On May 30, 2019, Judge Richard Brooke Jackson of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado offered an insightful lesson to the parties in Auto-Owners Insurance Co. v. Bolt Factory Lofts Owners Association, Inc. on the importance of ripeness in declaratory judgment insurance actions and bad faith counterclaims. The case arrived in front of Judge Jackson based on the following fact pattern.
A homeowner association (Bolt Factory Lofts Owners Association, Inc.) (“Association”) brought construction defect claims against a variety of prime contractors and those contractors subsequently brought third-party construction defect claims against subcontractors. One of the prime contractors assigned their claims against a subcontractor by the name Sierra Glass Co., Inc. (“Sierra”) to the Association and all the other claims between all the parties settled. On the eve of trial involving only the Association’s assigned claims against Sierra, the Association made a settlement demand on Sierra for $1.9 million. Sierra asked its insurance carrier, Auto-Owners Insurance, Co. (“AOIC”), which had been defending Sierra under a reservation of rights letter, to settle the case for that amount, but AOIC refused. This prompted Sierra to enter into a “Nunn-Agreement” with the Association whereby the case would proceed to trial, Sierra would refrain from offering a defense at trial, the Association would not pursue any recovery against Sierra for the judgment, and Sierra would assign any insurance bad faith claims it may have had against AOIC to the Association. (“Nunn-Agreement”)