Insurer seeks more than $1 million after fire at Granite City irrigation company

Andrea Dearden Apr. 19, 2012, 6:31am

An insurance company is attempting to collect more than $1 million from an electrical repair service accused of causing a fire at a Granite City irrigation company.

North River Insurance Company, as subrogee of Rain for Rent Inc., filed the complaint against Alert Electric Inc. on April 11 in Madison County Circuit Court.

According to the complaint, North River provided insurance to Rain for Rent, a water-handling, irrigation and water water storage company. On Jan. 16, 2011, Rain for Rent entered into a lease agreement with Dial Motor Transport Inc. (DMT) for property on West Chain of Rocks in Granite City.

On at least four separate occasions between March and May 2009, North River says DMT contracted with Alert Electric to perform electrical work including installation, repair or replacement of ceiling-mounted radiant heaters in the storage area in the northwest corner of the property.

North River says it issued an insurance policy to Rain for Rent that was effective October 2010 through October 2011. The policy covered the business' personal property and provided extra business income and expense coverage, according to the complaint.

On Jan. 16, 2011, North River says a fire erupted at Rain for Rent, causing "substantial damage and/or destruction" to the company's property. The fire allegedly began in the northwest corner of the storage area directly beneath a radiant heater installed by Alert Electric. The insurance company contends the fire was caused by molten material from the heater that ignited combustible filter bags and liners on a steel rack below the heater.

North River claims the fire happened as a direct result of Alert Electric's improper installation or repair of the radiant heater. The insurer says Rain for Rent lost property and business income of more than $1.06 million dollars.

North River, acting as the subrogee of Rain for Rent, accuses Alert Electric of negligence for failing to properly install, service or repair a radiant heater, failing to place the heater within 72 inches of a combustible surface and failing to warn of the fire risk posed by the appliance.

North River also accuses Alert Electric of breach of contract for allegedly violating written and oral contracts with DMT and breach of warranty which, the company says, ultimately resulted in the fire and damage to Rain for Rent's business.

The insurance company is asking to be awarded more than $1.06 million worth of damage to the business plus interest and court costs.

Attorney Christy H. Schaefer with Nielsen, Zehe and Antas in Chicago is representing North River.

Madison County Circuit Court Case No. 12-L-447

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