Pimlico owners sue to recover fire losses; Damage not covered, insurance company says


The owners of Pimlico Race Course are taking the track's insurance company to court in an effort to force the company to pay for damage from an electrical fire and power outage two years ago that cast a pall over the Preakness Stakes.

The suit by Maryland Jockey Club of Baltimore City Inc. and Pimlico Racing Association Inc. against American Casualty Co. of Reading, Pa., filed Monday in Baltimore Circuit Court, seeks damages "in excess of $467,763.89."

"We can't give you a full and complete number. The number is not finalized yet," James E. Gray, a lawyer for Pimlico's owners, said yesterday.

Efforts to reach representatives of the insurance company were unsuccessful.

During the running of the 123rd Preakness in 1998, a transformer serving Pimlico's grandstand blew, causing an outage that crippled the air-conditioning system, closed pari-mutuel windows and darkened stairwells.

At a hearing in March before the city Planning Commission, Pimlico representatives outlined a five-year, multimillion-dollar improvement plan for the track, which was built in 1870 and received its only major refurbishing in 1954. They said at the time that they would spend $1 million to remedy fire-code violations found by city inspectors.

According to the seven-page lawsuit, Pimlico's owners "incurred damage to their building and personal property, increased costs of reconstruction and remodeling as a consequence of enforcement of building ordinances and a loss of business income."

The damages would cover claims for property damage and loss of business but do not include increased reconstruction costs required by the enforcement of building codes and ordinances, the suit says.

Maryland Jockey Club, which owns Pimlico, and Pimlico Racing Association, which owns Maryland Jockey Club, applied for reimbursement for losses, but American Casualty refused to pay, the suit says.

In a letter in August, the insurance company said it would not pay the claim because Pimlico's policy covers loss of damage by fire, and not electrical current, the suit says.

The suit calls the insurer's stance "unreasonable," "unsubstantiated" and "incorrect."

The language of the policy provides that if electrical current results in fire, the company is obligated to pay for resulting damage, the suit says.

The suit contends that a fire in an electrical transformer in the track's parking lot led to the outage.

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