SUBCONTRACTOR’S LIABILITY INSURER’S DUTY TO DEFEND THE “ADDITIONAL INSURED” GENERAL CONTRACTOR

shutterstock_306317915Construction projects can lead to insurance coverage disputes.  One such dispute arises when a general contractor is sued for construction defects and resulting property damage and it tenders the defense of the claim / lawsuit to an implicated subcontractor’s liability insurer.  A general contractor does this because it (hopefully) will be an additional insured under the subcontractor’s liability policy.  Being identified as an additional insured under a subcontractor’s liability policy is imperative for a general contractor as part of its normal risk assessment. The issue will typically come up in any construction defect lawsuit because if the general contractor is an additional insured it will, and should, tender the defense of the lawsuit to implicated subcontractors’ insurers. 

 

Sometimes, a subcontractor’s liability insurer will deny the duty to defend the general contractor.  Yes, this happens.  When it does, the general contractor’s insurer will provide a defense to the general contractor but may pursue the subcontractor’s insurer for reimbursement of fees and costs based on the general contractor being an additional insured under the subcontractor’s liability policy.

 

For example, in Travelers Property Casualty Co. of America v. Amerisure Ins. Co., 161 F.Supp.3d 113 (N.D.Fla. 2015), the general contractor’s liability insurer (Travelers) sued a stucco subcontractor’s liability insurer (Amerisure) where the underlying issue was whether the general contractor was an additional insured under the subcontractor’s liability policy.  The subcontractor’s insurer refused to defend the general contractor in an underlying construction defect lawsuit.  The general contractor’s insurer provided a defense in the underlying lawsuit and sued the subcontractor’s insurer for reimbursement.  

 

Under Florida law, a liability insurer’s duty to defend extends to an entire lawsuit if any claim in the lawsuit may come within the policy’s coverage.”  Travelers Property Casualty Co., 161 F.Supp.3d at 1137.    The underlying complaint against the general contractor alleged property damage caused by defective stucco installation.  This meant that the complaint triggered the duty to defend and the Court held the general contractor was an additional insured under the subcontractor’s liability policy.  For this reason, the Court maintained that the subcontractor’s insurer (Amerisure) owed the general contractor’s insurer (Travelers) the reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in the defense of the general contractor in the underlying lawsuit:

 

When Amerisure [subcontractors’ insurer] failed to step up, Travelers [general contractor’s insurer] did what Amerisure should have done: Travelers provided Yates [general contractor] a defense. The attorneys Travelers hired chose to defend the case not only by answering the claims but also by asserting third-party claims against subcontractors, including Jemco [stucco subcontractor]. Travelers paid the fees and costs incurred in connection with the third-party claims, apparently concluding that this was the best strategy for defending the claims and that its duty to defend Yates thus obligated it to pay for the third-party claims as well. There is support for that view. 

***

Had Amerisure provided a defense as it should have done, the attorneys it hired might or might not have made the  same strategic decision as the attorneys hired by Travelers. But now Amerisure can complain, at most, about unreasonable decisions, not about decisions that reasonably could have gone either way. As a leading commentator has put it, when an insurer breaches its duty to defend,

the insured is justified in assuming the defense of the action and is released from the contractual obligation to leave the management of the case to the insurer. Not only does the insurer lose the power to control the defense or dictate to the insured how the case should be handled, but the insurer cannot complain about the conduct of the defense by the insured or the negligent handling of the case by the insured’s attorney.

 

Travelers Property Casualty Co. of America, 161 F.Supp.3d at 1138-39 (internal citations omitted).

 

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

QUICK NOTE: HAVE YOU SEEN THE “SEPARATION OF INSUREDS” PROVISION IN YOUR CGL POLICY?

imagesHave you ever looked at your CGL policy and seen the “Separation of Insureds” provision? You must have seen it but perhaps it does not ring a bell.  If you are an additional insured under another’s policy or have additional insured under your policy, this is an important provision.  Check out this article to understand the application of the “Separation of Insureds” provision in your CGL policy. 

