Builder’s risk insurance coverage is a vital property insurance coverage during the course of constructionBuilder’s risk insurance is not a one-size-fits-all product so please make sure you are working with your insurance broker to procure this product that factors in and covers risk associated with the project.

Builder’s risk insurance is typically an occurrence-based policy. No different than other occurrence-based policies (such as commercial general liability), a dispute may arise as to the occurrence. This could be due to the triggering of the actual policy during the coverage period or it could be due deductible obligations, as in the case discussed below. When dealing with a builder’s risk insurance policy–again, no different than any policy–the language in the policy matters.  Definitions used in the policy to define specific terms matter and, in numerous cases, the ordinary dictionary meanings of terms matter. But it all starts with the policy language.

In KT State & Lemon, LLP v.  Westchester Fire Insurance Co., 2023 WL 2456499 (M.D.Fla. 2023), a builder’s risk policy provided coverage from April 2018 through the end of November 2019.  There was a $50,000 per occurrence deductible for loss caused by or from water damage.  An extension to the builder’s risk policy was negotiated through the end of January 2020 that increased this water damage deductible to $250,000 per occurrence.  During construction and the testing of the fire suppression (sprinkler) system, leaks started to occur resulting in water damage.  Two leaks occurred in September 2019, one leak in October 2019, one leak in November 2019, and two leaks in December 2019 (during the extension and higher water damage deductible period).

The plaintiff-insured argued that all of the leaks in the fire sprinkler system should constitute one single occurrence.  Naturally, it did so because one occurrence would be a $50,000 deductible since the initial leak occurred prior to the extension period.  The insurer took a contrary position and argued that each leak was a separate occurrence meaning there were four leaks with a $50,000 per occurrence deductible and two leaks in December 2019 each with a $250,000 deductible.  This is a big deal from a dollar’s perspective as it means each leak would have to have damages in excess of the per occurrence deductible and the insured would potentially be responsible for the first $700,000 in water damage based on the six leaks.

In Florida, the [insurance] contract should be ‘construed according to the plain language of the policy,’ and any ambiguities must be ‘construed against the insurer and in favor of coverage.KT State, supra, at *2 (citations omitted).

The Court looked at the policy language, specifically how the builder’s risk policy defined the term “occurrence” as it would be this definition in the policy that shed light on whether there would be one occurrence or multiple occurrences:

All LOSS attributable directly or indirectly to [1] one originating cause, event, incident or repeated exposure to the same originating cause, event or incident, or [2] to one series of similar originating causes, events, incidents or repeated exposures to the same originating cause, event or incident first occurring in the Policy period. All such LOSS will be treated as one OCCURRENCE, unless a specified period of time is included in this Policy. The most the Company will pay for LOSS in any one OCCURRENCE is the applicable Limit of Insurance shown on the Declarations.

As to the underlined above, the policy did not define the terms “series” or “similar.” Yet, these terms are not technical terms so the Court looked at the ordinary dictionary definitions. “The dictionary meaning of ‘series” is ‘[a] number of things of one kind (freq. abstract, as events, actions, conditions, periods of time) following one another in time or in logical order.’ The dictionary meaning of ‘similar’ is ‘alike in substance’ or ‘having characteristics in common.’” KT State, supra, at *3 (citations omitted).  Based on the definition of “occurrence” in the policy, and the ordinary dictionary definitions of “series” and “similar,” the Court found the six fire sprinkler leaks constituted only one occurrence:

Reading the policy language from the standpoint of an ordinary person, in light of the common meaning of the terms used, and in a common-sense and natural manner produces only one reasonable conclusion. Plaintiffs’ claimed loss was attributable, directly, or indirectly, to a “series of similar originating causes, events, [or] incidents,” and therefore resulted from one occurrence. The loss resulted from leaks in the same sprinkler system, due in whole or part to improper installation by the same [subcontractor] crew under the same contract, in the same general location in the same building, and occurred one after the other in a relatively short span of time from late September to December 2019.

KT State, supra, at *4.

