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Labrecque v. Refrigeration Research, Inc.

Superior Court of Maine, Penobscot

August 8, 2018

JAMES C. LABRECQUE d/b/a FLEXWARE CONTROL TECHNOLOGY Plaintiff,
v.
REFRIGERATION RESEARCH, INC. and JOHN DOE, an ASME National Board Inspector Defendants,

          ORDER

          Ann M. Murray, Justice

         Before the Court is Defendant, Refrigeration Research, Inc.'s ("Refrigeration Research") Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim, filed pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). This case arises from the aftermath of the alleged failure of four high-pressure vessels sold by Refrigeration Research to Plaintiff James C. LaBrecque d/b/a Flexware Control Technology ("Flexware") for use in a grocery store refrigeration system.[1]

         On April 27, 2018, Flexware filed a Complaint alleging one count of Negligence against Refrigeration Research, two counts of Negligent Misrepresentation (one against each Defendant), two counts of Fraudulent Misrepresentation (one against each Defendant), and one count for Punitive Damages. The Complaint was served on Refrigeration Research, in Michigan, on May 4, 2018. Refrigeration Research argues that the economic loss doctrine bars Counts I and II, that Plaintiff has not pled Count IV (Fraud) with sufficient particularity, and that Count V (punitive damages) is not a viable cause of action under Maine law.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court grants Refrigeration Research's Motion to Dismiss as to Counts I and II, but denies the Motion as to Count IV.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "When a court decides a motion to dismiss, made pursuant to M.R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), 'the material allegations must be taken as admitted."' Moody v. State Liquor & Lottery Comm'n, 2004 ME 20, ¶ 7, 843 A.2d 43 (citation omitted). Moreover, "[a] dismissal should only occur when it appears 'beyond doubt that a plaintiff is entitled to no relief under any set of facts that he might prove in support of his claim.'" Id. (citations omitted) (alteration added).

         II. BACKGROUND

         The following facts alleged in Flexware's Complaint are taken as admitted for purposes of resolving Refrigeration Research's 12(b)(6) Motion.

         In April 2012, Flexware took delivery of four high-pressure vessels purchased from Refrigeration Research. (Pl's. Compl. ¶ 6.) On or about May 12, 2012, Flexware incorporated the vessels into a refrigeration system located within a grocery store in Holden, Maine. (Id. ¶ 7.)

         Flexware provided Refrigeration Research with specific requirements necessary for the high-pressure vessels to be incorporated into the refrigeration system. (Id. ¶ 9.) Refrigeration Research knew or should have known that the refrigeration system was to be placed in a grocery store frequented by the public. (Id. ¶ 10.)

         Refrigeration Research knew or should have known that the vessels were required to sustain working pressure of 450 pounds per square inch, (Id. ¶ 11.) The State of Maine has adopted and codified the ASME requirements and standards at 32 M.R.S. § 15101, et seq. (Id. ¶ 13.)

         Refrigeration Research affixed to each vessel a metal plate which certified that the vessel complied with the ASME standards of design, fabrication, testing, and performance. (Id. ¶ 14.) Refrigeration Research knew or should have known the four vessels did not meet these ASME standards, (Id. ¶ 15.) Flexware relied on Refrigeration Research's affirmation, by ASME certification, that the four vessels would withstand an operating pressure of 450 pounds per square inch. (Id. ¶ 16.)

         Refrigeration Research had a duty to construct the vessels in a workmanlike manner and in compliance with all applicable laws, rules, regulations, and mandates. (Id. ¶ 17.) Refrigeration Research breached its duty by failing to construct the vessels in compliance with ASME requirements, which are mandated by Maine law. (Id. ¶ 18.)

         As a direct and foreseeable result of Refrigeration Research's false representation, by ASME certification, as to the working pressure capacity, and Refrigeration Research's breach of its duty owed Flexware, Flexware suffered damages when the vessels failed at a working pressure at or near half the pressure Refrigeration Research certified. This created an unreasonable and foreseeable risk of injury due to ...


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