images-1Understanding when an “occurrence” under a CGL policy occurs is very, very important for purposes of submitting claims to insurers. It is important relating to its duties to defend and indemnify the insured.


The opinion in Trovillion Const. & Development, Inc. v. Mid-Contintent Cas. Co., 2014 WL 201678 (M.D.Fla. 2014), is a good opinion that discusses liability insurance considerations in a construction defect dispute including the triggering of liability insurance. In this case, a general contractor built a condominium over a multi-year period. Construction commenced in 2003. From 2003 through 2009, the contractor’s CGL carrier was Mid-Continent. Towards the end of 2009, it switched carriers to Endurance.


In 2009, the developer turned over control over the condominium to the unit owners. The association hired a company to perform an inspection of the condominium which revealed certain defects and building code violations (i.e., structural framing failure, organic growth, damage to interior finishes, etc.). The association sued the general contractor and developer in 2010 for violations of the building code, breach of statutory warranties, and deceptive and unfair trade practices.


The general contractor, as it should, notified and tendered the defense of its lawsuit to Mid-Continent and Endurance. Mid-Continent denied coverage and refused to participate in the defense. As a result, the contractor sued its insurer Mid-Continent for breach of contract and for a declaratory action arguing that Mid-Continent has a duty to defend and indemnify it in the association’s lawsuit. While this lawsuit was going on, the association’s lawsuit against the contractor was proceeding to trial. The contractor’s insurer, Endurance, was providing a defense. Right before trial, the association and the contractor (with the agreement of Endurance) entered into a consent judgment (known as a Coblentz agreement) for $1,800,000 which was entered in favor of the association against the contractor. The settlement provided that the association would not execute against the contractor. Following the court’s entry of the judgment, the contractor amended its complaint against Mid-Continent arguing that Mid-Continent is obligated to indemnify the contractor for the $1,800,000 judgment.


A Coblentz agreement is a settlement agreement between a third-party claimant and an insured to resolve a lawsuit where the insured’s liability insurer has denied coverage and its duty to defend. “Under Florida law, a party seeking recovery from an insurer under a Coblentz agreement must provide: (1) a wrongful refusal to defend; (2) a duty to indemnify; and (3) that the settlement was objectively reasonable and made in good faith.” Trovillion Const., supra, at *3. “In a traditional Coblentz agreement, the insured: (1) enters into a consent judgment establishing its liability and fixing damages; and (2) assigns any cause of action it has against its insurer to the claimant [in consideration of the claimant not executing on the judgment against the insured].” Id. at n.2.


In order to determine whether Mid-Continent had a duty to defend, the Court needed to determine what legal theory triggered the occurrence under the CGL policies. Numerous Florida courts have applied the manifestation theory meaning that the occurrence is triggered when the damage is discovered. There are courts that have applied the injury-in-fact theory meaning that the occurrence is triggered the moment there is actual damage irrespective of whether that damage is actually discovered. This is a significant difference and important for parties in liability-related disputes dealing with property damage to understand.


The underlying complaint the association asserted against the contractor alleged that the defects were causing ongoing damage and was silent as to the specific date the defects began to damage the condominium. But, the association’s inspection report after the developer turned the association over indicated that damages started to occur between the time construction commenced in 2003 and the 2009 inspection performed for the association. The report further alleged that the defects were not discovered until expert consultants were retained, i.e., in 2009. Mid-Continent argued that it had no duty to defend under the manifestation theory because the complaint alleged that the manifestation (when the defects were discovered) was 2009 at a point when it was no longer insuring the contractor. However, the court applied the injury-in-fact theory in this case. This meant that Mid-Continent’s policies were triggered because the triggering point was when actual damage started to occur, and not when it was actually discovered. Again, this is a crucial distinction–for this reason the Court found that Mid-Continent had a duty to defend.


Finding that a duty to defend existed, the Court’s next analysis was whether Mid-Continent had a duty to indemnify based on the actual coverage in the policies. An insurer’s duty to defend is much broader than an insurer’s duty to indemnify. Under a CGL policy with a “subcontractor” exception to the “your work” exclusion, a contractor’s insurer is not liable for the defective work caused by a subcontractor, but it is liable for the repairing the damage caused by the subcontractor’s defective work. (See the “subcontractor” exception to the “your work” exclusion in the CGL policy.)


Interestingly, in this case, of the six annual policies Mid-Continent issued between 2003-2009, only one policy contained the “subcontractor” exception to the “your work” exclusion. The other policies, through endorsement, eliminated the “subcontractor” exception. Without the “subcontractor” exception to the “your work” exclusion in CGL policies, the insurer is able to exclude coverage for damage arising from a subcontractor’s defective work. But, with the “subcontractor” exception, the insurer is liable for damage caused by a subcontractor’s defective work. Stated differently, without the “subcontractor” exception, the contractor is probably not getting the CGL coverage it thinks it is getting or needs when constructing a project with the potential for claims down the road (such as condo projects).


