David Adelstein | Florida Construction Legal Updates | February 10, 2018
Contractors: do yourself a favor and consult your insurance broker regarding your commercial general liability (CGL) policy. Do this now, especially if you subcontract out work.
CGL policies contain a “your work” exclusion. The CGL policy is written such that it excludes “‘property damage’ to ‘your work’ arising out of it or any part of it and included in the ‘products-completed operations hazard.’” This exclusion will be raised in the post-completion latent construction defect scenario. (There are other exclusions that will be raised to a defect discovered during construction.) Certain policies will contain a subcontractor exception to this “your work” exclusion. You WANT this exception- no doubt about it so that this exclusion does not apply to work performed by your subcontractors. Without this subcontractor exception, truth be told, this “your work” exclusion is a total back-breaker to contractors. It will give your insurer an immediate out for many latent defect property scenarios since excluded from coverage is property damage to your work including work performed by your subcontractors.
In a recent opinion, Mid-Continent Casualty Co. v. JWN Construction, Inc., 2018 WL 783102 (S.D.Fla. 2018), an owner discovered water intrusion and damage at his property. He sued the general contractor and the general contractor’s insurer filed a separate action for declaratory relief claiming it had NO duty to defend or indemnify its insured—the general contractor—in the underlying suit. The court agreed because the contractor did not have the subcontractor exception to the “your work” exclusion.
If work was performed by JWN [contractor] or on JWN’s behalf-here by a subcontractor-then the “your work” exclusion applies. Historically, insurers could be liable under commercial general liabilities policies resembling the policy in the instant case for certain types of damages caused by subcontractors….Nonetheless, insurers do possess the right to define their coverage as excluding damages arising out of a subcontractor’s defective work by eliminating subcontractor’s exceptions from the policy. An insurer is only liable for a subcontractor’s defective work when the “your work” exclusion does not eliminate coverage for work performed by a subcontractor….In conclusion, the insurance policy in this case excluded coverage for work performed not only by JWN, but also by JWN’s subcontractors.
JWN Construction, Inc., supra, at *4.
This ruling meant that the general contractor’s CGL insurer had no duty to defend or indemnify its insured—again, the contractor—for the defects or resulting water damage. A total killer illustrating the absolute importance of the subcontractor exception to the “your work” exclusion in your CGL policy.