Fire Loss and New Home Construction

Lawsuits often involve the interplay of several theories of recovery (e.g. breach of contract, negligence, etc.) and after-the-fact critiquing of the parties' actions (e.g. was insurance purchased?, what did the construction contract say?, who was the last to leave the property?, etc.). Skilled attorneys can help clients both plan for certain contingencies as well as craft arguments if litigation commences. The recent case of Jenkins v. Big City Remodeling, et al., highlights such concepts.
In sum, the Jenkins hired a general contractor ("GC") to build a house. The GC and the Jenkins entered into a construction contract with neither party seemingly understanding all the terms (more on this below). The GC hired subs to do the work. The flooring sub apparently left flammable rags behind along with discarded cigarette butts. The house exploded and burned to the ground (captured on a neighbor's security camera). Everyone blamed everyone else and a lawsuit commenced.
Although the case dealt with numerous interesting issues, only two will be addressed here.
First, the homeowners never procured "all risk" insurance as specifically required by the construction contract. At the trial court level, the court found that this was a material breach by the homeowners and thus, the GC was off the hook. The court of appeals reversed this finding, but the import here is that if a person is entering into a contract (especially as important as building a 6,000 square foot home), then that person really ought to read, understand, and follow the contractual obligations.
Second, notwithstanding the video evidence of the flooring sub being the last to leave the house before the fire, the evidence that flammable rags were left out, and the evidence that the flooring sub didn't dispose of cigarettes butts properly, the trial court still dismissed it as a party finding that the Jenkins failed to meet their legal burden of proof. The court of appeals however, reversed, noting that this was a jury question.
The case makes for an interesting read and the saga between these parties isn't yet resolved. However, hopefully by now the GC took a closer look at its contract documents, the flooring sub learned how to dispose of flammable rags and cigarette butts, and the homeowner found the phone number of its insurance agent.

Jenkins v. Big City Remodeling, et al., No. E2014-01612-COA-R3-CV, (Tenn. Sep. 29, 2015).