The Maryland Court of Special Appeals released an opinion in the case of Cash & Carry Am., Inc. v. Roof Solutions, Inc., 117 A.3d 52 (2015), providing a detailed explanation of the duty of care in a negligence action. The plaintiff in the case brought a negligence action against a contractor and subcontractor, alleging that their negligence caused a fire that damaged property belonging to his business. The question before the court was whether a roofing contractor who performs work on a structure owes a duty of care in tort to a third-party owner of personal property inside the structure. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals held that under the circumstances of the case, the roofing contractor did owe a duty of care to the third party, reversing the ruling of the lower court.
In Cash & Carry, the homeowner contracted with the defendants to replace the roof of his townhouse. A fire started on the roof when a torch used to heat tar paper ignited the wooden framework of the townhouse. The fire department put out the fire, but the water leaked into the house, damaging computers belonging to the homeowner’s business. The business brought a negligence action against the roofing contractors, seeking compensation for the damage caused by the fire. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, finding that they did not owe any legal duty to the business, which was not a party to the contract.