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

THE “PRIMARY AND NONCONTRIBUTORY” INSURANCE REQUIREMENT

CaptureIf you were ever involved in a construction defect claim or lawsuit, you may have heard the phrase “primary and noncontributory” when referring to YOUR insurance coverage.  Or, you may have come across this phrase when discussing with your insurance broker the additional insured insurance coverage requirements you need to provide pursuant to your contract.

 

But, what does this mean when referring to YOUR insurance coverage? This phrase refers to the priority of YOUR insurance coverage.

 

For instance, a general contractor will require that that its subcontractors obtain CGL insurance coverage that not only names the general contractor as an additional insured (for both ongoing and completed operations), but also includes an endorsement reflecting that the subcontractor’s policy is “primary and noncontributory.”  (See above picture for example of endorsement)   The subcontract may provide, by way of example, that, “Insurance coverage provided by you [subcontractor] to the additional insured [general contractor] shall be primary and noncontributory with respect to any insurance coverage otherwise available to the additional insured.”  This means that if the general contractor is sued associated with the negligence of its subcontractor, it will tender the claim to the subcontractor’s insurer to defend and indemnify it since it will (hopefully) be an additional insured under the policy.  The subcontractor’s policy is the “primary” policy without contribution from the general contractor’s policy (as the general contractor’s policy will really come into play as excess insurance).

 

otherThe general contractor, to be safe and circumspect, may want the subcontractor to obtain a “primary and noncontributory” endorsement that says that the subcontractor’s insurance will be primary and noncontributory when required by written contract.  The reason this is safe is because most CGL policies already contain a section called “Other Insurance.” In this section (as depicted in part in the adjacent picture), the policy will state that it is primary except when other insurance (specified in the policy) is available in which case it will serve as excess insurance.  One of the other insurance conditions that will deem your policy as excess is when you are identified as an additional insured under another’s policy (e.g., the subcontractor’s policy that identifies the general contractor as an additional insured is the primary policy and the general contractor’s policy will serve as excess insurance). The primary and noncontributory endorsement modifies this “Other Insurance” language.

 

 

Understanding the application of insurance and the interrelationship of potential policies is never easy.  But, this understanding is of the utmost importance for construction risk assessment purposes where risk is inherent in the very nature of construction.

 

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

QUALIFYING FOR ADDITIONAL INSURED STATUS

images-1Additional Insured status is a vital part of risk management in construction.  I’ve previously discussed additional insured status under general liability policies in http://www.floridaconstructionlegalupdates.com/understanding-your-rights-as-an-additional-insured/ and http://www.floridaconstructionlegalupdates.com/make-sure-additional-insured-coverage-is-for-completed-operations/.

 

 The recent decision in King Cole Condominium Association, Inc. v. Mid-Continent Casualty Co., 2014 WL 2191944 (S.D.Fla. 2014), further elaborates on additional insured status under a general liability (CGL) policy.  In this case, a condominium unit owner injured herself while the condominium was undergoing construction work.  The unit owner sued the association and the general contractor the association hired to perform the work.  As it pertained to the association, the unit owner contended that the association was negligent including being negligent for selecting the general contractor that caused her injuries.  The general contractor, as typically is the case, had a CGL policy.  The association tendered the defense of the unit owner’s claims to the contractor’s liability insurer as an additional insured; however, the insurer denied coverage. The association then sued the insurer seeking a declaratory judgment asking for the court to declare that it was an additional insured under the contractor’s policy and, thus, the insurer had a duty to defend and indemnify the association in the unit owner’s action against the association and general contractor.

 

The dispositive issue in this dispute was whether the association should qualify as an additional insured under the general contractor’s liability policy. The association claimed it was an additional insured because any liability assessed against it was directly attributable to the defective condition created by the general contractor that caused the unit owner’s injuries.  The insurer countered that the association would only qualify as an additional insured with respect to liability directly attributable to the general contractor’s performance at the condominium.

