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High court denies rehearing

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A split Indiana Supreme Court has denied rehearing a case involving faulty workmanship being covered under a commercial general liability policy.

On Dec. 17, Justices Brent Dickson, Robert Rucker, and Steven David denied Continental Casualty Company’s petition for rehearing. In October, the justices were divided on whether an “occurrence” under a CGL covers an insured contract for faulty workmanship of its subcontractors. Justices Dickson, Rucker, and Theodore Boehm reversed the trial court ruling in favor of the insurers on grounds that there wasn’t property damage and thus there was no “occurrence” or “property damage.”

The majority aligned themselves with the jurisdictions that held improper or faulty workmanship does constitute an accident as long as the resulting damage is an event that occurs without expectation or foresight. They remanded for further proceedings because none of the parties’ Trial Rule 56 materials addressed the question of whether the faulty workmanship was the product of intentional or unintentional conduct, so the trial court reached no conclusion on that. If the subcontractor’s defective work was done intentionally instead of “without intention or design” then it is not an accident, the majority decided.

Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Frank Sullivan dissented from the October ruling and also dissented from the denial to grant Continental’s petition for rehearing. In his three-page dissent, Justice Sullivan reiterated his belief that the damage isn’t covered under a CGL policy. He pointed to a 6th Circuit Court of Appeals case, Cincinnati Insurance Co. v. Beazer Homes Investments, LLC 594 F.3d 441 (6th Circ. 2010), in which that court addressed this exact issue of Indiana law. He believed the Circuit Court more accurately analyzed Indiana law on the subject than the Supreme Court’s opinion. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that because it is neither “property damage” nor an “occurrence”, faulty workmanship causing damage to the insured property isn’t covered by CGL polices under Indiana law.

Justice Sullivan and Chief Justice Shepard, who joined him in the dissent, agreed with the alternatives available to provide appropriate recourse to general contractors who are faced with damage from faulty workmanship, including requiring performance bonds.

Also on Dec. 17, the justices issued an opinion on rehearing from Indiana Insurance in the same matter. They granted the rehearing to address the timeliness of Sheehan Construction Company’s notice to Indiana Insurance. Neither the Indiana Court of Appeals nor the Supreme Court addressed this issue on appeal. The justices unanimously affirmed summary judgment in favor of the insurer on this matter.

“In this case Sheehan conceded it did not give Indiana Insurance timely notice of Sheehan’s claims under the CGL policy. Because prejudice to the insurer was therefore presumed, Indiana Insurance carried its initial burden of demonstrating it had no liability to Sheehan under the policy of insurance. Sheehan has not directed this Court to any evidence it presented to the trial court rebutting the presumption of prejudice,” wrote Justice Rucker.

In all other respects, the original opinion was affirmed.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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