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Hartford must defend masonry company


A Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. unit must defend a masonry company in construction defect litigation, says a federal district court, in granting the company partial summary judgments in the case.

San Jose-based Pacific Bay Masonry Inc., a construction company that performs masonry work, entered into a subcontractor agreement with general contractor Deacon Corp., based in Portland, Oregon, in 2014 to perform masonry work for a new retail shopping facility in Oakland, California, according to Thursday’s ruling by the U.S. District Court in San Francisco in Pacific Bay Masonry Inc. v. Navigators Specialty Insurance Co.

In 2017, a successor to the shopping facility’s owner filed suit against Deacon and others in state court alleging a variety of construction defects, the ruling said. Deacon then filed a cross-complaint against the property developer and others including PBM, the ruling said.

PBM filed suit against its insurer, Hartford unit Navigators, after it refused to defend or indemnify it in the case. PBM filed suit against the insurer, seeking a partial summary judgment that said the insurer was obligated to defend it.

The court ruled in PBM’s favor. The complaint against PBM alleged its work “resulted in damage to property other than its own,” which is covered by its policy, the ruling said.

Conflicting statements in the owner’s complaint and a call with its counsel “may demonstrate a dispute existed on whether third-party property damage arose from PBM’s work. This does not extinguish the duty to defend as disputed factors are considered in a duty to defend analysis,” the ruling said.

“In sum, this order finds that Navigator had a duty to defend PBM in thundering action,” it said.

PBM attorney Brian D. Cronin, an associate of Prenovost, Normandin, Dawe & Rocha APC in Santa Ana, California, said in a statement, “The court’s order is an important vindication of businesses’ rights as insureds throughout the state of California.

“The ruling sets forth a commonsensical and straightforward interpretation of the standard CGL insurance policy, the provisions of which insurance companies have been misrepresenting to their insureds for far too long.”

Navigators’ attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.





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