 

The additional insured endorsement in the contractor’s policy provided that an additional insured was:

 

 

“Any person or organization for whom the named insured has agreed by written “insured contract” to designate as an additional insured subject to all provisions and limitations of this policy …

 

WHO IS AN INSURED (Section II) is amended to include as an insured the person or organization shown in the Schedule, but only with respect to liability directly attributable to your performance of ongoing operations for that insured.”

 

The general contractor’s liability policy further contained a definition for the term “insured contract” that provided:

 

“f. That part of any other contract or agreement pertaining to your business (including an indemnification of a municipality in connection with work performed for a municipality) under which you assume the tort liability of another party to pay for “bodily injury” or “property damage” to a third person or organization, provided the “bodily injury” or “property damage” is caused, in whole or in part, by you or by those acting on your behalf. Tort liability means a liability that would be imposed by law in the absence of any contract or agreement.”

 

 

Based on this policy language, the Southern District stated that for the association to qualify as an additional insured under the general contractor’s policy, it must establish (a) its contract with the general contractor was an insured contract within the meaning of the policy and (2) the association only sought coverage as an additional insured under the policy regarding liability directly attributable to the general contractor’s performance, i.e., the additional insured status is for vicarious liability or negligence directly caused by the contractor for which the association was sued.  If the association failed to provide either requirement, then it failed to qualify as an additional insured.

 

The contract between the association and general contractor provided that the general contractor would identify the association as an additional insured.  Presumably, this contract met the definition of an insured contract within the meaning of the policy as it likely required the contractor to indemnify the association for bodily injury and property damage caused by the contractor’s performance.  Thus, the crux of whether the association qualified as an additional insured under the contractor’s policy turned on whether the unit owner was suing the association for liability directly attributable to the general contractor’s performance (i.e., vicarious liability).

 

 

To determine whether the unit owner’s claims contained allegations triggering vicarious liability, the Southern District looked to the allegations in the unit owner’s underlying complaint against the association and contractor.  In analyzing the unit’s owner complaint and finding that the association did not qualify as an additional insured, the Southern District held:

 

 

Florida law requires a claimant to specifically plead vicarious liability as a separate cause of action.  Because Satarsky’s [unit owner] complaint contains no separate cause of action for vicarious liability, the Court rejects King Cole’s [association] contention. Furthermore, even if Florida procedural law did not apply or if the separate cause of action requirement was not the law in Florida, there is nothing in the complaint to suggest that Satarsky sued King Cole for vicarious liability. To the contrary, the allegations against King Cole all relate to its own alleged negligence. Therefore, under the facts here, Mid–Continent has no duty to defend or indemnify King Cole with respect to the Satarsky lawsuit.”

King Cole Condominium Association, supra (internal citations omitted).  

 

This case contains a couple of important take-aways:

 

  • Additional insured status is not designed to protect the additional insured for its OWN negligence.  Rather, it is designed to defend and indemnify the additional insured for the negligence directly caused / attributable to the primary insured; hence, the Southern District explaining that the underlying complaint  by the unit owner needed to trigger vicarious liability such that the association was being sued for the negligence of the contractor.

 

  • To determine whether an insurer has a duty to defend, the court will look to the allegations in the underlying complaint.  In this instance, the underlying complaint asserted claims against the association for its own negligence, but not for  vicarious liability  associated with the negligence of the contractor.   When preparing a complaint in which a party is seeking insurance coverage, it is important to plead allegations that may give rise to potential coverage.

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

 

MAKE SURE ADDITIONAL INSURED COVERAGE IS FOR COMPLETED OPERATIONS


UnknownCommercial general liability (“CGL”) insurance and additional insured coverage play an integral role in construction defect disputes. Specifically, general contractors want to ensure that they are an additional insured under their subcontractors CGL policies. (Subcontractors that engage other subcontractors to perform a portion of their scope likewise want to be an additional insured under their subcontractors’ CGL policies.) However, just being an additional insured is not enough. The key is that a general contractor should be an additional insured for ongoing operations and, importantly, completed operations since construction defects typically arise out of completed operations.

