As a general contractor, you understand the importance of being named an additional insured under your subcontractors’ commercial general liability (CGL) policies. Not only do you want your subcontract to express that a subcontractor’s CGL policy is primary and noncontributory to your policy, but you want it to express that the subcontractor must identify you as an additional insured for ongoing and completed operations. Even with this language, you want the subcontractor to provide you with their additional insured endorsement and, preferably, a primary and noncontributory endorsement. These additional insured obligations are important to any general contractor that has been sued in a construction defect / property damage lawsuit.
In the recent decision in Core Construction Services Southeast, Inc. v. Crum & Forster Ins. Co., 2016 WL 5403578 (11th Cir. 2016), a general contractor built a residential development. The general contractor required its roofing subcontractor to identify it as an additional insured under the roofer’s CGL policy. The general contractor was sued with the lawsuit asserting that the roofs were installed incorrectly. The general contractor tendered the defense of the claim to the roofer’s CGL insurer and the insurer refused to provide the defense because there was no “property damage” within the definition of the CGL policy (“physical injury to tangible property…”). The general contractor then filed a lawsuit against the subcontractor’s insurer arguing that the insurer was obligated to defend and indemnify it since the general contractor was an additional insured under the subcontractor’s CGL policy. The trial court, and as affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal, held that the insurer owed no duty to defend or indemnity the general contractor because there was NO asserted property damage within the meaning of the policy. If there was no property damage then there was no obligation for the roofing subcontractor’s insurer to defend the general contractor as an additional insured under the subcontractor’s CGL policy.
The underlying lawsuit only claimed that the roofs had been damaged but did NOT claim that the defective roofs had caused damage to other property (other components of the building). The omission of this assertion was important because the complaint was not pled to trigger insurance duties, such as additional insured obligations, since the cost to repair or replace the damaged roof would not be covered by the subcontractor’s CGL insurer. Rather, costs to replace or repair damage caused by the subcontractor’s defective roofing installation would be covered; however, such damage was not pled in the underlying complaint. Remember, the insurer’s duty to defend is only triggered based on allegations in the underlying complaint so without such allegations, there is no duty.
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