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
In Blok Builders, LLC v. Katryniok, 2018 Fla. App. LEXIS 1312, the Court of Appeals of Florida for the Fourth District considered whether Florida Statute § 725.06 applied to a contract for the excavation of various neighborhood easements containing telecommunication lines. The court held that the statute did not apply because the contract for the excavation work was unrelated to a “building, structure, appurtenance, or appliance,” as explicitly required by the statute. The court’s analysis highlights the importance of thoroughly analyzing statutes and considering (and anticipating) their most narrow interpretations. Continue reading
Effective April 26, 2016, Georgia amended its anti-indemnification statute, Ga. Code § 13-8-2, to cover not only construction contracts, but also contracts for engineering, architectural or land surveying services. The amended statute, however, does not apply equally to construction and professional services contracts.
In Sanislo v. Give Kids the World, Inc., 157 So.3d 256 (Fla. 2015), the Supreme Court of Florida considered whether a party to a contract, in order to be released from liability for its own negligence, needs to include an express reference to negligence in an exculpatory clause. The court held that, unlike an indemnification clause, so long as the language in an exculpatory clause is clear, the absence of the terms “negligence” or “negligent acts” in an exculpatory clause does not, for that reason alone, render the exculpatory clause ineffective.
In Atlanta Flooring Design Centers, Inc. v. R.G. Williams Construction, Inc., — S.E.2d –, 2015 WL 4311070 (Ga. App. July 16, 2015), the Georgia Court of Appeals addressed the validity of a contract clause in a construction contract. In the contract, R.G. Williams Construction, Inc. (“Williams”), the general contractor, and Atlanta Flooring Design Centers, Inc. (“AFDC”) agreed to arbitrate any disputes related to the contract. In addition, Williams and AFDC expressly agreed “not to challenge the validity of the arbitration or the award.” The court, relying in part on analogous federal arbitration law, held that the clause – precluding judicial review of an arbitration award – altered Georgia’s statutory arbitration scheme, frustrated Georgia’s public policy and was void and unenforceable.
In Belasco v. Wells, 183 Cal. Rptr.3d 840, 234 Cal. App. 4th 409 (2015), the California Court of Appeals for the Second District addressed the question of whether a homeowner, when settling an administrative complaint against a licensed homebuilder, can release future, unknown claims. Despite the presence of a California statute, Cal. Civ. Code § 1542, stating that a general release does not extend to claims that the releasor does not know about, the court held that the homeowner’s express release of future claims was enforceable. Thus, the homeowner’s release – signed as part of a 2006 settlement of the homeowner’s construction defect claims against the defendant, a homebuilder – barred the homeowner’s 2012 claims against the builder based on latent defects in the roof of the home that the homeowner discovered in 2011.