 

The recent Fifth Circuit decision in Carl E. Woodward, L.L.C. v. Acceptance Indemnity Insurance Co., 2014 WL 902575 (5th Cir. 2014), discusses additional insured coverage and the importance of additional insured coverage for completed operations. This case deals with the construction of a condominium in Mississippi. The general contractor hired a concrete subcontractor that performed work from January 2006 to October 2006 with the entire project being completed in August 2007. The general contractor was an additional insured under the concrete subcontractor’s CGL policy. Subsequent to completion, a construction defect dispute arose in arbitration that involved the concrete subcontractor’s scope of work. The concrete issues appeared to be that the subcontractor failed to properly slope concrete floors including balconies preventing water to drain and that it failed to install a step in the balcony slab at the balcony exterior walls and doors damaging exterior walls of condominium units.

 

The general contractor demanded that the concrete subcontractor’s CGL carrier indemnify and defend it in the dispute since it was an additional insured under the subcontractor’s policy (and the CGL carrier was responsible for indemnifying / defending it due to the negligence of the primary insured-concrete subcontractor). The concrete subcontractor’s CGL carrier refused to defend the general contractor because the additional insured endorsement stated that additional insured coverage was “only with respect to liability arising out of your [primary insured subcontractor’s] ongoing operations performed for that insured.” The endorsement also provided a specific exclusion to additional insured coverage–the additional insured coverage did NOT apply to property damage occurring after all work to be performed by or on behalf of the additional insured has been completed. Basically, there was NO additional insured coverage for completed operations.

 

The general contractor and its insurer filed suit against the concrete subcontractor’s CGL carrier. The argument was that the CGL carrier failed to indemnify and contribute to defense costs in connection with the arbitration. After trial, the district judge entered a judgment in favor of the contractor for approximately $1 Million. The Fifth Circuit reversed this judgment because the dispute arose out of completed operations for which there was no additional insured coverage owed to the general contractor.

 

 

images-1A. What does the additional insured coverage “only with respect to liability arising out of your [primary insured subcontractor’s] ongoing operations performed for that insured” mean

 

The Fifth Circuit (relying on Mississippi law) held that under the additional insured language for ongoing operations, liability simply needs to arise out of ongoing operations–liability needs to be causally connected to the the subcontractor’s ongoing operations. But, what exactly does this mean? To determine what this specifically means, the Fifth Circuit examined the case of Noble v. Wellington Assoc., 2013 WL 6067991 (Miss.Ct.App. 2013), that involved post-completion foundation cracks in a house attributable to the site subcontractor’s compaction (before the house was even constructed). In Noble, the court maintained:

 

Noble [additional insured] was only an additional insured for liability caused by Harris’s [site subcontractor] active [ongoing] work on the site and…did not cover property damage manifesting itself after Harris stopped working on the site…. [I]f Harris’s performance caused the damage for which Noble was liable, the cause was Harris’s completed work, not its ongoing operations. ” Carl E. Woodward, supra, at *6.

 

 

The Fifth Circuit further examined the Colorado case, Weitz Co., LLC v. Mid-Century Ins., Co., 181 P.3d 309 (Colo.App. 2007), whereby an owner observed water intrusion damage five months after the subcontractor completed its work. In Weitz, the court maintained:

 

Because the contractor’s [additional insured] liability for the water intrusion damage arose out of the subcontractor’s completed operations–the work was completed five months before the intrusion–rather than its ongoing operations, there was no coverage under the additional-insured endorsement.” Carl E. Woodward, supra, at *7.

 

Additionally, the Fifth Circuit maintained that the additional insured endorsement (factoring in the specific exclusion that excluded property damage occurring after all work has been completed) only provided coverage for the concrete subcontractor’s ongoing (active) operations. In other words, it does not matter when the claim is actually filed as long as the liability does not arise out of completed operations.

 

Typically, and even as the Fifth Circuit noted, liability for construction defects arise out of completed operations. Even if liability arose out of the concrete subcontractor’s scope of work, the liability did not arise out of the subcontractor’s active / ongoing operations, but from the completed construction (when the owner received the completed building-substantial completion). Thus, once all work is completed, the liability and damage will arise from completed operations.

