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Judges differ on if 'property damage' occurred

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A majority of Indiana Court of Appeals judges affirmed summary judgment in favor of a homebuilder's insurance provider, insurance broker, and subcontractor's insurer, ruling the damage to the homes wasn't "property damage" as covered by the insurance policies. The dissenting judge looked to other jurisdictions to support her belief the claims would be covered.

In Sheehan Construction Co., et al. v. Continental Casualty Co., et al., No. 49A02-0805-CV-420, Sheehan Construction and a class of homeowners whose homes were damaged allegedly by negligent Sheehan subcontractors appealed the affirmation of summary judgment in favor of Sheehan's insurer, Continental Casualty, Sheehan's insurance broker MJ Insurance, and a subcontractor's insurer, Indiana Insurance.

Continental brought an action seeking a declaration it wasn't obligated to indemnify Sheehan; Sheehan counterclaimed and filed complaints against Indiana Insurance and MJ Insurance.

The homes suffered water damage including leaks around windows, discolored carpet, mold, and decay of window frames, all caused by the subcontractors' faulty workmanship.

At issue in the appeal is whether the property damage falls under the Continental and Indiana insurance policies comprehensive general liability coverage for "property damage" caused by an "occurrence."

Judges Melissa May and Patricia Riley relied on Amerisure Inc. v. Wurster Const. Co. Inc., 818 N.E.2d 998 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004), and R.N. Thompson & Assn., Inc. v. Monroe Guar. Ins. Co., 686 N.E.2d 160 (Ind. Ct. App. 1997), in their affirmation of summary judgment for the insurers. These cases found damage to a construction project due to faulty workmanship or defective materials weren't considered "property damage" for purposes of CGL coverage.

Using the reasoning in R.N. Thompson - which held damage to a roof's plywood caused by excessive heat and moisture as a result of faulty workmanship was inseparable from the faulty workmanship - the damage to the homes in the instant case can't be treated as distinct from the underlying faulty workmanship that allowed the water penetration, wrote Judge May.

The majority also affirmed the trial court's holding that Sheehan's claim against MJ Insurance for negligent failure to procure insurance was barred by the statute of limitations.

Judge Elaine Brown used caselaw from Florida, New Hampshire, and Kansas to support reversal of summary judgment in favor of the insurers. In her dissent, she wrote there was a question of fact regarding whether Sheehan's claims are for "property damage" caused by an "occurrence." She would hold the type of damage suffered in the instant case may constitute "property damage," and that damage to property other than that installed by the subcontractors may constitute an "occurrence" under the policies.

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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