Justia Construction Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Insurance Law
Christian v. United Fire & Casualty Co.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court granting summary judgment for United Fire and Casualty Company and concluding that Clifford Christian and/or his Estate were not owed a defense or indemnification for claims made against Christian in litigation brought by Linda and Albert Parisian, holding that there was no error.Christian contracted with a general contractor on his project to construct four townhomes, one of which was pre-sold to the Parisians. A subcontractor later sued the general contractor and Parisians to obtain payment for his work to landscape the homesites. Christian was named as a third-party defendant and sought defense and indemnification from United Fire, which had insured the general contractor with a liability policy for the period at issue. After United Fire denied Christian's request Christian's Estate initiated this action. The district court granted summary judgment to United Fire. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the complaint did not allege facts that if proven, would trigger policy coverage. View "Christian v. United Fire & Casualty Co." on Justia Law
Thirteen Investment Co., Inc. v. Foremost Insurance Co. Grand Rapids Michigan
Thirteen’s building suffered fire damages covered by Foremost’s policy. Thirteen retained Paramount as its public adjuster and general contractor for repairs. Paramount was “to be [Thirteen’s] agent and representative to assist in the preparation, presentation, negotiation, adjustment, and settlement” of the fire loss. Thirteen also “direct[ed] any insurance companies to include Paramount … on all payments on” the fire loss claim. Paramount negotiated the fire loss. Foremost delivered settlement checks to Paramount. The checks named Thirteen, its mortgagee, and Paramount as co-payees. Paramount endorsed the names of all co-payees, cashed the checks, and kept the proceeds. Paramount performed some repair work on the building before Thirteen sought a declaratory judgment that the insurer had breached its policy by not paying the claim.The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Foremost. Paramount received and cashed the checks, discharging the insurer’s performance obligation under the policy. The court rejected Thirteen’s arguments that Foremost waived payment as an affirmative defense by failing to plead it in its answer; that, under controlling Illinois law, Foremost’s policy obligation was not discharged when it delivered the checks to Paramount, which cashed the checks; and that Foremost agreed to make claim payments to Thirteen in installments after Foremost had inspected repair work performed. View "Thirteen Investment Co., Inc. v. Foremost Insurance Co. Grand Rapids Michigan" on Justia Law
Fidelity National Title Insurance Co. v. Osborn III Partners, LLC
In this case concerning the meaning and application of a standard title insurance policy exclusion (Exclusion 3(a)) designed to cover any defects, encumbrances, or adverse claims created or suffered by the insured in the context of construction lending, holding that this Court's opinion in First American Title Insurance Co. v. Action Acquisitions, LLC, 218 Ariz. 394 (2008), sets forth the proper interpretation and application Exclusion 3(a).In its underlying rulings, the trial court invoked Action Acquisitions to interpret Exclusion 3(a) in the construction lending context. The court of appeals reversed, instead applying the bright-line rule articulated in BB Syndication Services, Inc. v. First American Title Insurance Co., 780 F.3d 825 (7th Cir. 2015). The Supreme Court reversed in part and vacated the judgment in part, holding (1) this Court adopts Action Acquisitions' causation test for Exclusion 3(a)'s applicability; and (2) the court of appeals erred in applying the BB Syndication approach. View "Fidelity National Title Insurance Co. v. Osborn III Partners, LLC" on Justia Law
LaBarbera, et al. v. Security Nat. Ins. Co.