 

B. CGL is not a performance bond

 

CGL insurance is not a performance bond. I repeat, CGL insurance is not a performance bond. The reason for the repetition is because oftentimes arguments are made to essentially convert CGL insurance into a performance bond. The Fifth Circuit explained the difference between these two products that insure different risks:

 

Allowing coverage under this [additional insured] endorsement because of an allegation that the additional insured failed to follow plans and specifications, effectively converts a CGL policy into a performance bond.
***
[A] performance bond is a form of insurance that guarantees the completion of the general contractor’s work on the project. This Circuit has previously noted the significance of the difference between these two forms of insurance [CGL and performance bond]: A CGL policy generally protects the insured when his work damages someone else’s property. The ‘your work’ exclusion [in the policy] prevent a CGL policy from morphing into a performance bond covering an insured’s own work.” Carl E. Woodward, supra, at *7 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

 

C. Take-aways

 

  • Take a look at the CGL policy and additional insured endorsement. There is a good chance the additional insured endorsement only provides additional insured status for ONGOING OPERATIONS and NOT COMPLETED OPERATIONS! This is absolutely not what a GC wants. It wants additional insured status for both ongoing and completed operations so that it can seek indemnification and defense for issues that arise post-completion.

 

  • Construction defect disputes often arise after substantial completion and after the owner receives the project. It is the owner that asserts the claim against the general contractor and the general contractor seeks indemnification and defense as an additional insured under subcontractors’ policies. If the subcontractor’s CGL policy does not provide for additional insured coverage for completed operations, courts and insurers will likely apply the same logic taken by the Fifth Circuit in this case. This is why obtaining a copy of the endorsement and requiring additional insured status for completed operations is important.

 

  • Even though contracts typically require the subcontractor to include additional insured coverage for completed operations, what the contract requires and what the policy states are oftentimes two different things. So, what is the recourse if a subcontractor’s policy does not comply with this provision? Well, you could include that the subcontractor failing to provide additional insured coverage for completed operations constitutes a material breach of contract. But, even if the contractor learns the right additional insured coverage is not being provided during construction, the chances of it terminating the subcontractor (and delaying the job) and finding a new subcontractor are probably slim to none. So what other recourse is there if this is learned during construction? Perhaps, if learned during construction, the provision can state that the general contractor is entitled to keep the subcontractor’s retainage as a form of liquidated damages based on damages that are not readily ascertainable. The subcontractor probably will not agree to such a provision. And, oftentimes, like this case, the additional insured coverage is not learned until after-the-fact when it is too late. Then what? Well, the contract already has an indemnification provision that would make the subcontractor responsible. The problem is that this provision is not additional insured coverage. Therefore, obtaining copies of subcontractors’ additional insured endorsements on the front end to determine whether there is coverage for completed operations is important.

 

  • CGL insurance is not a performance bond. They are two different insurance-type products with different purposes. Both can play a role in construction defect disputes. It is important to understand and appreciate their differences.

 

  • Finally, parties oftentimes try to navigate complicated CGL issues by themselves. This is a mistake. Parties should retain the services of counsel to assist them to ensure insurance claims are maximized and, if there is a performance bond in place, rights are preserved.

 

For more on additional insured coverage, please see: http://www.floridaconstructionlegalupdates.com/understanding-your-rights-as-an-additional-insured/

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

A CERTIFICATE OF INSURANCE IS NOT INSURANCE COVERAGE

4766970-tall-high-rise-urban-office-building-in-sydney-australiaOwners always want to see the certificate of insurance (“COI”) from the general contractor. The general contractor wants to see the COI from its subcontractors. Parties want to see the COI from an entity they are hiring to confirm they have applicable insurance (proof of insurance) and so that the COI identifies them as an additional insured. (Importantly, just because an entity is listed as a “certificate holder” on the COI does not make them an additional insured; it just means they are being provided proof of the insurance identified in the COI. This is not additional insured status!)  Without seeing the actual policy, specifically with respect to a liability policy, it is uncertain (a) what that entity is actually covered for and (b) what entities would be covered as an additional insured under the liability policy.

