Listen to Partner Gus Sara as he discusses two recent court decisions which held that the arbitration provisions in two different residential construction contracts were unenforceable.
In J&J Fish on Ctr. Str., Inc. v. Crum & Forster Specialty Ins. Co., No. 20-cv-644-bhl, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16361, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (District Court) recognized that “[t]here will be no further fish fries on Center Street until someone pays to repair the collapsed floor at J&J Fish on Center Street, Inc. (J&J Fish).” The contenders were: 1) J&J Fish; 2) its’ insurer, Crum & Forster Specialty Insurance Company (Insurer); and 3) J&J Fish’s landlord, Vision Land, LLC (Vision). Recognizing Insurer’s right to subrogate against Vision based on the terms of the parties’ lease, the District Court held Insurer owed J&J Fish coverage for the losses it sustained, but that Insurer could subrogate against Vision for anything it had to pay J&J Fish.
In Safeco Ins. Co. of Ill. v. LSP Prods. Grp., 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 139566, the United States District Court for the District of Idaho (District Court) considered whether the plaintiff’s tort claims against the manufacturer of an allegedly defective toilet water supply line were barred by the economic loss rule. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that, since the supply line was a part of the home when the plaintiff’s insureds purchased it, the plaintiff was barred by the economic loss rule from bringing tort claims against the manufacturer. The District Court granted the defendant’s summary judgment motion, ruling that the supply line was a part of the home, which was the subject of the transaction, at the time it was purchased. Thus, the District Court held that the economic loss rule barred the plaintiff’s tort claims. Continue reading
The obvious answer to the question is “yes” if there is a viable target. However, since I work for the subrogation department of a law firm, some may consider the answer to be a bit biased. Despite any misplaced perception of bias, there are benefits to insureds, insurers and society as a whole when insurers pursue subrogation. These benefits support having insurers pursue subrogation. Continue reading
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
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 Allstate Ins. Co. v. LG Elecs. USA, Inc., No. 19-3529, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 127014, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania considered whether plaintiff’s expert engineer’s opinion that there were two possible causes of a fire—both related to alleged product defects within a refrigerator manufactured by the defendant—was sufficient to support the malfunction theory of products liability. The court found that because both potential causes imposed liability on the product manufacturer and the expert ruled out misuse of the product, as well as all external causes of the fire, it was not necessary for the engineer to identify a specific cause under the malfunction theory. The court also found that the expert’s investigation and opinions met the criteria set forth in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) and the Federal Rules of Evidence and, thus, were admissible. Continue reading
Although the focus of most subrogation cases is usually on proving liability, determining the appropriate measure of damages is just as important. Sometimes turning on a nuanced argument for recoverability, an adverse holding can significantly boost or reduce the total damages in a case. The Court of Appeal of Florida, Fourth District (Court) recently decided such an issue in a case involving subrogation, holding that the defendants owed much more than they originally anticipated. Continue reading
In Westfield Inc. Co. v. Ritcher, No. 20-CV-12692, 2021 U.S. Dist. Lexis 94926, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan considered whether a residential tenant was an implied co-insured on the landlord’s insurance policy, and thus shielded from a subrogation claim brought by the landlord’s carrier for fire damage caused by the tenant’s negligence. The court found that the tenant was an implied co-insured on the landlord’s insurance policy, but only with regards to the apartment that the tenant leased. The tenant was not shielded from claims for damage to the rest of the building, the contents of other residents and the landlord’s rental loss income. Continue reading