A new insurance coverage opinion dealing with a commercial general liability’s (CGL) duty to defend involved exclusions commonly known as the (j)(6) and (j)(7) property damage exclusions (and in certain policies known as the (j)(5) and (j)(6) exclusions). These are the exclusions that apply during ongoing operations.  Exclusion (l), or the “your work” exclusion, applies post-completion, i.e., it is an exclusion for “property damage” to “your work” included in the “products-completed operations hazard.

Exclusions (j)(6) and (j)(7) in the policy at-issue exclude coverage for property damage to:

(j)(6) That particular part of real property on which any insured or any contractors or subcontractors working directly or indirectly on your behalf are performing operations, if the “property damage” arises out of those operations;

(j)(7) That particular part of any property that must be restored, repaired or replaced because “your work” was incorrectly performed on it.

In this coverage dispute, Southern-Owners Ins. Co. v. MAC Contractors of Florida, LLC, 2023 WL 2709389 (M.D.Fla. 2023), a CGL carrier denied coverage and the duty to defend in a residential construction defect lawsuit. The underlying dispute pertained to a contractor (insured) not finishing its construction due to a dispute with the homeowners. The homeowners claimed the work was defective and alleged various defects:

“[r]epair loose, broken or chipped pavers in driveway and walkways and install edge restraints”; “[r]epair underside of lap siding – inconsistent paint finish at bottom of boards”; “[r]epair chatter marks on T&G ceilings”; “repair damage to all exterior doors” and “[r]epair all pocket doors”; “[r]eplace damaged top stair tread”; “[r]emedy damage to hardwood floors, includ[ing] damage resulting from use of blue tape and dirt”; “[r]epair metal roof dents, scratches and hems”; “[c]lean wall and ceiling paint on cabinets”; “[r]emove paint spots on baseboards throughout the house”; “[r]emedy scratches in granite”; and “[p]atch and paint all holes in ceilings and walls and twin holes in exterior hardi plank.”

The contractor resolved the underlying lawsuit with the homeowners, but the issue was whether the carrier should have defended the contractor in this underlying lawsuit and incurred the defense fees and costs. If so, the carrier would need to reimburse its insured.  There are times where the main focus of the coverage dispute is on the duty to defend and less about the duty to indemnify. The duty to defend is a critical duty and should NOT be overlooked or cast aside.

Initially, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurer based on the “your work” exclusion in exclusion (l). However, this was reversed by the Eleventh Circuit finding that the “underlying complaint could fairly be construed to allege damages that fell outside the exclusion.” Southern-Owners Ins. Co., supra, at *2.

On remand, the trial court again entered summary judgment for the insurer finding that the underlying complaint “did not allege ‘property damage’ within the meaning of the CGL policy…did not allege any damage beyond the faulty workmanship or defective work….”  Id.  The Eleventh Circuit again reversed finding “that the underlying operative complaint can be fairly construed to allege ‘property damage’ within the meaning of the CGL policy and Florida law.” Id.  The Eleventh Circuit also previously held that, regardless, the completion-operations hazard exclusion would also NOT eliminate the carrier’s duty to defend. Id.  “The Eleventh Circuit held: ‘Construing the Your Work exclusion narrowly and resolving all doubts in favor of [the contractor], we conclude that the underlying allegations can fairly be construed to allege damage during ongoing operations.” Id. at *4.

So, back to the trial court on more summary judgments.  Is the third time the charm here for the insurer?  No! The trial court, this time, granted summary judgment for the insured finding the carrier had a duty to defend.

Since it was previously held that the completed-operations hazard exclusion would not eliminate the carrier’s duty to defend, the primary focus was on the (j)(6) and (j)(7) exclusions. The carrier’s fundamental argument was that the phrase, “That particular part of” (as underlined above) refers to the entire project. The contractor argued these exclusions don’t apply “to property damage that occurred during operations on the property as a whole ‘but at a moment in time whether neither [the contractor] nor its subcontractors specifically worked on’ the ‘particular part of [the] property’ that was damaged or must be restored, repaired, or replaced.’”  Southern-Owners Ins. Co., supra, at *2.

As to the (j)(6) and (j)(7) exclusions, the trial court reasoned (relying on various case citations):

[I]f a subcontractor is hired to install a project component and, by virtue of his faulty workmanship, installs a defective component, then the cost to repair the defective component is not property damage. On the other hand, a claim for the costs of repairing damage to other property caused by defective work does qualify as a claim for property damage.

Property damage occurs when the damage happens, not when the damage is discovered or discoverable. And where the underlying allegations, even though silent as to the timing of damages, can be reasonably construed to allege property damage that occurred during the policy period, there is potential for coverage.

The[se] exclusions are triggered only when the faulty work and the damage are to the same part of the property. The potential for coverage is triggered when an occurrence results in property damage. There is not requirement that the damages manifest themselves during the policy period. Here, although the underlying allegations are silent as to the timing of the damages, the allegations can be reasonably construed to allege damages that occurred during ongoing operations. Under paragraph j7, property damage to that particular part of any property that must be restored, repaired or replaced because your work was incorrectly performed on it is excluded from coverage.  Paragraph 7 does not apply to property damage included in the products-completed operations hazard, which excludes work that has not yet been completed or abandoned.

Southern-Owners Ins. Co., supra, at *5-6 (internal citations and quotations omitted).

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.


