Earlier this month, the Connecticut Superior Court for the Judicial District of Waterbury, Complex Litigation Docket, ruled that where a contractor was sued based on allegations of poor workmanship, the allegations are not covered by the contractor’s general liability policy because they do not constitute an “occurrence.” Philbin Brothers, LLC v. Hartford Fire Insurance Company, Docket No. X10-UWY-CV-07-5007640-S (Conn. Super., December 11, 2008). The decision on summary judgment, the first decision of a Connecticut court to directly address the issue, adopted what has become the majority view on the issue among state courts.
In the underlying lawsuit, the insured, a builder of homes, was sued in connection with the construction and sale of a home. The various causes of action included one titled “Negligence” that alleged a failure to construct and/or install various components of the project in a workmanlike manner. The insured tendered the defense to its general liability carrier, which denied coverage. The insured subsequently sued the insurer for breach of contract, which led to the summary judgment decision.
After examining the insurance policy’s definitions of “occurrence” (“an accident, including continuous or repeated consequential exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions”), the court reasoned that “[i]t is clear that the allegations of the action do not fit the description of ‘an accident.’” The court continued: “Examination of the insurance policy reveals that it was not intended to insure Philbin against claims of poor workmanship but only negligence claims that may arise during the performance of the work itself, for example, a ladder falling on a car or a visitor slipping on building materials improperly stored at the site.”