So, what’s the big deal if you’re a little “late” in giving your insurer notice of the claim or lawsuit against your company?  That’s the question, albeit in essence, that the Ninth Circuit has posed to the California Supreme Court recently in an Order Certifying Questions, Pitzer College v. Indian Harbor Insurance Co.

Specifically, the Ninth Circuit is asking for legal insight as to the following:Policy

1. Is California’s common law notice-prejudice rule a fundamental public policy for the purpose of choice-of-law analysis? May common law rules, other than unconscionability not enshrined in statute, regulation, or the constitution, be fundamental public policies for the purpose of choice-of-law analysis?

2. If the notice-prejudice rule is a fundamental public policy for the purpose of choice-of-law analysis, can a consent provision in a first-party claim insurance policy be interpreted as a notice provision such that the notice-prejudice rule applies?

Many times I hear from people who want to “save money” and serve as their own “owner-builder” under the exemption to the California Contractor’s Licensing law, which generally requires that any “construction” work over $500 to be performed by a licensed California contractor in the absence of an exemption.  (Bus. & Prof. Code section

Home improvement, - close-up of handyman laying tile

A common insurance question asked by our owner/developer clients when they discover that their completed project has defects is whether their own insurance will cover the cost to fix the defect or any damage from the defect.  While trying hard not to sound like the proverbial lawyer, we often have to say “it depends.”  What

My partner, Scott Kaplan,  discusses the recent Oregon Court of Appeals in FountainCourt Homeowners’ Ass’n v. FountainCourt Development, LLC case in the Daily Journal of Commerce.  On August 6, the Oregon Court of Appearls, handed down a decision making clear that standard form liability insurance policies cover construction defect claims so long any

California has held for at least a decade that in order for there to be insurance coverage under a standard Comprehensive General Liability for a claim arising out of a construction project, including a duty to defend by the insurer, there must be damage to other property, not solely to the property on which the insured worked. (See F&H Construction v. ITT Hartford Ins. Co. (2004) 118 Cal.App.4th 364.) The recent decision of Regional Steel Corporation v. Liberty Surplus Insurance Corporation (May 16, 2014, No. BC464209) __ Cal.App.2d. __ [2014 WL 2643242] (Regional Steel), in the California Court of Appeal highlights a not uncommon problem in construction actions, and several ramifications for owner/general contractors (GCs) to consider at project inception to alleviate and mitigate these issues are outlined below.

In my latest Daily Journal of Commerce Construction column, I discuss insurance jargon in contracts and use Commercial General Liability or “CGL” policies as an example.  The terms “bodily injury,” “personal or advertising injury,” and “property damage” all have specific meanings in CGL policies.  Since this language is not always intuitive, it is best to

The apartment business is booming right now. Unfortunately, construction defects persist as well, particularly in garden-style and wood-framed construction. Most developers are savvy enough to maintain a good insurance program, but many do not understand (until too late) that the policies they bought may not cover the risk of construction defects. 

As an owner-developer, neither your property insurance policy (including your builder’s risk policy) nor your general liability policy is likely to protect you from the cost of repairing defects to property you own. Most likely, your property policy has an exclusion for any damages caused by defects in construction or design. And your liability policy has exclusions for property damage to any property you currently “own, rent, or occupy.” (See exclusion J(1) below.) 

Even more surprising to some is another exclusion that prevents coverage for property damage to property that you “sell, give away or abandon” (known as the “alienated property exclusion”).  (See exclusion J(2) below) This means that for projects you develop, occupy (i.e., rent) and sell, you likely have no coverage during your occupancy of that project or after you sell  (whether to unit owners through a condo conversion or to another apartment owner). 

j.          Damage to Property

“Property damage” to:

(1)        Property you own, rent, or occupy, including any costs or expenses incurred by you, or any other person, organization or entity, for repair, replacement, enhancement, restoration or maintenance of such property for any reason, including prevention of injury to a person or damage to another’s property;

(2)        Premises you sell, give away or abandon, if the “property damage” arises out of any part of those premises;

Upon learning of this unfortunate situation, many developers ask: What good is the policy if it doesn’t cover me when I own the project and it doesn’t cover me after I sell it? Good question. The insurer’s response is that the policy only covers damage to other people’s property (like the project next door), not damage to your own property or the property you once occupied and sold.  Strangely, if you sell the project before you occupy it, coverage is more likely. 

Solutions?  There are steps you can take to minimize your risk: 

The new year brings a reminder that owners need to be careful about changes to their contractors’ and designers’ insurance policies. Many of the most important terms of an insurance policy are in “endorsements” added to the policy. For example, a policy may include an endorsement excluding claims between insured parties (say, a claim by

You may have recently heard that on December 11, 2013, the California Supreme Court denied the builder’s Petition for Review of the published decision in Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. v. Brookfield Crystal Cove LLC, 163 Cal. Rptr. 3d 600, Cal. App. 4th 98 (2013). For builders and contractors, this is very frustrating news and undermines