Military housing company Corvias wins appeal to sue in bathroom fan fire case

By Kacie Whaley | Jun 13, 2017


TOPEKA, Kan. (Legal Newsline) – A Kansas military housing company won its appeal after suing two companies responsible for constructing a bathroom fan that allegedly caused two fires.

The opinion, filed on June 2 by the Kansas Court of Appeals, expressed that the bathroom exhaust fans that allegedly started fires in two military homes were not part of an integrated system, and that therefore, receiving recovery damages is possible.

Corvias, a company that builds, owns and manages houses and townhomes in Fort Riley for military families and personnel, filed a suit against Ventamatic LTD and Jakel Inc. The suit, filed on June 11, 2014, at Geary County District Court, argued that the defendants were responsible for two fires that occurred in 2012 and 2013 at two separate housing units. 

Corvias claimed the fires were the result of faulty NuVent bathroom exhaust fans that Ventamatic manufactures and which contain electrical motors by Jakel.

Corvias brought forth an expert who claimed that the fires were caused by the defective exhaust fans because the faulty Jakel motor had "a coil wrapped with a material that is susceptible to catching fire [and] because the motor coil is exposed to airborne dust that can lead to a fire."

Ventamatic and Jakel filed motions for summary judgment, claiming that the Kansas economic loss doctrine restricted Corvias from recovering damages and that the company "could not pursue an implied warranty claim because bathroom exhaust fans are not inherently dangerous," the opinion says.

The economic loss doctrine that Ventamatic and Jakel referenced in their motions "restricts a purchaser of an allegedly defective product from recovering from a manufacturer under a tort theory for damages that are solely economic."

The district court granted summary judgment to Ventamatic and Jakel, finding that the economic loss doctrine restricted recovery damage and that since exhaust fans were integrated systems, Corvias could not recover under an implied warranty theory because the fans are not inherently dangerous.

Corvias appealed the district court's decision and won, as the appeal court reversed the district court's ruling and found that "a defective product must be integral to the function of the damaged property before the defective product and the damaged property may be considered part of the same integrated system."

The appeals court ruled that Corvias may proceed with its suit against Ventamatic and Jakel.

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