On October 9, 2018, the Ohio Supreme Court issued a decision in Ohio Northern University v. Charles Construction Services, Inc., Slip Op. 2018-Ohio-4057, finding that a general contractor was not entitled to defense or indemnity from its CGL insurer in a construction defect suit brought by a project owner post-project completion. With this decision, Ohio has solidified its place amongst a diminishing number of states, including Pennsylvania and Kentucky, which hold that there is no coverage for defective construction claims because those losses do not present the level of fortuity required to trigger CGL coverage. This places Ohio amongst the worst in the country on this issue at a time when numerous states have abandoned old precedent and moved towards a policyholder friendly analysis.
Ohio Northern University (“ONU”) hired Charles Construction Services, Inc. (“CCS”) to construct the University Inn and Conference Center, a new hotel and conference center on their campus in Ada, Ohio. CCS purchased CGL insurance from Cincinnati Insurance Company (“CIC”) insuring the project. Following completion of the project, ONU sued CCS alleging defects in the construction of the completed project, including allegations that windows improperly installed by one subcontractor led to damage to walls built by another subcontractor. CIC agreed to defend CCS under a reservation of rights but intervened in the action between ONU and CCS to pursue a declaratory judgment that it had no obligation to defend or indemnify its insured for the alleged losses.