In Safeco Insurance Company of Indiana as Subrogee of Ramona Smith v. Blue Sky Innovation Group, Inc., et al, No. 22A-CT-1924, 2023 Ind. App. LEXIS 157, the Court of Appeals of Indiana (Appellate Court) reversed a trial court ruling that granted the motion to dismiss filed by Michaelis Corporation (Michaelis), a restoration company. The Appellate Court ruled that the trial court erred in dismissing the plaintiff’s spoliation and negligence claims against Michaelis, who discarded evidence relating to the cause of the fire at issue.
In United States Automatic Sprinkler Corporation v. Erie Insurance Exchange, et al., No. 2SS-CT-264, 2023 Ind. LEXIS 105, the Supreme Court of Indiana (Supreme Court) reversed an order of the trial court that denied a motion for summary judgment filed by a sprinkler contractor. At issue was whether commercial tenants – one who contracted with the sprinkler contractor and others who did not – could recover for their respective property damages. The court held that under the contract’s subrogation waiver and agreement to insure, the contracting tenant waived its insurer’s rights to recover through subrogation. With respect to the non-contracting tenants, who sought to recover only property damages, the court held that the absence of contractual privity barred their recovery.
The case centered around a sprinkler system that malfunctioned and flooded the Sycamore Springs Office Complex (Landlord), causing extensive property damage to four commercial tenants. Surgery Center, one of the four tenants, requested permission from the Landlord to install a sprinkler system inside the building. Landlord agreed, in exchange for Surgery Center agreeing to be solely responsible for maintaining the sprinkler system. Surgery Center hired United States Automatic Sprinkler (Automatic Sprinkler) to both install and conduct periodic inspection and testing of the sprinkler system. The contract terms outlined the scope of work to be performed by Automatic Sprinkler and the work was limited to the inspection and testing of the sprinkler system. Although repairs and emergency services were excluded from the contract, each could be performed upon the request and authorization of Surgery Center for an additional cost. The contract also contained certain risk allocation provisions including a waiver of subrogation and an agreement to insure.
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
In Progressive Southeastern Ins. Co. v. B&T Bulk, LLC, No. 21S-CT-496, 2022 Ind. LEXIS 131, the Supreme Court of Indiana (Supreme Court) reversed a decision of the Court of Appeals of Indiana (Court of Appeals), ruling that Form MCS-90 (MSC-90) endorsements on insurance policies do not apply to purely intrastate trips. In reversing the decision of the Court of Appeals, the court found that the Indiana Legislature’s incorporation of the federal Motor Carrier Act of 1980 (MCA) into the state code did not expand the MCA’s scope to include intrastate trips. Continue reading
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 a subrogation action, one party is substituted to the rights and remedies of another with respect to a lawful claim. The substituted party (the subrogee) is legally able to pursue any right or seek any remedy that would be available to the subrogor regarding that claim. But can a defendant in a subrogation action assert any claim against the subrogee that it would have against the subrogor? In Federated Mut. Inc. Co. v. Kosciusko County, No. 3:20-CV-960, 2021 U.S. Dist. Lexis 88735, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana considered whether a defendant could assert counterclaims against the insureds/subrogors in an action filed in the name of their subrogee. The court held that since the insurerds/subrogors were not a party to the action and the defendant could assert the substance of its counterclaim as a defense, the defendant could not file counterclaims against the insureds/subrogors in the insurer’s subrogation action. Continue reading
In reviewing a ruling on a motion for summary judgment that found that a component manufacturer owed no duty to install safety features, the Supreme Court of Indiana answered a narrow question that shifts the landscape for product liability litigation pursuant to the Indiana Product Liability Act (IPLA). Brewer v. PACCAR, Inc., 2019 Ind. LEXIS 428, involved a wrongful death claim against PACCAR, Inc. (PACCAR), the manufacturer of a glider kit that is installed on semi-trucks. The glider kit comes with a variety of optional safety features, provided they are specifically requested by the semi-truck manufacturer that integrates the kit into its end product. 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
On January 23, 2018, the Northern District of Indiana issued a decision that clarifies what constitutes spoliation of evidence under Indiana law. In Arcelormittal Ind. Harbor LLC v. Amex Nooter, LLC, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10141 (N.D. Ind.), the defendant filed a motion for sanctions, alleging that the plaintiff intentionally spoliated critical evidence. The defendant sought dismissal of the action, asserting that the plaintiff intentionally discarded and lost important physical evidence within hours of a fire that occurred while the defendant’s employees were performing work at its facility. The decision underscores the importance of taking immediate action to properly identify and secure potentially material evidence in order to satisfy one’s duty to preserve pre-suit evidence and avoid any spoliation defenses and associated sanctions. Continue reading
In Board of Commissioners of County of Jefferson v. Teton Corp., 30 N.E.3d 711 (Ind. 2015), Jefferson County hired Teton Corporation to perform renovation work on the Jefferson County courthouse. Teton hired subcontractors to perform the roofing work.
Jefferson County’s contract with Teton incorporated American Institute of Architects (“AIA”) General Conditions form A201-1987. The AIA contract required Jefferson County to obtain property insurance and included a waiver of subrogation clause that stated, in pertinent part: “The Owner and Contractor waive all rights . . . for damage caused by fire or other perils to the extent covered by property insurance obtained pursuant to this Paragraph 11.3 or other property insurance applicable to the Work.” (Emphasis added). Instead of procuring a separate builder’s risk policy for the renovation work, Jefferson County relied on its existing “all risk” property insurance policy to cover the entire courthouse, including the renovation work.