Promissory estoppel claim does not survive summary judgment.
We obtained summary judgment for an insurance carrier client that had been sued by another insurance carrier for more than $1.6M in damages arising out of a fire loss. The opposing insurance company had paid $1.6M in damages and intended to pursue a product liability claim against a vehicle manufacturer, alleging that a defectively manufactured vehicle had caused the fire to an auto repair facility. Our client insured the vehicle that was allegedly defective. After the insurance companies conducted a preliminary expert evaluation, the vehicle was destroyed by a salvage yard in the normal course of business. A claim was made against our client for promissory estoppel where it was alleged that the vehicle was destroyed despite a promise to preserve. The Court of Common Pleas of Erie County rejected the claims against our client and agreed with our defense that the promissory estoppel claim was a disguised claim for negligent spoliation, which the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania does not recognize. Moreover, assuming such a cause of action could withstand summary judgment, the damages claimed were speculative in that without the vehicle it could never be proven that a manufacturing defect within the vehicle had caused the fire. Although the $1.6M damages were established, whether the insurance company could prove causation of damages was speculative and the promissory estoppel claim could not survive summary judgment.