In an insurance coverage dispute, it is common for the insured or the insurer to file a lawsuit that includes a claim for declaratory relief — asking the court to render a ruling as to the coverage issue.  This claim is proper if an insurer denied coverage or a part of coverage relating to an exclusion or endorsement in the policy, or even if there is the argument that the loss or occurrence did not take place within the policy period.    An insurer or insured pursuing an action for declaratory relief must allege:

[1] there is a bona fide dispute between the parties, [2] that the moving party has a justiciable question as to the existence or non-existence of some right, status, immunity, power or privilege, or as to some fact upon which the existence of such right, status, immunity, power or privilege does or may de[p]end, [3] that plaintiff is in doubt as to the right, status, immunity, power or privilege, and [4] that there is a bona fide, actual, present need for the declaration.

Security First Ins. Co. v. Phillips, 45 Fla. L. Weekly D1426b (Fla. 5th DCA 2020) (citation omitted).

An action for declaratory relief is appropriate in an insurance coverage dispute even if it requires a determination of certain facts under which the obligations under the insurance policy at-issue depends.   Id.

If you are involved in an insurance coverage dispute with your insurer, consult with counsel.  Please contact me if I can be of assistance.  Do NOT try to navigate these waters by yourself.  There will be complicated factual and legal issues at stake that will be specifically tied to a coverage determination.  You want to make sure the facts are best positioned under the law to maximize an argument for 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.



shutterstock_531182533The contingency fee multiplier: a potential incentive for taking a case on contingency, such as an insurance coverage dispute, where the insured sues his/her/its insurer on a contingency fee basis.


In a recent property insurance coverage dispute, Citizens Property Ins. Corp. v. Agosta, 43 Fla.L.Weekly, D1934b (Fla. 3d DCA 2018), the trial court awarded the insured’s counsel a contingency fee multiplier of two times the amount of reasonable attorney’s fees.  The insurer appealed. The Third District affirmed the contingency fee multiplier.


Of interest, on appeal—which is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard of appellate review–the Third District analyzed the state of Florida law on contingency fee multipliers.


To begin with, Florida has adopted the lodestar approach for determining reasonable attorney’s fees based on the following factors to consider (known the Rowe factors based on the Florida Supreme Court case):


(1) The time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the question involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal service properly.

(2) The likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer.

(3) The fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services.

(4) The amount involved and the results obtained.

(5) The time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances.

(6) The nature and length of the professional relationship with the client.

(7) The experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services.

(8) Whether the fee is fixed or contingent.

 Agosta citing Florida Patient’s Compensation Fund v. Rowe, 473 So.2d 1145 (Fla. 1985).   


Based on the consideration of these factors, the trial court determines through an evidentiary hearing a reasonable hourly rate to multiply by a number of reasonable hours expended in the litigation.  This is referred to as the lodestar amount or lodestar figure.  However, the court may add to this lodestar amount by tacking on a contingency fee multiplier.  For example, assume the trial court found 100 reasonable hours were incurred at the reasonable hourly rate of $300.  This would result in an attorney’s fees award of $30,000.  But, with the contingency fee multiplier, the trial court can add to this.  A multiplier of 2 would result in an attorney’s fees award of $60,000, hence the incentive for moving for the multiplier. 


In determining whether to add a contingency fee multiplier, the trial court must consider competent, substantial evidence in the record (offered at the evidentiary hearing) of these three factors:


(1) whether the relevant market requires a contingency fee multiplier to obtain competent counsel;

(2) whether the attorney was able to mitigate the risk of nonpayment in any way; and

(3) whether any of the factors set forth in Rowe are applicable [the factors mentioned above], especially, the amount involved, the results obtained, and the type of fee arrangement between the attorney and his client.


Agosta citing Standard Guarantee Ins. Co. v. Quanstrom, 555 So.2d 828 (Fla. 1990)



There has been a debate as to whether the contingency fee multiplier only applies in rare and exceptional circumstances.  The Florida Supreme Court (hopefully) put this issue to bed rejecting the argument that the contingency fee multiplier only applies in rare and exceptional circumstances.  Agosta citing Joyce v. Federated National Ins. Co., 228 So.3d 1122 (Fla. 2017). 


Just as important, and perhaps the most important to me, the Florida Supreme Court held that a “fee multiplier ‘is properly analyzed through the same lens as the attorney when making the decision to take the case,’ as it ‘is intended to incentivize the attorney to take a potentially difficult or complex case.’”  Id. quoting Joyce, 228 So.3d at 1133. This is important because the complexity of a case is not determined at looking at a case in hindsight based on the actual outcome of the case, but looking at a case through the same lens as the attorney at the time the decision is made to handle the caseId. citing Joyce


The Florida Supreme Court also stated that the first contingency fee multiplier factor—the relevant market factor—is based on whether there are attorneys in the relevant market who have the skills to effectively handle the case and would have taken the case absent the availability of a contingency fee multiplier.  Id. citing Joyce.


Finally, the Florida Supreme Court stated that the third contingency fee multiplier factor that considers the results obtained is not based on the amount of recovery, even a recovery not exceptionally large—“the Florida Supreme Court held that the trial court correctly analyze the ‘outcome’ of that case when it found that ‘[a]lthough the amount involved [$23,500] was ‘not exceptionally large,’ it was material to the Joyces [plaintiffs].”  Id. quoting Joyce, 228 So.3d at 1125.


The contingency fee multiplier adds incentive to handle certain insurance coverage disputes on contingency.  If a multiplier is obtained, it definitely rewards the risk of taking a case on contingency (and certainly one of the reasons I explore such contingency fee options!). 


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.