Choose Your Words Wisely: The Allegations in a Construction Defect Complaint

by Baker Donelson
Contact

On August 5, 2014, the Supreme Court of Connecticut, in Travelers Cas. & Sur. Co. v. Netherlands Ins. Co., 312 Conn. 714 (2014), affirmed a trial court's decision that allegations of years-long, continuing and progressive water intrusion caused by alleged construction defects triggered a duty to defend under CGL coverage language. In some ways, the opinion serves as a reminder of the breadth of the duty to defend. However, it also shows the importance of the wording of the allegations relating to construction defects, resulting damage and when the parties were on notice of the issues. For property owners, contractors/builders/developers and their insurers, the allegations in the complaint guide what can be a difficult and contentious determination regarding whether the insured is provided with a defense from its CGL carrier.

In Netherlands, the underlying complaint was filed by the State of Connecticut and alleged, among other things, that the prime contractor on a University of Connecticut law library project breached its contract with the State and was negligent in the construction of the project. The State had specifically claimed that during “the months and years following completion of the project and occupancy by the state, the state began to experience problems with water intrusion into the [law] library. The defendants [in the underlying action] were given notice of these problems and frequently visited the [law] library to ascertain the nature and extent of the problem.” Netherlands Insurance had provided CGL coverage to the defendant prime contractor beginning approximately four years after the completion of the law library project.

Despite the time gap between completion of the project and the policy period, the Court declared that Netherlands Insurance — which had declined to participate in the defense of the underlying claims — was liable for a pro rata share of the defense costs based upon the six policy years during which the alleged water intrusion was ongoing. This decision was based upon the Court finding that the alleged construction defects in the UConn law library constituted an "occurrence" under the policy language and that continuing water intrusion was the resulting "property damage" giving rise to potential coverage under Netherlands’ policies.

In a related repudiation of Netherlands’ position, the Court rejected the argument that coverage was precluded under the known loss or injury exclusion in its policies. The insurer had argued that the water intrusion was alleged to have begun years before the first Netherlands' policies were written and that it was clear from the underlying complaint that the insured was on notice of the water intrusion and had participated in investigations of the issue. However, the underlying complaint did not expressly state when the insured was put on notice and therefore coverage was not precluded as a matter of law. (emphasis added). The absence of a date certain upon which the insured was notified of the damage proved fatal to Netherlands’ argument.

While the Connecticut court’s decision is not controlling law in every state, it should prompt property owners, insured contractors/builders/developers, insurers and the attorneys that serve them to closely analyze the factual details alleged in a construction defect complaint. The details or lack thereof in the complaint could make the difference in whether the defendant’s insurer is compelled to provide a defense, which in turn can dramatically impact the outcome of the case.
 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Baker Donelson | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Baker Donelson
Contact
more
less

Baker Donelson on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.