In 2700 Bohn Motor, LLC v. F.H. Myers Constr. Corp., No. 2021-CA-0671, 2022 La. App. LEXIS 651 (Bohn Motor), the Court of Appeals of Louisiana for the Fourth Circuit (Court of Appeals) considered whether a subrogation waiver in an AIA construction contract was enforceable and, if so, whether the waiver also protected subcontractors that were not signatories to the contract. The lower court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment based on the subrogation waiver in the construction contract. The plaintiffs appealed the decision, arguing that the subrogation waiver violated Louisiana’s anti-indemnification statute. The plaintiffs also argued that even if enforceable, the subrogation waiver did not apply to the defendant subcontractors since they were not parties to the contract. The Court of Appeals ultimately held that the subrogation waiver did not violate the anti-indemnification statute because the waiver did not shift liability, which the statute was intended to prevent. In addition, the Court of Appeals found that the contract sufficiently satisfied the required elements for the defendant subcontractors to qualify as third-party beneficiaries of the contract.
Subrogation professionals have always been looking for ways to defeat onerous waiver of subrogation provisions in contracts signed by insureds. However, even when contracts are unsigned, if there is intent when the contract is made – usually long before a loss occurs – a waiver of subrogation can doom what otherwise may have been a strong case. The Superior Court of Delaware considered such a scenario to determine whether a waiver of subrogation provision applied to a multimillion-dollar subrogation case.
In Wascher v. ABC Ins. Co., No. 2020AP1961, 2022 Wisc. App. LEXIS 110 (Feb. 9, 2022), the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin considered whether the plaintiffs were barred — by Wisconsin’s 10-year statute of repose for improvements to real property claims and the six-year statute of limitations for breach of contract claims — from bringing a lawsuit against the original builders of their home. The plaintiffs alleged negligence and breach of contract against the masonry subcontractors, asserting that they improperly installed the exterior stone cladding. The court found that the plaintiffs’ claims against the original builders were time-barred. Continue reading
In Liberty Mutual Fire Ins. Co. v. Fowlkes Plumbing., L.L.C., No. 2019-FC-10285-SCT, 2020 Miss. LEXIS 44, the Supreme Court of Mississippi considered whether the subrogation waiver in the General Conditions of the Construction Contract, American Institute of Architects (AIA) form A201-2007, applied to claims for damages to property unrelated to the construction work. Siding with the majority of jurisdictions that have addressed this issue, the court interpreted the AIA subrogation waiver to apply to any property damage, whether or not related to the construction work (i.e. the Work), if the property insurance covering the non-Work property also insured the construction work. Continue reading
In Edifice Constr. Co., Inc. v. Arrow Insulation, Inc., No. 79407-8-1, 2020 Wash App. LEXIS 359, the Court of Appeals of Washington considered whether subcontractors could be bound by the arbitration clause in a contract between an owner and a general contractor. In determining that the subcontractors were not bound by the arbitration clause in the prime contract, the court found that the general contractor failed to meet its burden of showing that the subcontractors were on notice of the specific terms of the prime contract. Continue reading
Often times, both contract and tort claims co-exist in a subrogation matter and the line between the two can be blurred. This is especially true in the context of damages resulting from new home construction defect claims. However, states are increasingly attempting to define the scope of when the “gist of the action” is based in contract only. In Tingler v. Graystone, 834 S.E.2d 244 (Va. 2019), the Supreme Court of Virginia defined that scope in terms of new home construction. The court defined the “source of duty rule” by holding that claims of nonfeasance sounding only in contract do not give rise to an independent tort claim. The court also reiterated its application of the economic loss doctrine, stating that, when negligent actions result in damage to property other than the product itself, there can be a viable tort claim. Continue reading
In Westfield Insurance Group v. Silco Fire & Security, 2019 Ohio App. LEXIS 2810, the Court of Appeals of Ohio, Fifth Appellate District addressed whether the trial court properly instructed the jury that the applicable measure of damages for damage done to a computer network was the network’s replacement cost value rather than its fair market value. Based on the unique circumstances of the case, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it instructed the jury on the replacement cost measure of damages rather than fair market value. Continue reading
In Netherlands Ins. Co. v. Cellar Advisors, LLC, 2019 U.S. Dist. Lexis 10655 (E.D. Mo.), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri considered the scope of a waiver of subrogation clause in two wine storage agreements. The court held that the subrogation waivers were limited in scope and, potentially, did not apply to the damages alleged in the pleadings. This case establishes that, in Missouri, waivers of subrogation are narrowly construed and cannot be enforced beyond the scope of the specific context in which they appear. Continue reading
In Hexagon Holdings Inc. v. Carlisle Syntec, Inc. No. 2017-175-Appeal, 2019 R.I. Lexis 14 (January 17, 2019), the Supreme Court of Rhode Island, discussing claims associated with allegedly defective construction, addressed issues involving intended beneficiaries to contracts and the application of the economic loss doctrine. The court held that, based on the evidence presented, the building owner, Hexagon Holdings, Inc. (Hexagon) was not an intended third-party beneficiary of the subcontract between the general contractor (A/Z Corporation) and the subcontractor, defendant McKenna Roofing and Construction, Inc. (McKenna). In addition, the court held that, in the context of this commercial construction contract, the economic loss doctrine applied and barred Hexagon’s negligence claims against McKenna. Continue reading
In Youell v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 2018 Ind. App. LEXIS 497 (2018), the Court of Appeals of Indiana considered whether a landlord’s carrier could bring a subrogation claim against a commercial tenant for fire-related damages when the lease, which did not reference subrogation, explicitly required the landlord to maintain fire insurance coverage for the leased premises. The court held that subrogation was barred because the provision requiring the landlord to maintain fire insurance established an agreement to provide both parties with the benefits of insurance. The Youell case establishes that, in Indiana, if the lease explicitly states that the landlord will maintain fire casualty insurance for the building, the lease evidences an agreement by the parties to shift the risk of loss to the insurer. This agreement bars a landlord’s insurance carrier from subrogating against a commercial tenant in the event of a casualty. Continue reading