Yet, despite there being one occurrence, the Court applied a caveat to the benefit of the insurer since there were two leak incidents during the extension of the policy with an increased $250,000 per occurrence deductible:

Accordingly, under the Policies’ definition of “occurrence,” the leaks at issue together constituted one occurrence. For damage from leaks that occurred prior November 30, 2019, therefore, a single deductible of $50,000 applies. The result is different, however, for leaks after that date, because the parties expressly modified the Policies at that point. The original policy term ended on November 30, 2019. Plaintiffs were only entitled to purchase an extension of coverage beyond that date on the same terms as before if no “risk aggravating situation” was present at the time of the extension. But such a situation was present, because Plaintiffs had reported multiple leaks, and that was obviously the reason the parties changed the water damage deductible to $250,000 when they extended coverage to January 30, 2020. It is clear that the increased deductible was intended to apply to similar water damage events occurring during the extended policy period. Therefore, the increased deductible applies to water damage from leaks occurring after November 30, 2019, notwithstanding the definition of “one occurrence.”

KT State, supra, at *5.

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


imagesA recent case out of New York held that damage to a tower crane from a storm during construction is excluded from a builder’s risk policy because a tower crane is a machine that fits within the contractor’s tools exclusion, a common exclusion in builder’s risk policies.  (Check out this article for a discussion on this case.)   This case exemplifies the importance of a contractor that owns or leases equipment, such as a crane, to obtain equipment floater insurance (or inland marine insurance coverage).  But, it is important that the contractor discuss the type of equipment it needs insured for purposes of its operations to ensure there is coverage under the floater insurance.  Such floater insurance is not universally the same so the contractor needs to ensure the insurance covers the risks and types of owned, leased, and loaned equipment utilized.  (For more information on insurance applicable to construction projects, check out this chart.) 


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


UnknownI previously discussed the importance of builder’s risk coverage for a construction project.  Builder’s risk insurance is not a one-size-fits-all policy meaning an owner or contractor–party procuring builder’s risk–needs to work with their insurance broker to ensure that their during-construction risks are properly being insured.   Otherwise, a loss may occur during construction only for the owner and contractor to learn that the loss is not covered under the builder’s risk policy.


By way of example, in Gerald H. Phipps, Inc. v. Travelers Property Casualty Co. of America, 2016 WL 97756 (D.Co. 2016), a contractor was hired to renovate and expand a public library. The existing library contained asbestos in elevator shafts and stairwells.  The contractor’s intent was to not disturb the asbestos in these locations.  However, during construction, snow melted and water seeped into the stairwells and elevator shafts that consequently mandated the mitigation and remediation of the asbestos in the stairwells and shafts (existing structures).


The contractor submitted a builder’s risk claim for the remediation costs.  The contractor’s builder’s risk policy provided that builder’s risk coverage does NOT include: “Buildings or structures that existed at the job site prior to the inception of this policy.”   This existing building / structures exclusion is common in builder’s risk policies.  The builder’s risk insurer denied coverage for the mitigation costs because the policy did not cover damage to existing structures (i.e., the stairwells and shafts).  The contractor filed a coverage lawsuit; however, the court entered summary judgment for the builder’s risk insurer stating:


“Because the stairwells and elevator shafts [existing structures] are excluded from the definition of “Builders’ Risk” and GHP [contractor] has not introduced evidence that the water intrusion damaged its own work, GHP has not shown any loss to covered property.”

Gerald H. Phipps, 2016 WL at *5.


 Be watchful for the existing structures / buildings exclusion in builder’s risk policies, especially if you are performing renovation work to existing structures. 


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



imagesProperty insurance policies such as builder’s risk policies contain a design defect / faulty workmanship exclusion (as well as other exclusions for excluded risks or perils).  But, certain exclusions such as the design defect / faulty workmanship exclusion may contain what is referred to as the “ensuing loss exception.”   Stated differently, a design defect / faulty work is excluded from the insurance policy BUT losses ensuing (or separately resulting) from the design defect / faulty work are excepted from this exclusion and covered under the policy.  If your initial reaction as to the application of the ensuing loss exception is “huh?!?,” then that exact sentiment is shared by others.  Trust me! 


