Construction policyholders in Florida have been given substantial ammunition to compel general liability insurers to provide a defense against pre-suit accusations of defective work. Florida is one of approximately thirty (30) states that require property owners to serve contractors with notice and an opportunity to repair construction defects before filing suit. Only a few states have addressed whether a CGL policy should provide a defense for similar processes. Altman Contractors, Inc. v. Crum & Forster Specialty Ins. Co., decided late in December by the Florida Supreme Court, acknowledged that the 558 process is a “suit,” thus impeding insurers from refusing a defense during this notice period.
Section 558.004(1), Florida Statutes (2012) requires a property owner alleging construction defects to serve a written notice to repair on the contractor before filing an action in court. Altman Contractors built a condominium in Broward County, Florida. In 2012, the condominium owners alleged defects in accordance with Section 558. Altman demanded that its general liability carrier, Crum & Forster, defend and indemnify it against the 558 notices. Crum & Forster denied coverage, claiming that 558 notices are not a “suit” as defined by the policy.
Reprinted courtesy of Gregory Podolak, Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C. and Brian Clifford, Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C.
Mr. Podolak may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. Clifford may be contacted at email@example.com