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Circuit Court reverses insurance case

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment for an insurer on the issue of whether the commercial general liability policy covered faulty subcontractor work, citing a similar case recently ruled on by the Indiana Supreme Court. The Circuit Court also dealt with an issue surrounding umbrella policies for the first time.

In Trinity Homes LLC and Beazer Homes Investments LLC v. Ohio Casualty Insurance Co. and Cincinnati Insurance Co., No. 09-3613, the homebuilders appealed summary judgment in favor of Ohio Casualty and Cincinnati Insurance on its suit that the insurers breached their contracts by not providing coverage after builders incurred significant liability related to defective work done by subcontractors. Ohio Casualty, a primary insurer, claimed its policy didn’t cover subcontractor work. Cincinnati, which provided an umbrella policy, argued its coverage wasn’t triggered because all of the builders’ underlying policies were not unavailable as required by the policy.

The builders settled with all its other commercial general liability insurers, which resulted in those insurers paying at least 75 percent of the relevant policy limit. This would functionally exhaust the CGL policy. The builders would make up the difference.  

The 7th Circuit reversed summary judgment in favor of Ohio Casualty, citing Sheehan Construction Co. v. Continental Cas. Co., 935 N.E.2d 160 (Ind. 2010). In Sheehan, the Supreme Court clarified a standard CGL policy does cover damage to a home’s structure resulting from defective subcontractor work unless the subcontractor work was intentionally faulty. They left the application of any exclusions or limitations in the policy, as well as any other state law doctrines, for the District Court on remand.

The judges then moved on to the claim against Cincinnati. They looked at whether the settlement between the other insurers was sufficient to exhaust the CGL’s policy coverage under the umbrella policy. They disagreed that the umbrella policy clearly required exhaustion, finding the terms of the policy to be ambiguous.

Cincinnati argued that other courts dealing with similar umbrella policies have held that the policies require a full payout before it’s exhausted. But Cincinnati’s policy didn’t include clear language that stated the coverage wasn’t triggered absent a payment of the full CGL policy limit by the insurer, as the insurers involved in the cases Cincinnati cited had included.

Other Circuit Courts have held that exhaustion of a primary policy could be accomplished by a settlement agreement where the primary insurer paid some of the limit and the insurer paid the remainder.

“Although Indiana law controls, there is no reason to suspect that it would differ from these analogous holdings,” wrote Judge Michael Kanne. “Our construction of the ambiguity in Cincinnati’s policy is also reinforced by Indiana public policy favoring out-of-court settlement. Cincinnati’s reading of the policy would deter parties who have both CGL and excess insurance from settling with their CGL insurers.”

The judges also declined to reach the question of whether any exclusions or limitations in Cincinnati’s policy apply to the builders’ claim, leaving that for the District Court on remand.
 

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  1. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  2. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  3. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

  4. Well, I agree with you that the people need to wake up and see what our judges and politicians have done to our rights and freedoms. This DNA loophole in the statute of limitations is clearly unconstitutional. Why should dna evidence be treated different than video tape evidence for example. So if you commit a crime and they catch you on tape or if you confess or leave prints behind: they only have five years to bring their case. However, if dna identifies someone they can still bring a case even fifty-years later. where is the common sense and reason. Members of congress are corrupt fools. They should all be kicked out of office and replaced by people who respect the constitution.

  5. If the AG could pick and choose which state statutes he defended from Constitutional challenge, wouldn't that make him more powerful than the Guv and General Assembly? In other words, the AG should have no choice in defending laws. He should defend all of them. If its a bad law, blame the General Assembly who presumably passed it with a majority (not the government lawyer). Also, why has there been no write up on the actual legislators who passed the law defining marriage? For all the fuss Democrats have made, it would be interesting to know if some Democrats voted in favor of it (or if some Republican's voted against it). Have a nice day.

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