The Florida Supreme Court decision in Swire Pacific Holdings, Inc. v. Zurich Ins. Co., 845 So.2d 161 (Fla. 2003) dealt with a design defect exclusion that read:


Loss or damage caused by fault, defect, error or omission in design, plan or specification, but this exclusion shall not apply to physical loss or damage resulting from such fault, defect, error or omission in design, plan or specification.


This initial part of this exclusion is a design defect exclusion.  The underlined part is the ensuing loss exception to this exclusion.


In Swire, errors and omissions with the structural design and, therefore, structural work, of a condominium project halted the issuance of the certificate of occupancy for the condominium.  The developer incurred $4.5 million to retain a new structural engineer to modify the plans as well as corrective structural work in the field.  The developer then submitted a builder’s risk insurance claim.  The builder’s risk insurance carrier denied coverage based on the foregoing design defect exclusion arguing that the developer incurred money to correct a design defect, but there were no covered losses or damages ensuing from the design defect.  The Florida Supreme Court agreed with the builder’s risk insurer:


Swire’s [developer’s] sole claim here is an attempt to recover the expenses incurred in repairing a design defect. No ensuing loss resulted [from the design defect] to invoke the exception to the exclusionary provision…. No loss separate from, or as a result of, the design defect occurred. Therefore, we conclude…Swire is not entitled to recover the expenses associated with repairing the design defect. To hold otherwise would be to allow the ensuing loss provision to completely eviscerate and consume the design defect exclusion….This [builder’s risk insurance] contract does not operate as a warranty for faulty workmanship and should not be transformed into a guarantee against design and construction defects.


Swire, 845 So.2d at 167-68.


In a more recent case, Peek v. American Integrity Ins. Co. of Florida, 2015 WL 5616294 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015), a property insurance policy contained the following ensuing loss exception:


“We do not insure loss to property described in Coverages A and B caused by any of the following. However, any ensuing loss to property described in Coverages A and B not excluded or excepted in this policy is covered.”


Coverages A and B contained exclusions for latent defects, corrosion, faulty workmanship and pollution.  Thus, the property insurance policy did not cover these items but it did cover “any ensuing loss…not excluded or excepted in this policy.” 


Peek dealt with homeowners moving into a house with Chinese drywall.  The homeowners contended that the Chinese drywall resulted in a noxious smell and corroded air conditioning coils.  The homeowners contended that the defective drywall (exclusion) resulted in (a) the loss of use of their house due to the noxious smell and (b) damage in the form of corrosion to air conditioning coils, and that such items should be covered under the ensuing loss exception.


The Second District Court of Appeal disagreed with the homeowners regarding the application of the ensuing loss provision. The court explained:


An ensuing loss follows as a consequence of an excluded loss, and the crux of the ensuing loss provision is that there must be a covered cause of loss that ensues from the excluded cause of loss….Given that American Integrity [property insurer] proved that the Chinese drywall was an excluded defective construction material, it was the Peeks’ [homeowners] burden to demonstrate that the policy covered a loss that occurred subsequent to and as a result of that excluded peril.



First, the evidence below demonstrated that the odor present in the Peeks’ home was a manifestation of the sulfur gases emanating from the Chinese drywall and that the corrosion was caused by the chemicals released by the sulfur gases, which emanated from the Chinese drywall. As such, the losses were not “ensuing.” …



Additionally, both of the claimed ensuing losses are specifically excluded under the policy because an excluded cause of loss—defective Chinese drywall—led directly to another set of exclusions—pollution and corrosion….. Here, the damage to the Peeks’ home and consequently the odors and corrosion of metals and electronics were directly related to the defective Chinese drywall and thus directly stemmed from an excluded risk. Thus coverage was excluded under the express terms of the insurance contract.


Peeks, supra, at *4.


Recovering losses or damage under an insurance policy can be challenging in light of the various exclusions in the policy.  Even the ensuing loss exception to exclusions, as demonstrated above, does not except from policy exclusions the types of losses that an insured may seek to recoup.