 

The summary judgment opinion in Bluewater Builders, Inc. v. United Specialty Ins. Co., 2013 WL 5670957 (S.D.Fla. 2013), demonstrates that a COI is not all it is cracked up to be. In this case, a general contractor sued its subcontractor’s CGL carrier for indemnification. The general contractor did so after it obtained a judgment against the subcontractor for water damage arising from the subcontractor’s work at a commercial high-rise officer tower. (Under Florida Statute s. 627.4136, the general contractor could not sue the subcontractor without first obtaining a settlement or verdict against the subcontractor-insured.) The insurer moved for summary judgment because the insured-subcontractor’s policy provided on the Declarations page that the policy covered the subcontractor’s operations for the following classification: “carpentry-construction of residential property not exceeding three stories in height.” Buewater Builders, 2013 WL at *1. The Declarations page further provided that coverage was strictly limited to this classification and that no coverage would be provided for any other classification.  The policy did not cover the subcontractor’s work at a commercial high-rise tower.

 

The general contractor argued that the insurer should be estopped from relying on the exclusionary language in the policy because it received a COI from the subcontractor and it detrimentally relied on this COI in hiring the subcontractor. Specifically, the general contractor relied on the doctrine of promissory estoppel which applies when a “plaintiff detrimentally relies upon a defendant’s promise, the defendant should have expected the promise to induce reliance, and injustice can only be avoided by enforcement of the promise.” Bluewater Builders, 2013 WL at *3. However, the general contractor could not point to any promise the insurer actually made because the insured-subcontractor was the one that transmitted the COI. And, the COI did not state that it would insure the subcontractor’s work for the project; it was simply evidence of insurance without any “promise.” In fact, the COI at-issue is believed to have not even listed the insurer as the liability insurer for the subcontractor. Thus, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurer finding there was no coverage for the subcontractor’s work at the commercial high-rise under the policy.

 

 

It is important to remember that the COI does not create an obligation for an insurer.  This is demonstrated by the following portion of the Court’s opinion:

 

The Certificate [of Insurance] does not suggest that Defendant [insurer] would insure Ferman [insured-subcontractor], nor does it create some other obligation on Defendant’s part. Further insight into the preparation of the Certificate [of Insurance] is therefore inapposite to whether Defendant owes any obligation to Ferman or Plaintiff [general contractor] under the Policy.”

Bluewater Builders, 2013 at *4.

 

Remember, the COI does not create insurance coverage which is why it is always beneficial to see the policy and, as it pertains to additional insured status, to see the actual additional insured endorsement.

 

For more information on a third party suing a liability carrier, please see http://www.floridaconstructionlegalupdates.com/a-third-party-suing-a-liability-carrier/

 

For more information on additional insured status, please see http://www.floridaconstructionlegalupdates.com/understanding-your-rights-as-an-additional-insured/

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

 

 

 

 

 

A THIRD PARTY SUING A LIABILITY CARRIER

untitledIt is important to understand liability coverage, especially if you are a third party seeking liability coverage.

 

Florida Statute s. 627.4136 provides in material part:

 

It shall be a condition precedent to the accrual or maintenance of a cause of action against a liability insurer by a person not an insured under the terms of the liability insurance contract that such person shall first obtain a settlement or verdict against a person who is an insured under the terms of such policy for a cause of action which is covered by the policy.”

 

Under this statute, a third party cannot sue a liability policy seeking a declaration that there is coverage for its claims without first obtaining a settlement or verdict against the insured of the liability policy. See Lantana Insur., Ltd. v. Thornton, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D1537a (Fla. 3d DCA 2013) (finding that trial court should have dismissed third party’s claim against liability policy where there had been no settlement or verdict against the insured and, thus, no compliance with Fla.Stat. s. 627.4136).

