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Walter Andrews, left, and Andrea DeField, right. Walter Andrews, left, and Andrea DeField, right.

In December, the Florida Supreme Court held that a Chapter 558 notice of construction defect constitutes a “suit” under a commercial general liability (CGL) insurance policy so as to potentially trigger the insurer’s duty to defend the contractor in the proceedings. The case is captioned Altman Contractors v. Crum and Forster Specialty Insurance, No. SC16-1420 (Fla. Dec. 14, 2017).

The insured, Altman Contractors, Inc. (Altman) was insured by Crum & Forster Specialty Insurance Co. under seven consecutive commercial general liability policies that each contained standard language obligating the insurer to “pay those sums that the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as damages because of ‘bodily injury’ or ‘property damage’ to which this insurance applies.” The policies further provided that the insurer “will have the right and duty to defend the insured against any ‘suit’ seeking those damages.” Those policies defined “suit” in relevant part as “a civil proceeding in which damages because of ‘bodily injury,’ ‘property damage’ or ‘personal and advertising injury’ to which this insurance applies are alleged.” The policies also defined “Suit” to include: “b. Any other alternative dispute resolution proceeding in which such damages are claimed and to which the insured submits with our consent.” The policies did not define “civil proceeding” or “alternative dispute resolution proceeding.”

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