The Buckeye State Bucks Recent Trend: Ohio Supreme Court Holds That Property Damage Caused by a Subcontractor’s Faulty Work Does Not Constitute an “Occurrence” Covered Under CGL Policies

Ohio N. Univ. v. Charles Constr. Servs., 2018 Ohio LEXIS 2375 (Oct. 9, 2018)

This post was published in the National Association of Credit Management eNews on December 20, 2018.

This case arose out of the construction of an inn and conference center at Ohio Northern University (“ONU”).  After completion of the project, ONU discovered water damage and structural defects in the work and filed suit for breach of contract against its general contractor, Charles Construction Services, Inc. (“Charles”).  Charles, in turn, sought defense and indemnity from its commercial general liability insurer, Cincinnati Insurance Company (“CIC”).  As required by ONU, Charles’s policy contained a “products-completed operations-hazard” (“PCOH”) clause and terms specifically related to work performed by subcontractors.  Under Charles’ policy, the insurance covered “property damage” only if it was caused by an “occurrence,” defined as “[a]n accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions.”  “Accident,” however, was not defined.  CIC intervened in ONU’s suit, seeking a declaratory judgment that it was not required to defend or indemnify Charles.

The trial court granted CIC summary judgment, holding that CIC had no duty to indemnify or defend Charles.  The trial court based its holding on Westfield Inc. Co. v. Custom Agri Sys., Inc., 979 N.E.2d 269, a 2012 decision in which the Ohio Supreme Court concluded that claims for faulty workmanship are not fortuitous, and therefore, not claims for “property damage” caused by an “occurrence” covered by a CGL policy. Continue reading “The Buckeye State Bucks Recent Trend: Ohio Supreme Court Holds That Property Damage Caused by a Subcontractor’s Faulty Work Does Not Constitute an “Occurrence” Covered Under CGL Policies”

Fifth Circuit Holds Settlement Proceeds Received by General Contractor From Subcontractors Constitute “Other Insurance” Which Offsets the Liability of the Excess Carrier and General Contractor Bears the Burden of Properly Allocating the Proceeds Among Covered and Non-Covered Claims

Satterfield & Pontikes Constr., Inc. v. United States Fire Ins. Co., 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 21488 (5th Cir. Aug. 2, 2018)

This case arises out of an excess insurance provider’s refusal to cover damages incurred by the insured general contractor after it was terminated from a construction project.  Satterfield & Pontikes Construction, Inc. (“S&P”) served as general contractor for the Zapata County courthouse project and purchased two layers of insurance to cover potential liabilities: commercial general liability insurance and excess insurance.  Excess insurance, provided by United States Fire Insurance Company (“Excess Carrier”), would apply when the first layer was exhausted.  S&P also required its subcontractors to purchase insurance and execute indemnity agreements to cover damages they caused to the project.

During the project, Zapata County terminated S&P and filed suit to recover the damages it incurred to complete and correct S&P’s work.  At arbitration, Zapata County was awarded over $8 million in damages, fees, and costs.  S&P covered over $4 million of the award through settlement agreements it executed with its subcontractors—which did not specifically allocate the proceeds to the damages or liabilities they covered—and nearly $3 million from its commercial general liability insurance providers.  S&P sought to obtain coverage for the balance of the award from its Excess Carrier, but the Excess Carrier refused to pay any amount, arguing that the first layer of insurance had not been completely exhausted.  S&P filed suit for breach of the policy, arguing that its Excess Carrier was obligated to make up the shortfall of the arbitration award.  The Excess Carrier argued that not all of the damages awarded at arbitration were covered under its policy (such as mold, attorney’s fees, and prejudgment interest) and that those that may have been covered were likely satisfied by the subcontractor settlements. Continue reading “Fifth Circuit Holds Settlement Proceeds Received by General Contractor From Subcontractors Constitute “Other Insurance” Which Offsets the Liability of the Excess Carrier and General Contractor Bears the Burden of Properly Allocating the Proceeds Among Covered and Non-Covered Claims”

Applying Florida’s “Eight Corners Rule,” Eleventh Circuit Finds that Insurer Has a Duty to Defend Claim That Insured’s Faulty Paint Work on Balcony Railings Caused Damage to Adjacent Balcony Slabs

Addison Ins. Co. v. 4000 Island Blvd. Condo. Ass’n, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 26870 (11th Cir. Dec. 28, 2017)

The owner of a high-rise condominium building in Florida hired a contractor to replace the building’s concrete balcony railings with new railings featuring aluminum and glass.  The contractor on the project, Poma Construction (“Poma”), entered into a subcontract with Windsor Metal Specialties (“Windsor”), under which Windsor agreed to paint the new aluminum railings.

Two years after the work was completed, the owner sued Poma and Windsor in Florida state court, alleging that the railings were defective and required replacement.  In addition to replacing the railing system, the owner alleged that Windsor’s defective paint finish damaged other surrounding property, including railing post pockets and the concrete balcony slabs.

Windsor submitted the claim to its liability carrier, Addison Insurance Company (“Addison”).  Addison then filed a declaratory judgment action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, seeking a declaration that it had no duty to defend Windsor in the owner’s underlying lawsuit.  Windsor’s policy provided a defense against claims alleging that an “occurrence” caused “property damage.”  But the policy excluded claims alleging damage to Windsor’s own work product or to the particular part of a property on which Windsor performed its work.  Addison had invoked that exclusion, arguing that the owner merely alleged damage to Windsor’s own work and/or the part of the property on which Windsor performed its work, i.e. the balcony.  The District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Windsor, and Addison appealed. Continue reading “Applying Florida’s “Eight Corners Rule,” Eleventh Circuit Finds that Insurer Has a Duty to Defend Claim That Insured’s Faulty Paint Work on Balcony Railings Caused Damage to Adjacent Balcony Slabs”