Does a Residential Building’s Insurance Policy Cover Injuries Sustained by Construction Workers?
When a construction worker is injured on the job site, it can trigger a chain reaction of legal disputes over who is responsible for coverage. While workers’ compensation normally covers the contractor’s liability, the worker may still attempt to bring claims against other parties, including the project owner. And this in turn can lead the owner to seek indemnity from their own insurer.
Project Owner Failed to Comply with Insurer’s Conditions
A published federal court decision from earlier this year, Mt. Hawley Insurance Co. v. L’Excellence Condominium, addressed this very scenario. A construction worker fell from some scaffolding while working on a residential project owned by L’Excellence Condominium, the defendant in this case. At the time, the injured worker was employed by GC Construction and Consulting Services, the general contractor on the project.
The injured worker subsequently sued L’Excellence and several other third-party defendants in Florida state court, alleging their negligence was responsible for his accident. L’Excellence then asked its commercial general liability insurer, Mt. Hawley, to defend it in the state-court action. Mt. Hawley agreed to provide a defense but reserved its right to challenge coverage in federal court–which it did.
In federal court, Mt. Hawley pointed to language in the CGL policy that stated the insurer had no duty to “defend or indemnify” L’Excellence for any “bodily injury” arising from work by a “contractor” unless three specific conditions were met. Briefly stated, these conditions were:
- L’Excellence obtained a written agreement from the contractor indemnifying it against any claims arising from the contractor’s work.
- The contractor name L’Excellence as an additional insured on its own CGL policy.
- The contractor’s primary CGL insurer “agrees to defend and indemnify” L’Excellence against any personal injury claims.
U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga agreed with Mt. Hawley that L’Excellence failed to satisfy these conditions. First, the judge noted there was no question that GC Construction was a “contractor” as defined by the Mt. Hawley policy. Next, the judge said it was “undisputed” that L’Excellence never obtained a written indemnification agreement from GC Construction, which was one of the conditions spelled out in the contractor exclusion under the L’Excellence policy. Nor did L’Excellence add GC Construction as an additional insured on its policy.
Finally, Mt. Hawley pointed out that GC Construction’s insurer expressly “denied coverage” against the state lawsuit instead of providing a defense for L’Excellence, as required by the third condition of L’Excellence’s policy. Consequently, Judge Altonaga said Mt. Hawley was justified in its own position to refuse coverage of L’Excellence in connection with the state-court personal injury lawsuit.
Speak with a Florida Construction Lawyer Today
All parties to a construction project need to be clear with respect to their indemnification and legal obligations towards one another–ideally before the work even begins. If you need legal advice or representation from an experienced Florida construction attorney, contact Linkhorst & Hockin, P.A., at 561-626-8880 today to schedule a meeting with a member of our team. During the COVID-19 crisis, we are offering consultations through remote means.