David Adelstein | Florida Construction Legal Updates
A liability insurer has two duties: 1) the duty to defend its insured; and 2) the duty to indemnify its insured.
With respect to the second duty – the duty to indemnify – this duty is typically “not ripe for adjudication unless and until the insured or putative insured has been held liable in the underlying action.” Hartford Fire Ins Co. v. Beazer Homes, LLC, 2019 WL 5596237, *2 (M.D.Fla. 2019) (internal quotation omitted).
For instance, Beazer Homes involved an insurance coverage dispute stemming from construction defects. An owner sued its general contractor for construction defects relating to stucco problems. The general contractor paid for the repairs. The general contractor then sued its stucco subcontractor to recover the costs it incurred. The subcontractor tendered the defense of the lawsuit to its commercial general liability insurer which is defending its insured-subcontractor under the commonly issued reservation of rights.
During the pendency of the general contractor’s lawsuit against its subcontractor, the subcontractor’s commercial general liability insured filed an action for declaratory relief in federal court seeking a declaration as to whether it owes its subcontractor a duty to indemnify. The issue was whether this action for declaratory relief was ripe since there was no adjudication against the insured-subcontractor in the general contractor’s lawsuit against the subcontractor. The Middle District Court of Florida held that it was not ripe: “The Eleventh Circuit agreed that an insurer’s duty to indemnify is not ripe until the underlying lawsuit is resolved.” Beazer Homes, 2019 WL at *2 (internal quotation omitted)