Faulty Construction Workmanship Not Covered Under Commercial and Umbrella Policies

construction

PHILADELPHIA, March 23 – A federal judge in Philadelphia has ruled that Selective Way Insurance Co. need not defend nor indemnify an insured subcontractor from allegations in an underlying suit regarding faulty workmanship, whether the workmanship is cast as negligence or breach of a construction contract.

The Villas, a  condominium owner,  filed suit against the general contractor for defective work, including cracking and water damage, and Lenick Construction was added as an additional defendant in the litigation.  Lenick tendered its defense and indemnity to Selective under a commercial liability policy, and Selective provided a defense to Lenick under a reservation of rights.

After the underlying litigation was settled between The Villas and the general contractor, the general contractor assigned its rights against the subcontractors, including Lenick to the condominium owner.

Lenick sued Selective in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, seeking a declaration that the insurer had a duty to defend and indemnify it in the underlying lawsuit. Lenick asserted a claim for breach of contract and a bad faith claim . Selective removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, and the parties each moved for summary judgment.

Judge Cynthia M. Rufe granted summary judgment to Selective and denied Lenick’s motion, examining the underlying pleadings and finding that defective workmanship was alleged to be the cause of the water infiltration into condominium units.   She wrote:

With regard to Lenick’s argument that the underlying joinder complaint and the Third Amended Complaint did not only allege that Lenick’s own work was deficient, but that its defective work caused damage to the work of others, the Court agrees that this is a plausible reading of the underlying complaints. However, where liability is premised upon poor workmanship, the fact that nearby work was also damaged does not change the analysis, so long as such damage is reasonably foreseeable. It is foreseeable that windows and doors which are not watertight will cause water damage inside the unit, to parts of the unit other than the windows and doors. Accordingly, these additional allegations do not give rise to a duty to defend.

The judge found no facts whch would support a tort claim against Lenick, and which would potentially be covered under the Selective Way policy.

Judge Rufe also granted summary judgment for Selective on Lenick’s bad faith claim, observing that  Selective’s interpretation of the underlying  construction litigation pleadings was not unreasonable.

Lenick Construction v. Selective Way Ins. Co.., (E.D. Pa. March 23, 2006)

 

Advertisements

Author: CJ Haddick

C.J. Haddick is a Director with the law firm of Dickie, McCamey, & Chilcote, PC, based in Pittsburgh, Pa. He has advised and represented insurers in insurance coverage and bad faith litigation for more than a quarter of a century, and written and spoken throughout the United States on insurance coverage and bad faith prevention and litigation. He is Managing Director of the firm's Harrisburg, Pa. office. Reach him at chaddick@dmclaw.com or 717-731-4800.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s