Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Court of Appeals Finds That Sufficient Notice of Claim Was Provided to Insurer

In Spoleta Construction, LLC v. Aspen Insurance UK Limited, Spoleta had entered into a contract with Hub-Langie Paving, pursuant to which Hub-Langie was contractually obligated to defend and indemnify Spoleta and to procure Commercial General Liability insurance naming Spoleta as an additional insured for any claims of bodily injury. An employee of Hub-Langie was injured performing work under the contract. As such, Spoleta's insurer notified Hub-Langie that Spoleta would be seeking defense and indemnification from Hub-Langie and also requesting that Hub-Langie "place [its] insurance carrier on notice of this claim." This correspondence, along with a notice of occurrence claim form identifying the injured employee and describing his injury, was forwarded to Aspen. 

After the employee commenced an action against Spoleta, Aspen was again notified of the claim. Counsel for Spoleta specifically indicated that Spoleta was to be named an additional insured on Hub-Langie's policy and a certificate of insurance identifying Spoleta as an additional insured was included with the correspondence. Aspen denied coverage on the basis of late notice, arguing that Spoleta's first notice of claim was a claim for contractual defense and indemnification, not a claim for additional insured coverage.

Thereafter, Spoleta commenced a declaratory judgment action against Aspen.  In response, Aspen moved, pre-answer, to dismiss the declaratory complaint. The lower court granted the motion, but the Appellate Division reversed and reinstated Spoleta's complaint. The Appellate Division then granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeals on the question of whether Spoleta's initial tender constituted proper notice of claim for additional insured coverage under the Aspen policy.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that the Aspen policy requirements for notice had been met by the initial correspondence.  More specifically, Aspen was made aware of how, when and where the occurrence took place and the nature and location of the alleged injuries.  And, the letter did not specifically state the basis for which Spoleta was seeking defense and indemnification pursuant to its contract with Hub-Langie, i.e. Spoleta did not specifically identify either the contractual indemnity provision or the insurance procurement provision in the contract. Therefore, the Court of Appeals held that the Appellate Division had properly reinstated Spoleta's complaint.  

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