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



windstorm photoAn important new insurance coverage case came out dealing with “all risk” property insurance policies (such as homeowners or builders risk policies). The case, American Home Assurance Co. v. Sebo, 38 Fla. L. Weekly D1982a (2d DCA 2013), discusses when coverage applies when both excluded and covered perils contribute to a loss / damage. The case also discusses the application of anti-concurrent cause language in the policy. These are both important insurance coverage issues.


In this case, an owner purchased a four-year old home in 2005 and obtained an “all risk” homeowner’s property insurance policy. The policy was not a standard form policy but a manuscript policy specifically created for purposes of the house. Almost immediately after the purchase, rainwater started to intrude in numerous locations throughout the house. Then, Hurricane Wilma struck causing further damage to the house. The damage to the house was so extensive that it could not be repaired and the house had to be demolished.


The owner submitted an insurance claim to its carrier, but the carrier denied coverage except for tendering $50,000 based on language in the policy that provided for $50,000 worth of coverage for ensuing (resulting) damages caused by fungi, wet or dry rot, or bacteria. (This is often referred to as the mold exclusion and some policies allow for ensuing damages caused by mold up to a specified amount.)


The owner sued the sellers, the contractor, and the architect (arguing defective construction) and settled with each of them. The owner also sued its property insurance carrier in a declaratory action for insurance coverage.


An all risk policy, such as the policy in this case, starts out covering all risks except the numerous risks or perils that are excluded. As the Court explained:


“Property insurance is a contract between the insured and the insurer to cover property losses that are either caused by certain perils that are specifically named in the policy or are caused by “all perils” except for those specifically excluded from coverage. These perils are usually physical forces such as fire, rain, and wind.”  Sebo, supra.


In this policy (like most property insurance policies), there was a faulty workmanship / design exclusion where the policy did not cover loss caused by faulty, inadequate, or defective planning, design, specifications, workmanship, repair, construction, etc.


The coverage issue in the case centered on the undisputed fact that more than one cause (excluded and covered) contributed to the owner’s loss or damage, such as faulty construction, rain, and wind. When this occurs, what legal doctrine applies to determine whether the loss is covered?


The owners wanted the legal doctrine known as the concurrent cause doctrine to apply. Under this doctrine, insurance coverage applies “when multiple perils act in concert to cause a loss, and at least one of the perils is insured and is a concurrent cause of the loss, even if not the prime or the efficient cause.” Sebo, supra. In other words, if faulty workmanship (not covered) and rain (likely covered) concurrently contribute to a loss, the loss would be covered under the concurred cause doctrine.


The insurance carrier wanted the legal doctrine known as the efficient proximate cause doctrine to apply. Under this doctrine, “the finder of fact, usually the jury, determines which peril was the most substantial or responsible factor in the loss. If the policy insures against that peril, coverage is provided. If the policy excludes that peril, there is no coverage.” Sebo, supra. In other words, if faulty workmanship (not covered) is the most substantial factor in the loss, the loss would not be covered.


The trial court applied the concurrent cause doctrine. However, on appeal, the Second District reversed finding that the efficient proximate cause doctrine should apply to determine whether coverage exists. (For more on the application of the efficient proximate cause doctrine to all-risk property insurance policies, check out this article and this article.) 


The Court additionally discussed what is known as anti-concurrent cause language that exists in many insurance policies. An example of this language in the policy would be under the pollution exclusion which provided that the policy did not “cover any loss, directly or indirectly, and regardless of any cause or event contributing concurrently or in any sequence to the loss” caused by pollutants / contamination. Sebo, supra. Thus, based on this language, the concurrent cause and efficient proximate cause doctrines would be moot based on this anti-concurrent cause language. The Court dismissed this argument because the anti-concurrent cause language was not specifically incorporated into the faulty workmanship exclusion whereas it was specifically incorporated in other exclusions such as the pollution exclusion. (Importantly, other states have found this language to be unenforceable so there may be an argument as to the enforceability down the road that the Court did not delve into but noted.)