 

What if the third party is an additional insured under the primary insured’s liability policy? Section 627.4136 has also been referred as the non-joinder statute because even though an additional insured is technically an insured under the liability policy, a claim seeking coverage under the primary insured’s policy should either be stayed or severed from the third party’s claim against the primary insured. The reason is so the availability of insurance has no effect whatsoever on a jury’s determination of the primary insured’s liability and damage. See General Star Indemnity Co. v. Boran Craig Barber Engel Construction Co., Inc., 895 So.2d 1136 (Fla. 2d DCA 2005).

 

For example, in General Star Indemnity, a general contractor sued its fire sprinkler subcontractor for damages when the fire sprinkler ruptured. In the same lawsuit, the general contractor sued the subcontractor’s liability carrier for a declaratory judgment seeking coverage as an additional insured under the subcontractor’s policy. The insurer moved to sever and stay the claims against it which the trial court denied. On appeal through a petition for writ of certiorari, the Second District, relying on s. 627.4136, reversed the trial court holding that the general contractor’s claims against the subcontractor’s liability carrier should have been severed or stayed from the contractor’s action against its subcontractor.

 

Although an additional insured (e.g., general contractor) is an insured under a liability policy provided by the primary insured (e.g., subcontractor) and can sue the liability carrier (without first obtaining a settlement or verdict against the primary insured), it should not be able to do so in its action against the primary insured. It would be prejudicial to the primary insured and liability carrier because the jury would know about the availability of insurance. Notwithstanding, there is nothing that would prevent the additional insured from trying to file a separate declaratory action against the primary insured’s liability carrier and at least trying to consolidate the cases for purposes of discovery if the suits remain pending in the same court.

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

UNDERSTANDING YOUR RIGHTS AS AN ADDITIONAL INSURED

iso-endorsement-cg-20-10-11-85Being an additional insured is a topic discussed, and it absolutely should be, in the negotiation of construction contracts. It is an important part of risk management in construction. An owner wants its contractor and consultants to name it as an additional insured under their liability policies. A contractor, likewise, wants its subcontractors, etc. to name it as an additional insured under their liability policies.

 

Let’s say a general contractor wants its window/glazing subcontractor to name it as an additional insured under the subcontractor’s commercial general liability (CGL) policy. The window subcontractor would be the primary or named insured under its CGL policy. The general contractor, smartly, wants the window subcontractor’s CGL policy to have an endorsement that identifies the general contractor as an additional insured under that policy (ideally, for both ongoing and completed operations). By adding the general contractor as an additional insured, the window subcontractor is protecting / providing coverage to the general contractor for the window subcontractor’s negligence. It is not designed to protect the general contractor for its negligence — so the general contractor will still need its own liability insurance; rather, it is again designed to provide coverage to the general contractor for the window subcontractor’s negligence.

 

Let’s also say that during the subcontractor’s operations or after, an incorrectly installed window simply fell and caused an injury to a person or damage to property other than the window. (Yes, an extreme example!) As a result of the injury / damage, both the general contractor and the window subcontractor get sued. The general contractor will seek indemnification from the window subcontractor and the subcontractor’s CGL policy as an additional insured under the subcontractor’s policy. The reason being is that the general contractor wants to be indemnified by the subcontractor and have the subcontractor’s insurer provide it a defense and coverage because the window fell out due to the subcontractor’s negligence.

 

In this situation, either the window subcontractor’s CGL insurer should provide (pay for) a defense for both the window subcontractor (named insured) and the general contractor (additional insured) subject to the insurer’s reservation of rights. This can be done by the insurer retaining counsel for both the named insured or additional insured or, which may be the case in a multi-party litigation such as a multi-party construction defect case, contributing to the general contractor’s defense.

 

Importantly, in the recent decision of University of Miami v. Great American Insurance Co., 38 Fla. Law Weekly D392a (Fla. 3d DCA 2013), the Third District maintained that where both the named insured and additional insured have been sued in negligence with allegations that both caused the injury / damage to the plaintiff, the insurer (for the named insurer) is required to provide separate defense counsel for each in order to avoid conflicts of interest with one defense counsel. This is done to ensure that the additional insured has independent counsel to represent its interests.

 
Understanding rights of an additional insured is a must for any construction project in order to maximize insurance coverage and indemnification rights.

 

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.