Because only one policy contained the “subcontractor” exception, the contractor needed to establish when the property damage occurred. Obviously, it is in its best interest to have expert testimony establishing that the date the damage occurred / was occurring was with the policy period where there was a “subcontractor” exception to the “your work” exclusion. Otherwise, Mid-Continent had no duty to indemnify!


Furthermore, Mid-Continent argued that even if the contractor proved that damage occurred within the policy period with the “subcontractor” exception, the consent judgment did not allocate covered damage to uncovered damage. In other words, the consent judgment did not allocate the portion of the damage attributable to repairing damage caused by subcontractors’ defective work. “Florida law requires Trovillion [contractor], the party seeking recovery, to allocate the settlement amount between covered and uncovered claim [and] [i]nability to allocate precludes recovery.Trovillion Const., supra, at *8.


The contractor, unfortunately, presented no evidence that it could apportion damages. Based on this issue, the Court ruled:


Trovillion is not relieved of its duty to apportion damages, and its failure to make any effort to do so or to produce evidence suggesting it is capable of doing so is fatal to its indemnification claim. For that reason, and because Trovillion has failed to produce more than a scintilla of evidence suggesting that non-excluded property damage occurred at the condominium community during the MCC [Mid-Continent] policy periods, MCC’s motion for summary judgment is due to be granted….”



There are quite a few important take-aways from this case. First, know what argument needs to be made to trigger an occurrence under a liability policy. Whether it is the manifestation theory or injury-in-fact theory, consider both theories when presenting an argument and claim to a carrier. Second, know that an insurer’s duty to indemnify is much narrower than its duty to defend which is based on the allegations of the complaint. Third, if entering into a Coblentz agreement and corresponding consent judgment, include something that apportions damage between uncovered damage (a subcontractor’s defective work) and covered damage (damage caused by a subcontractor’s defective work). And, fourth, know whether your liability policy has a “subcontractor” exception to the “your work” exclusion or whether the carrier issued an endorsement that eliminated that exception. This “subcontractor” exception is important to contractors in Florida so if the endorsement that eliminated this exception was issued, make sure that you know your risks. Insurance is a critical part of risk assessment. Know your rights and appreciate your risks!


For more on construction defect insurance considerations, please see


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.


acParties in construction absolutely need to understand what triggers the duty of a liability insurer to defend a lawsuit. This needs to be understood not only by the insured-party being sued, but by the entity suing the insured-party. A liability insurer’s duty to defend its insured in a lawsuit is broader than its duty to indemnity its insuredKeen v. Florida Sheriff’s Self-Insurance, 962 So.2d 1021, 1024 (Fla. 4th DCA 2007). The duty to defend is based on allegations in the complaint if the allegations potentially bring the claim within the policy’s coverageId.; Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mut. Ins. Co. v. Indiana Lumbermens Mut. Ins. Co., 43 So.3d 182, 186 (Fla. 4th DCA 2010). “Once the insurer’s duty to defend arises [based on the allegations in the underlying complaint], it continues throughout the case unless it is made to appear by the pleadings that the claims giving rise to coverage have been eliminated from the suit.”  Pennsylvania Lumbermens, 43 So.3d at 186 quoting Baron’s Oil Co. v. Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co., 470 So.2d 810, 815 (Fla. 1st DCA 1985).


The recent opinion in Nationwide Mutual Fire Ins. Co. v. Advanced Cooling and Heating, Inc., 38 Fla. L. Weekly D2256a (Fla. 4th DCA 2013), demonstrates an insurer denying the duty to defend because the allegations against the insured did not potentially fall within the policy’s coverage. In this case, a service HVAC contractor was contacted because of a residential owner’s problem with an existing air conditioning system. The owner agreed to pay the HVAC contractor to install a new compressor. However, after the compressor was installed, the owner realized this did not cure his air conditioning problems and decided to stop the payment to the contractor. The HVAC contractor sued the owner and the owner counterclaimed asserting that the HVAC contractor breached the contract by failing to properly inspect his air conditioning system which resulted in unnecessary repair. The HVAC contractor tendered the counterclaim to its CGL carrier to defend it; the insurer denied coverage since the allegations in the complaint did not potentially trigger policy coverage.


The HVAC contractor retained counsel and successfully prevailed against the owner’s counterclaim. It also filed a lawsuit against its CGL insurer for a declaratory judgment that its insurer had a duty to defend it. The trial court agreed with the HVAC contractor and awarded fees and costs against the insurer pursuant to Florida Statute 627.428. (This statute allows for an insured to recover its attorneys’ fees and costs if it obtains a judgment against its insurer.)


The Fourth District, on appeal, reversed finding that the insurer did not have a duty to defend based on the owner’s allegations in the complaint. As the Fourth District found: “The [CGL] insurance policy issued to Advanced [insured-contractor] covers “bodily injury” or “properly damage” resulting from an “occurrence” pursuant to the policy definitions. The [residential owner’s] breach of contract claim alleges only that an improper or unneeded repair resulted in an unnecessary $438 expense to the customer. There are no allegations of bodily injury or property damage at all.”  Advanced Cooling and Heating, supra.


