Charles Carter v. Pulte Home Corporation

Money bills coming out of computer

Intervening Insurer Is Not Entitled to Equitable Subrogation From Subcontractors in Connection with Costs of Defending Construction Defect Lawsuit

October 12, 2020
Michael Velladao - Lewis Brisbois

In Carter v. Pulte Home Corp., __Cal.App.5th__(July 23, 2020), the California Court of Appeal affirmed the entry of judgment in favor of subcontractors in connection with a Complaint for Intervention based on equitable subrogation filed by Travelers Property Casualty Company of America (“Travelers”) seeking to recover defense costs incurred in defending Pulte Home Corporation (“Pulte”) in an underlying construction defect lawsuit. The parties’ dispute arose out of Travelers’ defense of Pulte as an additional insured under policies issued to four subcontractors involved in the underlying construction defect lawsuit. Several subcontractors involved in the underlying construction defect lawsuit refused to defend Pulte based on the indemnity clauses in their subcontracts. Such clauses promised to indemnify Pulte as follows:

“all liability, claims, judgments, suits, or demands for damages to persons or property arising out of, resulting from, or relating to Contractor’s performance of work under the Agreement (“Claims”) unless such Claims have been specifically determined by the trier of fact to be the sole negligence of Pulte. . . .”

Pulte eventually settled the construction defect lawsuit and its claims against all of the subcontractors. Travelers ultimately paid $320,491.82 for Pulte’s defense and recovered $164,400 from some of the subcontractors. Travelers’ intervention in the underlying lawsuit was intended to recover the remaining $156,091.82 from the subcontractors that refused to indemnify Pulte for the defense of the construction defect lawsuit. In the underlying trial, Travelers argued that the subcontractors were obligated to pay defense costs on a joint and several basis (minus what Travelers had already recovered). The trial court did not agree and held that Travelers was not entitled to equitable subrogation for the remaining defense costs.

Mr. Velladao may be contacted at Michael.Velladao@lewisbrisbois.com



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