Plaintiff-appellant Chris LaBarbera hired Richard Knight dba Knight Construction (Knight) to remodel a house pursuant to a contract that provided Knight would defend and indemnify LaBarbera for all claims arising out of the work. Knight obtained a general liability insurance policy from defendant-respondent Security National Insurance Company (Security National) that covered damages Knight was obligated to pay due to bodily injury to a third party. As relevant here, the policy also covered Knight’s “liability for damages . . . [a]ssumed in a contract or agreement that is an ‘insured contract.’ ” Security National acknowledged the indemnity provision in Knight’s contract with LaBarbera was an “insured contract” within the meaning of the policy. The policy also provided, “If we defend an insured [i.e., Knight] against a suit and an indemnitee of the insured [i.e., LaBarbera] is also named as a party to the suit, we will defend that indemnitee” if certain conditions were met. During the remodeling work, a subcontractor suffered catastrophic injuries, and sued both LaBarbera and Knight. LaBarbera’s liability insurer (plaintiff-appellant Lloyd's of London Underwriters) defended him in that lawsuit, and Security National defended Knight. LaBarbera also tendered his defense to Knight and to Security National, but they either ignored or rejected the tender. After settling the underlying lawsuit for $465,000, LaBarbera and Underwriters sued Knight and Security National, seeking to recover the full $465,000 settlement amount and over $100,000 in expenses and attorney fees incurred defending LaBarbera in that lawsuit. Security National moved for summary judgment on the ground that all claims against it were barred because the undisputed facts established it did not have an obligation to defend or indemnify LaBarbera. The trial court granted the motion and entered judgment in favor of Security National. LaBarbera and Underwriters appealed, but the Court of Appeal affirmed, adopting different reasoning than the trial court. The Court agreed with Security National that the indemnitee defense clause in Knight’s general liability insurance policy did not bestow third party beneficiary rights on the indemnitee, LaBarbera, who benefitted only incidentally from the clause. Because LaBarbera was not a third party beneficiary under Knight’s policy, he was precluded from bringing a direct action against Security National. View "LaBarbera, et al. v. Security Nat. Ins. Co." on Justia Law
Accident Fund Insurance Co. v. Schultheis Insurance Agency, Inc.
Cope, injured on a Kentucky job site, filed a workers’ compensation claim. The subcontractor who hired him for the project, CMC, is based in Southern Indiana, and had an insurance policy with AFICA. Schultheis Insurance Agency procured the policy for CMC, but failed to inform AFICA that CMC did business in Kentucky. AFICA sought a declaration that its policy does not cover Cope’s claim.The district court granted AFICA summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The plain text of the policy is unambiguous: because CMC failed to notify AFICA until after Cope’s accident that it was working in Kentucky, AFICA is not liable for Cope’s workers’ compensation claim. The policy states : “If you have work on the effective date of this policy in any state [other than Indiana], coverage will not be afforded for that state unless we are notified within thirty days.” View "Accident Fund Insurance Co. v. Schultheis Insurance Agency, Inc." on Justia Law
Preferred Contractors Ins. Co. v. Baker & Son Constr., Inc.
The United States Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington certified a question of law to the Washington Supreme Court. Cox Construction was the general contractor of a remodeling project. Cox hired Baker & Son Construction, Inc. as a subcontractor. A Baker employee allegedly caused a two-by-four to fall from a railing and strike Ronnie Cox, owner of Cox Construction, who later died from his injury. Baker allegedly called an insurance agent to alert them of the incident. The agent told Baker that no action needed to be taken because at that time, no claim existed. A few months later, Baker received a wrongful death claim from an attorney representing Cox’s widow. Baker notified its insurer, Preferred Contractors Insurance Company (PCIC) of the claim. PCIC denied coverage, but agreed to defend Baker under a reservation of rights. The certified question to the Washington Supreme Court related to the “claims-made” nature of the policy and the timing of Baker’s tender of Ms. Cox’s claim. The Supreme Court replied to the certified question that in light of RCW 18.27, a contractor’s commercial general liability insurance policy that requires the loss to occur and be reported within the same policy year, and provides neither neither prospective nor retroactive coverage violates Washington’s public policy. View "Preferred Contractors Ins. Co. v. Baker & Son Constr., Inc." on Justia Law
Maxim Crane Works, LP v. Zurich American Insurance Co.
