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.
In United States Automatic Sprinkler Corp. v. Erie Ins. Exch., et al., No. 21A-CT-580, 2022 Ind. App. LEXIS 87 (Automatic Sprinkler), the Court of Appeals of Indiana (Court of Appeals) considered whether there is a privity requirement for property damage claims against contractors. The court imposed a privity requirement. The court also addressed whether a subrogation waiver in a contract with a tenant applied to damage caused by work done outside the contract, at the landlord’s request. The court held that the waiver did not apply. Continue reading
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.
When the direct door to a subrogation recovery closes, the reimbursement door remains open.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, construing Indiana law, recently clarified the distinction between workers’ compensation subrogation rights and workers’ compensation lien rights. Workers’ compensation subrogation professionals should always keep this critical difference between direct subrogation and reimbursement in mind when evaluating any claim. Continue reading
In Erie Insurance Exchange v. Alba, Rec. No. 190389, 2020 Va. LEXIS 53, the Supreme Court of Virginia considered whether the trial court erred in finding that a condominium association’s property insurance provider waived its right of subrogation against a tenant of an individual unit owner. The Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s decision, holding that the insurance policy only named unit owners as additional insureds, not tenants, and thus the subrogation waiver in the insurance policy did not apply to tenants. The court also found that the condominium association’s governing documents provided no protections to the unit owner’s tenant because the tenant was not a party to those documents. This case establishes that, in Virginia, a condominium association’s insurance carrier can subrogate against a unit owner’s tenant where the tenant is not identified as an additional insured on the policy.
The Alba case involved a fire at a condominium building originating in a unit occupied by Naomi Alba (Alba), who leased the condominium under a rental agreement with the unit owner, John Sailsman (Sailsman). The agreement explicitly held Alba responsible for her conduct and the conduct of her guests. An addendum to the lease stated that Sailsman’s property insurance only applied to the “dwelling itself” and that Alba was required to purchase renters insurance to protect her personal property. Along with the rental agreement, Alba received the condominium association’s Rules & Regulations, Declarations and Bylaws. 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 Rural Mut. Ins. Co. v. Lester Bldgs., LLC 2019 WI 70, 2019 Wisc. LEXIS 272, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin considered whether a subrogation waiver clause in a construction contract between the defendant and the plaintiff’s insured violated Wisconsin statute § 895.447, which prohibits limitations of tort liability in construction contracts. The Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s decision that the waiver clause did not violate the statute because it merely shifted the responsibility for the payment of damages to the defendant’s insurance company. The waiver clause did not limit or eliminate the defendant’s tort liability. This case establishes that while
§ 895.447 prohibits construction contracts from limiting tort liability, a subrogation waiver clause that merely shifts responsibility for the payment of damages from a tortfeasor to an insurer does not violate the statute and, thus, is enforceable. Continue reading
In Gables Construction v. Red Coats, 2019 Md. App. LEXIS 419, Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals considered whether a contractual waiver of subrogation in the prime contract for a construction project barred a third party – a fire watch vendor hired to guard the worksite – from pursuing a contribution claim against the general contractor. The court concluded that the general contractor could not rely on the waiver of subrogation clause to defeat the contribution claim of the vendor, who was not a party to the prime contract. As noted by the court, holding that a waiver of subrogation clause bars the contribution claims of an entity that was not a party to the contract would violate the intent of the Maryland Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act (UCATA). Continue reading
Subrogating insurers often address waiver of subrogation clauses in the form contracts drafted by the American Institute of Architects. In ACE Am. Ins. Co. v. Am. Med. Plumbing, No. A-5395-16T4, 2019 N.J. Super. LEXIS 45 (App. Div.), ACE American Insurance Company (ACE) argued that the waiver clause in the AIA General Conditions form A201-2007 did not extend to the post-construction loss at issue. Adopting what the court termed the “majority” position, the Appellate Division held that, by reading §§ 11.3.5 and 11.3.7 together, the waiver applied to bar the insurer’s subrogation claim. The Appellate Court’s ruling makes pursuing subrogation against New Jersey contractors using AIA contract forms more difficult. 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