Courts across the country have historically taken positions encouraging settlements between civil litigants. Thus, as long as there is good faith involved in the negotiation process, settlements and their effects on other parties are generally upheld. Recently, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California (District Court) considered whether a settlement between the plaintiff and one of several defendants met the good faith standard, thereby barring claims for contribution and indemnity from the co-defendants. Continue reading
In Rankin v. South Street Downtown Holdings, Inc., 2019 N.H. LEXIS 165, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire considered, pursuant to a question transferred by the trial court, whether RSA 508:4-b, the statute of repose for improvements to real property, applies to indemnity and contribution claims. The court concluded that based upon the plain reading of the statute, it applies to indemnity and contribution claims. As noted by the court, a holding to the contrary would violate the intent of a statute of repose, which is to establish a time limit for when a party is exposed to liability. 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
The California legislature recently enacted legislation – SB 496 – limiting a design professional’s indemnification obligations in private contracts related to design services. The term “design professional” refers to licensed architects, landscape architects and professional land surveyors, and registered professional engineers. As revised, Cal. Civ. Code § 2782.8 states that, for all contracts entered into on or after January 1, 2018 for design professional services, all provisions that purport to have the design professional indemnify the indemnitee for claims against the indemnitee – or require the design professional to provide a defense to the indemnitee – are unenforceable except to the extent that the claims against the indemnitee arise out of, or relate to, the negligence, recklessness or willful misconduct of the design professional. In addition, as revised, § 2782.8 limits a design professional’s liability for the cost of defense to the design professional’s percentage of fault.
The revised statute provides two exceptions. Pursuant to these exceptions, the limitations related to the duty and cost to defend do not apply to: 1) design service contracts where a project-specific general liability policy insures all project participants, including the design professional, and 2) a design professional who is a party to a written design-build, joint venture agreement.
Although this change in the law does not go into effect until January 1, 2018, the change serves as a reminder to subrogation professionals that, when faced with indemnification provisions in design or construction-related contracts, they should check local laws to determine the extent to which subrogating insurers can enforce such provisions.
For subrogation professionals, it is important to limit the liability exposure of your insured. In cases where the insurer, as subrogee, is proceeding as the plaintiff, this means limiting any direct claims against the insured – whether for contribution or indemnity – to affirmative defenses as opposed to third-party claims. Limiting direct claims against insureds not only keeps captions clean, but avoids strategic maneuvering by the defense that could negatively impact your case. In Ohio, when a defendant tries to pursue direct claims against the insured for contribution or indemnification, practitioners should, consistent with the analysis set forth in Continental Casualty Company v. Equity Indus. Maple Heights, LLC, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 54440 (N.D. Ohio, April 10, 2017), argue that defendants can no longer attempt this maneuver and that they are limited to raising affirmative defenses against the plaintiff’s subrogor.
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.