The Supreme Court held that the Texas Workers' Compensation Act (TWCA) does not affect the enforceability of an additional-insured provision under the Texas Anti-Indemnity Act (TAIA).A general contractor's employee injured in an accident obtained a negligence judgment in Texas state court against the subcontractor that operated the crane (Berkel) and the company that leased the crane (Maxim). Berkel was an indemnity and Maxim was an indemnity for TAIA purposes because Berkel had provided Maxim with coverage as an additional insured. After the injured worker settled with Maxim, Maxim unsuccessfully sought reimbursement from Berkel's insurer (Zurich). The court of appeals reversed the judgment against Berkel, concluding that Berkel and the injured worker were "statutory co-employees" of the general contractor under the TWCA, and therefore, the TWCA provided the worker's exclusive remedy. In a separate suit in federal court, Maxim and Zurich disputed over whether the additional-insured coverage was enforceable. The Supreme Court answered a certified question by holding that the word "employee" in Tex. Ins. Code 151.103 bears its common meaning, which is not affected by whether the indemnity and injured employee are considered co-employees for purposes of the TWCA. View "Maxim Crane Works, LP v. Zurich American Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Pavlicek v. American Steel Systems, Inc., et al.
Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company appealed a district court judgment ordering it to pay Larry Pavlicek $214,045.55 under a commercial general liability insurance (CGL) policy Grinnell had with JRC Construction. Grinnell argued the district court misinterpreted the insurance policy, and that it was not required to indemnify JRC Construction because its work product was defective. In 2013, Pavlicek hired a contractor to construct a steel building on his property. JRC Construction installed the concrete floor and floor drain for the project. Another subcontractor installed the in-floor heating system for the concrete floor. After JRC completed the floor drain, it failed to properly install the concrete floor, and its attempts to repair the concrete damaged the drain. Pavlicek sued JRC for breach of contract relating to the defective work. In February 2020, Pavlicek filed a supplemental complaint against Grinnell, alleging it was required to satisfy the judgment as JRC’s insurer. Grinnell claimed it had no obligation to indemnify JRC under the CGL policy. The district court concluded JRC’s defective work on the concrete floor was not covered under the CGL policy, but damage to the floor drain was covered. Because removal and replacement of the floor and in-floor heat were necessary to repair the drain the court concluded the CGL policy covered all of those costs. The North Dakota Supreme Court found that although the CGL policy provided coverage to repair the floor drain, it did not cover the cost of replacing the concrete floor because that damage was the result of JRC’s defective work. The district court erred in finding the CGL policy covered the entire concrete floor replacement because replacement of the floor was the only way to repair the floor drain. Further, the Supreme Court found the district court erred in concluding the CGL policy provided coverage for replacement or repair of the in-floor heating system beyond that which may be necessary to repair the drain. View "Pavlicek v. American Steel Systems, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Munoz v. Bulley & Andrews, LLC
Munoz sued general contractor, Bulley & Andrews, for injuries he sustained while an employee of its subcontractor, Bulley Concrete. Bulley & Andrews had paid workers’ compensation insurance premiums and benefits for the subcontractor and its employees. Each company has its own distinct federal tax identification number and files separate federal and state income tax returns. The companies have different presidents and employ different workers.The circuit court dismissed, finding that the genderal contractor was immune from the lawsuit under the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/5(a). The appellate court affirmed.The Illinois Supreme Court reversed. The exclusive remedy provisions do not extend to a general contractor who is not the employee’s immediate employer. Immunity does not hinge on the payment of benefits. Bulley & Andrews had no legal obligation to provide workers’ compensation insurance for Bulley Concrete employees. The fact that Bulley Concrete was a subsidiary of Bulley & Andrews is of no import. If a parent company and its subsidiary are operated as separate entities, only the entity that was the immediate employer of the injured worker is entitled to immunity. The Act bars an employee from bringing a civil suit directly against his employer but does not limit the employee’s recovery from a third-party general contractor. View "Munoz v. Bulley & Andrews, LLC" on Justia Law
Estate of Greenwood v. Montpelier US Insurance Company, et al.
William Greenwood was in the business of salvaging valuable materials from old buildings. Greenwood was insured by Mesa Underwriters Specialty Insurance Company through a policy sold by Dixie Specialty Insurance. Greenwood was later sued by adjoining building owners who complained he had damaged their property, and Mesa denied coverage based, in part, on a policy exclusion for demolition work. Greenwood later brought suit against his insurers alleging breach of contract and bad-faith denial of coverage. Greenwood averred that his business was actually “deconstruction” rather than demolition, but the trial court granted summary judgment to the insurers. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Estate of Greenwood v. Montpelier US Insurance Company, et al." on Justia Law