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.


Claims-made policies are common in the professional liability insurance market. They “differ from traditional ‘occurrence’-based policies primarily based upon the scope of the risk against which they insure.” With claims-made policies, coverage is provided only where the act giving rise to coverage “is discovered and brought to the attention of the insurance company during the period of the policy.” In contrast, coverage is provided under an occurrence-based policy if the act giving rise to coverage “occurred during the period of the policy, regardless of the date a claim is actually made against the insured.”  “The essence, then, of a claims-made policy is notice to the carrier within the policy period.”

Crowely Maritime Corp. v. National Union Fire Ins. Co. of Pittsburgh, PA, 2019 WL 3294003 (11thCir. 2019)

The recent Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal opinion in Crowely Maritime Corp. discussed the distinction between a claims-made insurance policy and an occurrence-based insurance policy.  Professional liability policies are generally claims-made policies whereas commercial general liability policies are generally occurrence-based policies.  While this opinion does not involve a construction matter, the case did concern the definition of a “claim” in a claims-made policy and whether such claim was timely reported to the insurer within the discovery period / extended reporting period.

The discovery period in a claims-made policy should coincide with an extended reporting period to report a claim, based on how the specific policy defines a claim.  How a policy defines a claim is very important since policies contain different definitions. The discovery period will include language that allows the insured to report a claim that occurred DURING the policy period outside of the policy period within the extended period.  The key is that even with a discovery period, the wrongful act giving rise to the claim must still have occurred during the initial policy period, although it can be reported to the insurer after the initial policy period and within the extended discovery period. If the wrongful act giving rise to the claim occurred AFTER the initial policy period, it will not matter if it was reported within the extended discovery period because the claim, itself, arose outside of the initial policy period.

Insurance is complicated and confusing and everything in between.  Make sure you understand how your policy defines the term claim, whether you are operating under a claims-made or occurrence-based policy, and what constitutes timely notification of a claim, particularly if you are operating under a claims-made policy.


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.




Unknown-1General liability policies (CGL) are occurrence based policies meaning an “occurrence” within the policy period triggers insurance coverage even if the claim is reported outside the policy period.  (For more information on an occurrence within a CGL policy, please see


Professional liability policies (also known as errors and omissions policies), on the other hand, are routinely “claims made” policies, not occurrence based policies, meaning a “claim” for a wrongful act must be reported to the insurer within the policy period to trigger coverage.


There are claims made policies that have extended reporting (referred to as tail coverage) periods that allow the policy to still be triggered even if the claim is reported outside the policy’s period but within the extended reporting period.  The insured may have to purchase this feature for additional premium in its claims made policy, but it is an important feature to protect the insured from gaps in coverage when a policy is not renewed, replaced with another policy, and/or cancelled.  The reason is that if a policy is not renewed and replaced, the new carrier often advances the retroactive date to the start date of the new policy.  Well, without an extended reporting period from the prior carrier, this means the insured may not have coverage for claims that are submitted to the new carrier due to a wrongful act prior to the retroactive date.


Claims made policies oftentimes contain a “retroactive date,” as mentioned above, that negates coverage for claims (wrongful acts) that took place prior to a specified date.  Again, the retroactive date is often the start of the policy period.  For instance, let’s say a professional liability claims made policy was written from April 1, 2014 through April 1, 2015 (the policy period).  It  may contain the April 1, 2014 as the retroactive date meaning that claims brought within the policy period but are the result of a wrongful act pre-April 1, 2014 would not be covered under the policy. This is why the extended reporting period / tail coverage becomes important!


Professional liability policies need to be reviewed because there are variations in policies and it is important to know what triggers a claim and when notice of a claim / potential wrongful act should be reported to the insurer.


UnknownAn example of a professional liability claims made policy and its complicated application is discussed in Gidney v. Axis Surplus Insurance Co., 39 Fla. L. Weekly D741a (Fla. 3d DCA 2014).  In this case, a mortgage brokerage firm arranged for privately funded mortgages through private investors. The firm was sued by a sole investor that claimed the firm negligently brokered and serviced the mortgages.  The firm notified its professional liability carrier of the complaint (claim) within the policy period.  Subsequently, a class action on behalf of all investors was filed against the firm.  The professional liability insurer, in response to the complaint, filed a declaratory judgment action asking the court to declare there was no coverage under the policy for the class action since it was reported outside the policy period.  The trial court issued the declaration in favor of the professional liability insurer and the investors appealed.



Of importance to understanding claims made policies, the Third District Court of Appeal analyzed importation provisions in the professional liability policy that are common to claims made policies although the language in the policies may be different.  The Court first looked at the “claims first made” provision which discusses when the insurance will apply:


 This insurance applies when a written Claim is first made against any Insured during the Policy Period. To be covered, the Claim must also arise from a Wrongful Act committed during the Policy Period.

The Company will consider a Claim to be first made against an Insured when a written Claim is first received by any Insured.


Next, the Court looked at the “related claims” provision that allowed related claims to relate back to the original notice of the claim (so that related claims reported outside the policy period would still be covered since they relate back to the timely reported claim).  The related claims provision in the subject policy was to:


(a) to allow insurers to confine related wrongful acts to a single policy period and, thereby, a single liability limit, and

 (b) to allow an insured to buy a new policy, despite facing additional liability exposure from its past acts, by having future related claims covered by the prior policy.



The Court then looked at the “reported wrongful acts” provision that allowed coverage if a written claim was submitted after the policy period but related to a wrongful act committed between the policy’s retroactive date and end of policy period and the insurer had notice during the policy period from the insured of the wrongful act.  This provision is why providing the insurer notice of a potential wrongful act / claim that took place within the policy period is important.  The reported wrongful acts provision provided:


This policy will apply to a written Claim first made against any Insured after the end of the Policy Period, but only if all of the following conditions are met:

(1) The Wrongful Act giving rise to the Claim is committed between the Retroactive Date and the end of the Policy Period;

(2) The Company receives written notice from the Insured during the Policy Period of the Wrongful Act. The notice must include all of the following information:

    (a) The names of those persons or organizations involved       in the Wrongful Act;

    (b) The specific person or organization likely to make the Claim;

    (c) A description of the time, place and nature of the Wrongful Act; and

           1. A description of the potential Damages[.]



Lastly, the Court looked at the “multiple claims” provision that read:


All Claims arising from the same Wrongful Act will be deemed to have been made on the earlier of the following times:

(1) The date the first of those Claims is made against any Insured; or

(2) The first date the Company receives the Insured’s written notice of the Wrongful Act.



In reviewing this multiple claims provision, the Third District expressed: “[T]he Multiple Claims provision does not require that the insured anticipate the subsequent related claim or provide a description of the estimated damages that might result from any subsequent claim. Instead, in language crucial to this case, the policy states that all wrongful acts ‘related by common facts, circumstances, transactions, events and/or decisions . . . will be treated as one Wrongful Act.’”  Based on this language, the Third District held that the class claim related back to the original investor’s claim which was within the policy period since it related to common circumstances, facts, events, and transactions; hence, there was coverage under the claims made policy.


As you can see, insurance policies are complicated and understanding all of the provisions is not an easy feat.  It is important to work with your insurance broker and counsel, whether dealing with a claims made professional liability policy or occurrence based general liability policy, to preserve rights under policies and properly notify carriers of potential claims.


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.