ILNews

Ruling prevents county from subrogating damages after courthouse fire

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals Tuesday adopted the “majority approach” in a waiver of subrogation issue and concluded a southern Indiana county waived its right to subrogate any and all claims covered by its property insurance. Jefferson County sued contractors after its courthouse caught fire during renovations in 2009.

Jefferson County entered into a contract with Teton Corp. to renovate the building and subcontract work to several companies. The contract prepared by the American Institute of Architects stated that Jefferson County, as owner of the project, should obtain separate insurance. Instead of obtaining separate property or builder’s risk insurance for the project, the county relied on its existing property and casualty insurance. The county also did not tell Teton that it wasn’t getting the separate insurance. The contract also required Teton to obtain contractors liability insurance.

During renovations, a fire broke out in May 2009 causing more than $6 million in damages. The county relied on its general insurance policy, but that did not cover all of the damages.

The county sued Teton and other defendants involved in renovations, claiming negligence, breach of implied warranties and breach of contract. The defendants argued Jefferson County agreed to provide insurance for the project and waived its subrogation rights against them, so the county can’t recover damages that were caused by the fire.

In granting the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, the trial court ruled that the county as owner of the project was to obtain insurance and that insurance would be the source of compensation in the event of a loss. The contract also says every party would waive the right to seek recovery of the loss covered by the insurance policy.

Jefferson County conceded that pursuant to the terms of the AIA contract, subrogation is barred when a property owner seeks to recover damages to its insured “Work” property, but maintains that “this case involves damage to non-Work property.” And therefore, Jefferson County argues that under the AIA contract, Teton was responsible for procuring insurance to cover damages for claims “other than to the Work.”

In support of its argument, Jefferson County relied on Midwestern Indemnity Company v. Systems Builders, Inc., 801 N.E.2d 661 (Ind. Ct. App. 2004), which concluded that under the AIA contract there is a distinction between work and non-work property, and the scope of the waiver is limited to damages to the work property.

The interpretation of the waiver provision has been litigated in other jurisdictions and the Court of Appeals, but not made it to the Indiana Supreme Court. After examining caselaw, in The Board of Commissioners of the County of Jefferson v. Teton Corporation, Innovative Roofing Solutions, Inc., Gutapfel Roofing, Inc. and Daniel L. Gutapfel, 72A04-1302-CT-55, Judges Paul Mathias and Edward Najam affirmed, ruling the “majority view” is the better approach to risk allocation in construction projects in general, which rejects the “work” v. “non-work” approach.

They believed adopting the “minority, non-Work distinction” used previously by the Indiana Court of Appeals would “throw many projects into protracted litigation, possibly even years after project completion and acceptance.”

“Each and every major construction project adds both value and risk to the owner’s property. Section 11.3.1 of the AIA contract therefore requires owners to insure their interests in the construction project at least to the value of the underlying contract.

The AIA contract expressly requires property owners to separately insure these interests and, in order to facilitate the completion of the project without delaying and debilitating litigation, to obtain an ‘all-risk’ insurance policy that waives the carrier’s rights to be subrogated to any loss arising within the extremely broad coverage described in the contract. If the owner does not secure such insurance, then it still waives its subrogation rights for any loss described within the AIA contract that it sustains,” Mathias wrote.

Judge Elaine Brown dissented, believing the court should uphold the minority approach as outlined in Midwestern. By adopting the majority approach, the majority in this case has prevented the county from being able to attempt to recoup damages to non-work property from Teton’s liability insurer based upon alleged negligence.

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Bill Satterlee is, indeed, a true jazz aficionado. Part of my legal career was spent as an associate attorney with Hoeppner, Wagner & Evans in Valparaiso. Bill was instrumental (no pun intended) in introducing me to jazz music, thereby fostering my love for this genre. We would, occasionally, travel to Chicago on weekends and sit in on some outstanding jazz sessions at Andy's on Hubbard Street. Had it not been for Bill's love of jazz music, I never would have had the good fortune of hearing it played live at Andy's. And, most likely, I might never have begun listening to it as much as I do. Thanks, Bill.

  2. The child support award is many times what the custodial parent earns, and exceeds the actual costs of providing for the children's needs. My fiance and I have agreed that if we divorce, that the children will be provided for using a shared checking account like this one(http://www.mediate.com/articles/if_they_can_do_parenting_plans.cfm) to avoid the hidden alimony in Indiana's child support guidelines.

  3. Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  4. Indiana up holds this behavior. the state police know they got it made.

  5. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

ADVERTISEMENT