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [#42].

         II. Factual Background

         Plaintiffs' claims stem from an accident at the Radisson Hotel on February 16, 2017. ECF No. 1, PageID.3. On that date, a mirror in the bathroom of Room 239 allegedly fell and landed on a capped water line. ECF No. 47, PageID.1501. This accident purportedly caused “severe water damage throughout the hotel, ” including personal property and business income losses. ECF No. 1, PageID.4.

         Plaintiffs allege that Defendant was negligent in using a damaged cleat to install the mirror in Room 239; failing to properly seat the mirror on the cleat; failing to allow adequate clearance between the lighting fixtures and the mirror; failing to properly inspect the work performed to ensure that the mirror was properly seated to prevent it from falling over the exposed water line; amongst other things. ECF No. 1, PageID. 5-7.

         A. The Remodeling Project

         Plaintiff Moonbeam (“Moonbeam”)-the hotel owner-undertook a remodeling project and therefore hired Defendant to perform certain construction services, including renovating certain bathrooms. Id. at PageID.3. Moonbeam handled the furniture component of the project-specifically the purchasing and assembling of the guestrooms' new pieces. ECF No. 42, PageID.1117, 1118. According to Lacey Ramsey, the hotel's engineer responsible for training his staff on how to assemble the furniture, his team was charged with building each room's luggage rack/bench, television stand, headboard, and bathroom vanity. ECF No. 47, PageID.1498. The vanities had to be assembled in the bathrooms due to their large size. See Id. at PageID.1499; see also ECF No. 42, PageID.1118

         Defendant was tasked with removing and reinstalling the guestroom's bathroom mirrors once new lighting fixtures and wallpaper were situated. ECF No. 47, PageID.1498. Defendant allegedly installed the mirrors back on the wall before it would install the light fixtures. ECF No. 42, PageID.1122. According to Defendant, Moonbeam remained “in control of what rooms were worked in and when [Defendant] got the rooms to work in.” Id. at PageID.1117. Specifically, Moonbeam allegedly entered the work area regularly, especially in the evenings when Defendant left for the day. Id. Defendant purports that it thus “never had exclusive control of the hotel rooms.” Id.

         B. The Accident in Room 239

         On the morning of February 16, 2017, an exposed water line in Room 239's bathroom was severed, causing the release of water that ultimately damaged 3 floors of the hotel's south-wing. ECF No. 47, PageID.1495. None of the rooms in the south-wing were occupied at the time of the accident. Id. at PageID.1502.

         Defendant asserts that Mick Hartman, a vinyl contractor, first discovered the claimed water loss and traced it to Room 239. ECF No. 42, PageID.1123. He allegedly noticed that there was no mirror hanging from the wall. Id. In its Response, though, Plaintiffs argue that Moonbeam employee Ndiame Diop first discovered the claimed water loss. ECF No. 47, PageID.1501. Mr. Diop testified that when he entered Room 239 shortly after 7:00 a.m. on the morning of the accident, he saw the bathroom mirror resting on the exposed, severed line. Id.; see also ECF No. 47-18, PageID.1781.

         Room 239's mirror was purportedly on the wall for approximately ten days before the accident. ECF No. 42, PageID.1123. During this time, construction work continued in the hotel, which Defendant argues caused the rooms' walls to vibrate, including Room 239. Id. Defendant further denotes that Moonbeam was assembling furniture-including new, bulky vanity sets for the bathrooms-in the second-floor standard rooms during this time. Id. at PageID.1118. According to Mr. Sabbagh, Moonbeam would “take control of the rooms and work in them to assemble the furniture” once Defendant left for the day. ECF No. 42-3, PageID.1159.

         C. Post-Accident Inspections

         On the afternoon of the accident, the mirror was allegedly moved from Room 239 to the hotel manager Mr. Gary Sabbagh's office. ECF No. 47, PageID.1502. Defendant then hired an independent adjuster, John Burke to inspect and photograph both Room 239 and the fallen mirror. Id.

         Defendant also retained investigator Paul Izzo. ECF No. 47, PageID.1502. Mr. Izzo inspected Room 239, the mirror, and the cleats on February 28, 2017. Id. He denoted that the mirror cleats showed “no evidence of damage or distress.” ECF No. 47-21, PageID.1813. After Mr. Izzo's inspection, the mirror was moved to an evidence storage unit in Connecticut. ECF No. 47, PageID.1503.

         During discovery, Plaintiffs retained expert witness Mr. Brian J. Tognetti. Plaintiffs and Mr. Tognetti posit that the mirror was not properly installed, thus allowing it to fall onto the exposed water line. ECF No. 47, PageID.1496. Mr. Tognetti examined the evidence in Connecticut and inspected the bathroom in Room 239, along with its lighting fixture. Id. at PageID.1496. While in the room, Mr. Tognetti purportedly “documented scrapes and gashes on the mirror and the wallpaper in Room 239 that are consistent with the mirror falling.” Id. Based on the physical evidence and his own inspections, Mr. Tognetti opined that Defendant's poor workmanship and violations of the Michigan Rehabilitation Code for Existing Buildings (“MRCEB”) caused the mirror to fall onto the exposed water line. Id.

         D. Defendant's Present Motion for Summary Judgment

         Defendant now moves for summary judgment in this matter. First, Defendant asserts that Plaintiffs' negligence claim is based solely on speculation and conjecture and thus they cannot prove causation. ECF No. 42, PageID.1136. Second, Defendant argues that Plaintiffs cannot show that they are entitled to indemnity. Id. at PageID.1140.

         Plaintiffs opposed Defendant's Motion on September 20, 2019, arguing that the physical evidence, witness testimony, and their expert's opinion establish that its lawsuit is not speculative nor based on conjecture. ECF No. 47, PageID.1495. Further, Plaintiffs purport that there are “multiple issues of material fact that also prevent summary judgment” for the negligence and indemnity. Id. Defendant filed its Reply on October 3, 2019. ECF No. 51.

         III. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) empowers the court to render summary judgment forthwith “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." See Redding v. St. Eward, 241 F.3d 530, 532 (6th Cir. 2001). The Supreme Court has affirmed the court's use of summary judgment as an integral part of the fair and efficient administration of justice. The procedure is not a disfavored procedural shortcut. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986); see also Cox v. Kentucky Dept. of Transp., 53 F.3d 146, 149 (6th Cir. 1995).

         The standard for determining whether summary judgment is appropriate is "'whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.'" Amway Distributors Benefits Ass'n v. Northfield Ins. Co.,323 F.3d 386, 390 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)). The evidence and all reasonable inferences must be construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Redding, 241 F.3d at 532 (6th Cir. 2001). "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine ...


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