The insured-contractor tried to argue that the residential owner claimed that it installed the compressor in an unworkmanlike manner that caused a leak in the air conditioning system that damaged the compressor. However, the Fourth District shot this down because damage to the compressor or the air conditioning system was not resulting damage or property damage other than the property being repaired.


Liability insurance is not designed to cover the insured’s defective work or damage to the insured’s work caused by the insured. In the residential owner’s underlying claim, there was not personal injury or property damage resulting from the service HVAC contractor’s work. Understanding the duty of a liability insurer to defend a lawsuit should be important to any plaintiff seeking insurance coverage to pay for damage. Likewise, it is important to the insured-contractor that expects or wants its insurer to defend it in what can be a costly litigation.


For more information on liability insurance coverage, please see


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.


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



UnknownContractors and subcontractors that work on construction projects should, and generally do, maintain commercial general liability policies (“CGL Policies”).  Owners absolutely want their contractor and the subcontractors to be sufficiently insured in the event a claim is made either against them or damages or defects occur to their project.  Likewise, the contractor wants its subcontractors to be sufficiently insured for the same reasons.   Contractors and subcontractors, jointly, want CGL Policies so that if a claim is made or they are sued the insurer defends their interests and, hopefully, pays insurance proceeds to resolve the claim.


Insurers, however, are not always keen on paying claims and rely on various exclusions in policies that are applicable to the circumstances of the claim.  In other words, if there is no coverage for the claim based on an exclusion, the insurer will appropriately rely on an exclusion in the CGL policy.  As it pertains to CGL Policies, there are two important exclusions insurers rely on when a claim is asserted against a contractor or subcontractor for construction defects.  These exclusions are known as the j(5) and J(6) exclusions and exclude damage to:


j(5)   That particular part of real property on which you…are performing operations, if the property damage arises out of those operations; or


j(6)   That particular part of any property that must be restored, repaired or replaced because your work was incorrectly performed on it.


A contractor or subcontractor that reviews their CGL Policies will find the j(5) and j(6) exclusions to be substantially similar to the above.  While contractors typically do not self-perform work, subcontractors typically do  self-perform all or a substantial part of the work.


A recent case, Wilshire Insurance Co. v. Birch Crest Apartments, Inc., 2011 WL 3586228 (4th DCA 2011), bolsters insurers’ arguments to exclude coverage under a self-performing subcontractor’s  CGL Policy under the (j)5 and j(6) exclusions.  In this case, a painter performing work on an apartment project spattered paint on glass doors and windows.  The painter tried to remove the paint spatter, and in the process of doing so, damaged the glass doors and windows.  The owner sued the painter and the painter consented to a judgment and assigned its rights under its CGL Policy to the owner. This allowed the owner to sue the insurer directly and assert certain claims against it.


The issue in this case was whether the painter’s damage to the glass windows and doors were covered under the policy, or, conversely, whether coverage was excluded pursuant to the j(5) and j(6) exclusions under the policy.  The Fourth District Court of Appeal held that these exclusions barred coverage for all of the owner’s damages:


“[T]he record here shows that cleaning paint spatter from windows and doors was within the natural and intended scope of work undertaken by the contractor as part of the painting operations on Birch’s [owner] property if in fact such paint spatter occurred.


[T]he scope of the contractor’s operations were intended to include the apartments which were being painted and would, if required, involve cleaning up surfaces which were spattered with paint.  There is no genuine issue of material fact that the property damage in this case was to the apartment upon which H&H [painter] was performing its operations, and that it arose out of the insured’s operations within the meaning of (j)5Additionally, there is no genuine issue of material fact that the underlying claim resulted from the insured’s incorrect work on the glass doors and windows of the apartments within the meaning of exclusion j(6).

Wilshire Insurance Company, 2011 WL at *2.


In this case, it appears that the owner hired the painter directly and that the painter self-performed the work.  This is noteworthy because had the owner hired the general contractor and the general contractor hired the painter, or had the painter hired sub-subcontractors to perform all of its work, there could have been certain arguments raised to maximize insurance coverage.  These arguments, however, will not be discussed in this specific post.  What is also noteworthy is that the Fourth District focused on what fell within the “natural and intended scope of work” of the self-performing painter.  Since the damage or activity of cleaning up paint on glass fell within the natural and intended scope of the painter’s work, the Fourth District found that the painter essentially damaged  property it was performing work on (the j(5) exclusion)  and, thus, required repairs to the painter’s own work (the j(6) exclusion).


It is imperative that when an owner, etc. submits a claim to a contractor or subcontractor’s CGL Policy, the owner consults with a lawyer in furtherance of couching the claim to optimize insurance recovery.  Furthermore, and equally important, when a contractor or subcontractor receives a claim, especially a claim for defects or damage, that they too should consult with a lawyer to best present the claim to optimize the insurer protecting their interests and paying proceeds to resolve the claim.


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.