Alleging Property Damage in Construction Defect Lawsuit

House under repair

A construction defect lawsuit is about triggering first, the insurer’s duty to defend, and second, the insurer’s duty to indemnify its insured for the property damage.

September 14, 2020
David Adelstein - Florida Construction Legal Updates

When there is a construction defect lawsuit, there is an insurance coverage issue or consideration. As I have said repeatedly in other articles, it is all about maximizing insurance coverage regardless of whether you are the plaintiff prosecuting the construction defect claim or the contractor(s) alleged to have committed the construction defect and property damage. It is about triggering first, the insurer’s duty to defend, and second, the insurer’s duty to indemnify its insured for the property damage.

The construction defect claim and lawsuit begins with how the claim and, then, lawsuit is couched knowing that the duty to defend is triggered by allegations in the lawsuit (complaint). Thus, preparing the lawsuit (complaint) is vital to maximize the insurer’s duty to defend its insured.

In a recent opinion out of the Eleventh Circuit, Southern-Owners Ins. Co. v. MAC Contractors of Florida, LLC, 2020 WL 4345199 (11th Cir. 2020), a general contractor was sued for construction defects in the construction of a custom home. A dispute arose pre-completion and the owner hired another contractor to complete the house and remediate construction defects. The contractor’s CGL insurer originally provided a defense to the general contractor but then withdrew the defense and filed an action for declaratory relief asking for the declaration that it had no duty to defend the contractor because the underlying lawsuit did NOT allege property damage. The trial court agreed with the contractor and granted summary judgment in its favor finding that the underlying complaint did not allege property damage beyond defective work. But, on appeal, the Eleventh Circuit reversed.

Mr. Adelstein may be contacted at dma@kirwinnorris.com



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