Court: Insurance Certificate Did Not Trigger Additional-Insured Coverage

April 7, 2015 / Writing and Speaking

The 1st District Appellate Court recently held that the requirement that a subcontractor provide a certificate of insurance listing the general contractor as an additional insured failed to create coverage for the general contractor under a blanket additional-insured endorsement in the subcontractor’s liability policy.

The case is West Bend Mutual Insurance Co. v. Athens Construction Co., 2015 IL App (1st) 14006-U (March 16). The subcontractor’s insurer, West Bend Mutual, was represented by McKenna, Storer. General contractor Athens Construction Co. and its intervening direct insurer, Harleysville Lake States Insurance Co., were represented by Sanchez, Daniels & Hoffman LLP.

Athens contracted for renovation work at 680 N. Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. For the plumbing work, Athens subcontracted with Carrozza Plumbing Co. A plumbing incident occurred at the site and allegedly damaged the building. The building owner and a tenant then sought damages from Carrozza and Athens.

The subcontract between Athens and Carrozza required Carrozza to maintain insurance but the kind of insurance was unspecified. It also required that Carrozza’s certificate of insurance provide: “Athens Construction Co. Inc. additional insured, on a primary and non-contributory basis.”

Carrozza did, in fact, furnish a certificate of insurance to Athens listing Athens as the certificate holder and naming Athens as an additional insured. The certificate language indicated that it was issued “as a matter of information only,” that it conferred “no rights upon the certificate holder” and that it did not amend or alter any coverage in the policy.

In support of coverage under the West Bend policy, Athens further relied on provisions from its contract with the project owner requiring Athens to purchase insurance that would protect Athens from claims of others in performing the work.

These provisions, according to Athens, were incorporated in the “flow-down” section of the subcontract with Carrozza, requiring Carrozza to assume the same obligations to Athens that Athens had to the project owner.

Athens thus tendered its defense to West Bend, Carrozza’s liability insurer, on the ground that Athens was an additional insured on the West Bend policy. The West Bend policy contained a blanket additional insured endorsement basically providing that any person Carrozza was required to include as an additional insured in a written contract would become an additional insured under the policy.

West Bend, however, took the position that Athens did not qualify as an additional insured under this language and denied coverage.

West Bend brought this coverage action to obtain a declaration of the parties’ rights and obligations. Following cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted West Bend’s motion. Athens and its direct insurer, Harleysville, filed this appeal.

Analysis

In an opinion by Justice Maureen E. Connors, the 1st District affirmed. She initially addressed whether the subcontract required Carrozza to purchase commercial general liability coverage and agreed that it did.

Connors relied on the language from Athens’ contract with the project owner that was incorporated into the subcontract and found that it was sufficient to obligate Carrozza to purchase liability insurance.

She noted, however, that such an obligation on the part of Carrozza was not connected to Athens. Carrozza was obligated only to obtain insurance for itself. Nothing in the general contract with the owner, nor the flow-down language in the subcontract, required either that Athens purchase coverage for the owner or that Carrozza purchase coverage for Athens.

As for the subcontract’s separate insurance requirement, Connors relied in part on United Stationers Supply Co. v. Zurich American Insurance Co., 386 Ill.App.3d 88 (2008), in finding that the subcontract required only that Carrozza state in a certificate of insurance that Athens was an additional insured. And the certificate here expressly disclaimed that it conferred any rights on Athens, the certificate holder.

The subcontract insurance section did not specify commercial general liability insurance or any other kind of insurance.

In sum, Connors said Carrozza never assumed the obligation to name Athens as an additional insured on Carrozza’s liability policy – only on its certificate of insurance – and thus the blanket additional insured endorsement was never activated. (The opinion does not indicate what entity issued the certificate of insurance.)

The court, therefore, affirmed summary judgment in favor of West Bend.

Key Point

A contract requirement that a party be identified in a certificate of insurance as an additional insured does not constitute a sufficient writing to trigger coverage under a blanket additional-insured provision in a policy requiring a “written contract” for the party to be added to the policy.

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