Sharon Shefer, Adv.    Sigal Avshalom, Adv.

Levitan, Sharon & Co.

CC 6356-03-14 Yossef  Levi  v. Pazgas Ltd. and Phoenix Insurance Co (26.11.20)

On 26 November 2020, the Central District Court (Judge Hadas Ovadia) dismissed a Claim filed by Mr. Yossef Levi (hereinafter: Plaintiff) against Pazgas Ltd. and its Insurer, Phoenix Insurance Company. Ltd. (hereinafter: Defendants), who were represented by Levitan, Sharon (S. Shefer and S. Avshalom), and determined that Plaintiff failed to prove that the claim event was a “gas explosion”, and anyway, Pazgas’ alleged negligence has not been proven by Plaintiff.

The Facts

On 7September 2010, approximately at 9:00 p.m., a fire broke out in a pub named “Levis” located in an industrial building in the city of Ashdod, operated by Plaintiff.

In March 2014 Plaintiff filed a Statement of Claim in the Central District Court regarding property damage he allegedly sustained, in the amount of ILS 6,635,846, as a result of a gas leakage that led to an explosion and a fire that broke out in his pub.

Plaintiff’s Arguments  

According to the Statement of Claim, on 7 September 2010 a gas explosion occurred at Plaintiff’s pub and a fire broke out thereafter. A fire investigator’s opinion was attached, which stated that due to a gas leak that occurred for no apparent reason in the pub’s kitchen area, the gas spread to the pub’s refrigerators room. A spark  from one of the refrigerators apparently caused a gas explosion, following which a fire broke out in Plaintiff’s business, causing severe damage to the construction and the contents of the pub.

Plaintiff argued  that Pazgas Ltd. designed, supplied and installed the gas systems in the business, and also supplied gas to the business from the day of its establishment and was responsible for the gas system, its maintenance and safety. Therefore, Plaintiff argued that the gas explosion and the fire were caused due to the negligence of Pazgas Ltd. and/or its employees.

The Defendants’ Arguments  

The Defendants argued that Plaintiff’s allegations re gas explosion are contrary to the facts and findings that were found on the scene, which indicated that the fire broke out as a result of intentional arson. This conclusion was supported by the experts’ opinions issued by Mr. Yaakov Gal, an expert for gas systems, and Mr. Eli Heine, a fire investigator, as well as by the report issued by the Fire Fighting Authority.  

Moreover, the Defendants denied the alleged damage. The loss adjuster’s opinion submitted on behalf of Plaintiff of lacked support and references, it suffered from basic computational errors and included the loss adjuster’s fee, the payment of which was conditional on the success of the claim.

In addition, Defendants argued that Plaintiff lacked a personal cause of action, since he was not the owner of the pub, but his two sons who also purchased the equipment that was allegedly damaged.

The District Court Judgment

On 26 November 2020, the District Court handed down a Judgment according to which it dismissed the claim filed against Pazgas Ltd. and Phoenix Insurance Co.

In its judgement, the Court accepted all arguments raised in the written summaries filed on behalf of the Defendants and determined as follows:

Firstly, the event resulted from a fire and not from a gas explosion.

The Court refers in its judgement to evidence that was consistent with the Defendants’ expert opinions, which concluded that the fire was a result of arson and not from a gas leakage. Inter alia, the Court referred to the event report issued by the Fire Fighters, in which the event was classified as a fire incident.

In addition, the Court referred to the fact that Plaintiff and his sons were not present at the business or in its surroundings at the time of the event, and that Plaintiff’s argument re a gas explosion is based solely on the fire investigator’s expert opinion which was filed on his behalf. Moreover, Plaintiff’s expert confirmed in his cross examination that the uncertainty in this case is high and that he has no evidence of a previous gas leakage. In addition, Plaintiff’s expert noted in his opinion that a gas leakage occurred “for some unknown reason”. In these circumstances, the Court stated that this was not sufficient to substantiate Plaintiff’s claims.

Moreover, whether or not the source of the fire was a gas explosion, Plaintiff did not prove that Pazgas Ltd. was negligent or that it was liable for the incident.

The Court accepted the Defendants’ arguments, according to which it was proved that the gas system had been inspected by the Insured in accordance with the provisions of the relevant standards and that the gas facility had received the appropriate approvals. In addition, the Court referred to the fact that Plaintiff’s expert confirmed that he did not find any evidence that a repair had been made to the gas system or that someone had turned on the gas tap during the days prior to the incident.

Furthermore, Plaintiff did not prove the alleged Damage.

The Court determined that Plaintiff’s loss adjuster’s opinion lacked support and references and it is based on a list of equipment compiled by Plaintiff’s son. In addition, the Court refers to the fact Plaintiff’s loss adjuster admitted in his examination that the total damage according to the list of equipment is about two million shekels lower than the amount that was mentioned in his opinion.

Moreover, the Court stated that Plaintiff’s loss adjuster had a real interest in the results of the proceedings, as his fees depended on the success of the claim, and that the claim amount included   Plaintiff’s loss adjuster’s fees in more than half a million NIS.

Finally, the Court accepted the plea of lack of cause of action and stated that Plaintiff was not the owner of the business where the alleged event occurred:

The Court determined, therefore, that the damage allegedly caused to the pub did not entitle Plaintiff to compensation.

Therefore, the claim was dismissed with costs. Plaintiff did not appeal this judgment.