Tuesday, December 17, 2013

US District Court holds that damages from faulty workmanship are not an occurrence

UMass hired Five Star to upgrade the HVAC system in the Morill Science Center.  As part of its work Five Star sometimes penetrated the building roof and installed temporary patches to protect the building until permanent patches and flashing could be installed.

During a severe rainstorm several temporary patches failed and rainwater penetrated the roof, causing damage to insulation and to the interior of the building and its contents. 

Five Star sought coverage from its general liability insurer, General Casualty.  General Casualty agreed to cover most of the loss, but denied coverage for damage to the roofing system. 

The first issue before the court was  whether faulty workmanship is an "occurrence," an issue over which there is much disagreement around the country.  In General Casualty Co. of Wisconsin v. Five Star Building Corp., 2013 WL 5297095 (D. Mass.), the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts held, not in so many words, that the question was irrelevant, because the rain damage itself was an occurrence whether or not faulty workmanship was an occurrence. 
Assuming that Five Star engaged in faulty workmanship, its workmanship extended only as far as the installation of temporary patches and not to the roof itself.  Thus, Five Star does not seek coverage for faulty workmanship itself, but rather coverage of the damage resulting from the rainstorm even if such allegedly faulty workmanship contributed to the leaking.  The rain damage to the roofing system, therefore, is an "occurrence" under the policy.

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