All-risk property insurance policies and named-peril policies are complicated. When a loss occurs, it is important to understand your property insurance policies in order to present claims and arguments for coverage. The Sebo case’s application of the efficient proximate cause doctrine is an important case because it is not uncommon that both weather-related issues and defective workmanship / design related issues contribute to the loss. This raises the “what came first, the chicken or the egg argument” because when this issue is tried by a jury, the insurer will likely argue that the weather-events would not have contributed to the loss if not for the defective workmanship / design so the defective workmanship / design must have been the substantial factor. Conversely, the owner will likely argue that he purchased a four-year old home and the defect issues did not surface until severe weather-related events, so the weather-related events must have been the substantial factor.


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


imagesKnowing what losses or damages are covered under your insurance policy is extremely important and oftentimes ignored until there is a substantial a loss or damage. But, understanding your insurance coverage is very important so that you know exactly what is covered and what supplemental insurance you may want to procure to protect your interests.


Most owners obtain some form of property insurance. Property insurance is designed to cover those direct losses (or “all-risks”) except those losses that are excluded from coverage. This is tricky because you start off with broad coverage that gets dwindled down by various exclusions and policy endorsements that restrict coverage. Understanding these exclusions and endorsements is the key to knowing what is covered and, in many cases, how to present a claim to an insurer. This is not easy because insurance policies are confusing.


To explain the confusing language in insurance policies, in Certain Interested Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London Subscribing to Policy Number, MI2226 v. Chabad Lubavitch of Greater Florida, Inc., 36 Fla. L. Weekly D1218a (4th DCA 2011), a building was damaged when a crane landed on it during a tropical storm. The owner had two property insurance policies. It had a policy covering wind damage (“Wind Policy”) and a separate all-risk policy with Lloyd’s of London that excluded windstorm (“Lloyd’s Policy”). The owner’s damages exceeded the limits of its Wind Policy so it smartly submitted a claim under the Lloyd’s Policy for the additional damages arguing that this policy should provide coverage becuase the crane, not the wind, actually caused the damage.


The Lloyd’s Policy contained the following exclusion for wind:


“We will not pay for loss or damage:

1. Caused directly or indirectly by Windstorm or Hail, regardless of any other cause or event that contributes concurrently or in any sequence to the loss or damage…

But if Windstorm or Hail results in a cause of loss other than rain, snow, sand or dust, and that resulting cause of loss is a Covered Cause of Loss, we will pay for the loss or damage caused by such Covered Cause of Loss. For example, if the Windstorm or Hail damages a heating system and fire results, the loss or damage attributable to the fire is covered subject to any other applicable policy provisions.”


This bolded language is known as the Ensuing Loss Exception to the windstorm exclusion. Confusing – Oh Yes. What this language really says is that the policy will not cover wind damage, BUT if the wind results in a loss that sets in motion another loss that would be covered under the policy, there is coverage for the other loss. The language in the policy is so confusing that it contains a hypothetical. The hypothetical is really what gives meaning to the application of this Ensuing Loss Exception. The hypothetical illustrates that if a windstorm damages a heating system, the damage to the heating system would not be covered due to the wind exclusion. But, if the damage to the heating system sets in motion an intervening fire that causes damage, this fire damage would be covered. The reason this damage would be covered is because it was not caused by the wind, but rather the ensuing fire (even though the fire was set in motion by damage caused by the wind).


In this case, the Fourth District remanded this case to the trial court to determine the actual cause of the crane falling on the building since it was a factual issue in dispute. Under the Court’s line of thinking, if the crane fell on the building because of wind, there would not be coverage under the Lloyd’s Policy due to the wind exclusion. However, if the crane fell on the building due to some other intervening loss set in motion by the wind there should be coverage under this Ensuing Loss Exception. In other words, if the crane fell because some flying object picked up by the wind struck the crane causing the crane to fall on the building, there would arguably be coverage for the loss to the building.


This case is an example of the confusing language in policies and having an understanding of the language can enable you to present arguments to maximize insurance coverage.


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