Duty to Defend Broadly Applies to Entire Action; Insured Need Not Apportion Defense Costs, Says Maryland Appeals Court

Bills coming out of laptop

The coverage litigation arose out of a construction defect case against a general contractor.

January 27, 2020
Michael S. Levine & Kevin V. Small - Hunton Insurance Recovery Blog

In a recent decision, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reiterated that the duty to defend broadly requires a liability insurer to defend an entire lawsuit against its insured, even where only some of the allegations are potentially covered. The court further held that the insured has no obligation to apportion defense costs among multiple implicated policies. The decision, Selective Way Insurance Company v. Nationwide Property and Casualty Insurance Company, et al., can be found here.

The coverage litigation arose out of a construction defect case against a general contractor. The general contractor tendered the action to its insurer, Nationwide, which, in turn, filed a declaratory judgment action against the various insurers of construction project subcontractors that had named the general contractor as an additional insured. Ultimately, the court granted a summary judgment motion declaring that all of the subcontractors’ insurers had a duty to defend the general contractor “because the allegations in the underlying lawsuit raised claims that potentially arose from the [s]ubcontractors’ work at the [construction site].” All of the subcontractors’ insurers settled with Nationwide except for one, Selective Way; and the parties proceeded to a jury trial on various issues. The jury found for Nationwide on all issues. Selective Way appealed.

Selective Way argued on appeal that even if some of the allegations were covered under its policy, it had no obligation to defend the general contractor because its insureds, the subcontractors, could not have been responsible for all of the losses given the nature of their work. Further, Selective Way contended that if it was responsible for defending the general contractor, it was not responsible for the entire defense, and the general contractor was responsible for apportioning the costs among the various subcontractors. The panel disagreed on both points.

Reprinted courtesy of Michael S. Levine, Hunton Andrews Kurth and Kevin V. Small, Hunton Andrews Kurth
Mr. Levine may be contacted at mlevine@HuntonAK.com
Mr. Small may be contacted at ksmall@HuntonAK.com



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