In HDI Glob. SE v. Magnesium Prods. of Am., Inc., No. 360385, 2023 Mich. App. LEXIS 2602 (Magnesium Prods.), the Court of Appeals of Michigan (Court of Appeals) considered whether the lower court erred in dismissing the plaintiffs’ claim for loss of income based on the economic loss doctrine. The court found that while the defendant manufacturer owed a duty to the general public to exercise reasonable care in its manufacturing process, that duty did not apply to the economic damages alleged by the plaintiffs.
Tag Archives: Subrogation
Waiver of Subrogation and Lack of Contractual Privity Bars Commercial Tenants’ Claims
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.
No Signature, No Problem: Texas Court Holds Contractual Subrogation Waiver Still Enforceable
In Chubb Lloyds Inc. Co. of Tex. v. Buster & Cogdell Builders, LLC, No. 01-21-00503-CV, 2023 Tex. App. LEXIS 676, the Court of Appeals of Texas, First District (Court of Appeals) considered whether the lower court properly dismissed the plaintiff’s subrogation case by enforcing a subrogation waiver in a construction contract which was not fully executed. The contract was signed by only one of the two subrogors and was not signed by the defendant general contractor. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision, holding that despite the lack of signatures, the evidence established mutual assent to the contractual terms by all parties.
The plaintiff’s subrogors, Jeffrey and Mary Meyer (collectively, the Meyers), retained defendant Buster & Codgell Builders (BCB) to expand their residence. BCB drafted a contract using the American Institute of Architects (AIA) standard form contract for residential construction. The AIA contract included, by reference, a subrogation waiver that applied to BCB and its subcontractors. Prior to beginning the work, BCB emailed Jeffrey Meyer a version of the contract that only had one signature block for both Jeffrey and Mary Meyer. Minutes later, BCB sent a second version of the contract which had a signature line for each of the Meyers. However, Jeffrey Meyer signed the first version of the contract and emailed it back to BCB. In the subject line of his email, Mr. Meyers asked that BCB countersign and return the contract. BCB did not sign and return the contract.
A Tort, By Any Other Name, is Just a Tort: Massachusetts Court Bars Contract Claims That Sound in Negligence
In University of Massachusetts Building Authority v. Adams Plumbing & Heating, Inc., 2023 Mass. App. Unpub. LEXIS 28, 102 Mass. App. Ct. 1107, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts (Appeals Court) considered whether the lower court properly held that the plaintiff’s breach of contract and indemnification claims were time-barred by the statute of repose because they sounded in tort. The Appeals Court held that while the six-year statute of repose only applies to tort claims, they can also bar claims for breach of contract and indemnification if they sound in tort. The Appeals Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling, finding that the plaintiff’s breach of contract and indemnification claims were just negligence claims disguised as non-tort claims.
In 2013 and 2014, the University of Massachusetts (UMass) retained various contractors to renovate the dining hall for one of its campus buildings, which included the installation of new ductwork for the kitchen’s exhaust system. The dining hall opened for service in September 2014. In the Spring of 2018, it was discovered that the ductwork for the kitchen had collapsed. Further investigation revealed other deficiencies with the exhaust system. On December 1, 2020, UMass filed a lawsuit against various contractors, asserting negligence, breach of contract, and indemnification. The breach of contract claims alleged breach of express warranties.
Michigan Court Waives Goodbye to Subrogation Claims, Except as to Gross Negligence
In Ace American Insurance Company, et. al. v. Toledo Engineering Co., Inc., et. al., No. 18-11503, 2023 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15222 (Ace American), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan determined whether insurers could pursue their subrogation claims against the defendants despite a waiver of subrogation in each of the contracts the insured had with the respective defendants. Based on the language of the contracts and the circumstances leading up to the loss, the court held that the insurers could not pursue their subrogation claims – other than their claims for gross negligence – due to waivers of subrogation in the applicable contracts.
In Ace American, the insured, Guardian Industries, LLC (Guardian), retained Toledo Engineer Co., Inc. (TECO) and Dreicor, Inc. (Dreicor) to renovate a glass furnace in the insured’s glass manufacturing plant. Guardian and TECO entered into a contract on December 6, 2016. Guardian and Dreicor entered into a contract on September 29, 2013, that the parties later updated on June 3, 2016. Both defendants began work on the project in the spring of 2017 and were finished with the portion of the work known as the “Cold Tank Repair” prior to the loss.
Florida Court Puts the Claim of Landlord’s Insurer In The No-Fly Zone
In United States Aviation Underwriters v. Turnberry Airport Holdings, LLC, No. 3D22-270, 2023 Fla. App. LEXIS 1207 (U.S. Aviation), the Court of Appeal of Florida, Third District (Appellate Court) considered whether the insurer for a commercial landlord could pursue subrogation against the landlord’s tenant. Based on the terms of the lease between the landlord and the tenant, the Appellate Court held that the landlord’s insurer could not pursue subrogation.
In U.S. Aviation, the defendant, Turnberry Airport Holdings, LLC (Turnberry Airport) leased space to an insured aircraft owner. The lease contained the following provision:
TENANT agrees that all policies of insurance obtained by it in connection with the Space or as required hereunder shall contain appropriate waiver of subrogation clauses.
Help Me Help You – How Working With Claimant’s Counsel Can Maximize Your Lien Recovery; “Part One: We Are the Necessary Evil”
In the most recent episode of the Subro Sessions Podcast, Brett Tishler and Michael Abed of the Subrogation Department discuss workers’ compensation subrogation, what it is and why helping the injured worker’s counsel pursue a third party claim can maximize your lien recovery.
In All Fairness: A Discussion of Recent Court Decisions Finding Arbitration Clauses Unenforceable
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.
Gone Fishing: Tenant’s Insurer Casts A Line Seeking To Subrogate Against The Landlord
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.
Part of the Whole: Idaho District Court Holds Economic Loss Rule Bars Tort Claims Related to Water Supply Line that was Part of Home Purchase
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