12 August 2014

Drafting complaints to trigger insurance coverage

Here is an interesting article on construction defects at the UConn law library and drafting complaints to trigger insurance coverage. As the author notes, it may be best to avoid pleading too many specific facts when filing suit, since some details (especially dates) can cause unexpected problems when one tries to find insurance for the losses. The case was decided under Connecticut law but is consistent with most jurisdictions with which I am familiar. I would add that specificity is rarely required for construction claims, and that the plaintiff is seldom in possession of the defendant's insurance policies before a lawsuit is filed; these factors further militate against the need for putting too much detail into an initial pleading. Obviously, specificity is required for fraud claims, but fraud will not trigger insurance anyway, so a claimant who is chasing fraud damages has likely already decided not to depend on the other side's insurance to satisfy a judgment.

In short, "less is more," at least in this context. The article does not indicate whether the law library has been repaired yet, but I would hope that the law students learn this lesson quickly.

"Choose Your Words Wisely: The Allegations in a Construction Defect Complaint" by Matthew Vocci. The Supreme Court of Connecticut provided a reminder of the importance of the wording of allegations relating to construction defects, resulting damage and when the parties were on notice of the issues. For property owners, contractors/builders/developers and their insurers, the allegations in the complaint guide what can be a difficult and contentious determination regarding whether the insured is provided with a defense from its CGL carrier...