California Court Invokes Equity to Stretch Anti-Subrogation Rule Principles

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Can a commercial condo association’s carrier subrogate against the tenants of one of its member unit owners?

June 18, 2019
Gus Sara & William L. Doerler - The Subrogation Strategist

In Western Heritage Ins. Co. v. Frances Todd, Inc. 2019 Cal. App. Lexis 299, the Court of Appeals of California, First Appellate District, addressed whether a commercial condominium association’s carrier could subrogate against the tenants (aka lessees) of one of its member unit owners. After examining the condominium association’s declarations, as well as the lease terms between the owner and the lessees, the court held that the association’s carrier could not subrogate against the lessees because they were implied co-insureds on the policy. To reach its decision, the court explained that an insurer steps into the shoes of its insured, not the party with whom it is in privity. Although the first-party property portion of the association’s insurance policy did not, as required by the association’s declarations, have the owner listed as an additional named insured, the court held that it would be inequitable to treat the association as the sole insured for purposes of determining Western Heritage’s right to bring a subrogation action.

In Western Heritage, William R. de Carion d/b/a Surfwood Properties (de Carion or Lessor), owned a commercial unit within a multi-unit commercial building. The building was managed by the East Shore Commercial Condominiums Owners’ Association (the Association). As a unit owner, de Carion was a member of the Association. The Association’s Declarations of Codes, Covenants and Restrictions (CC&Rs) required the Association to procure fire insurance for the commercial units by adding the unit owners as additional named insureds. The CC&Rs also prohibited owners and their “tenants” from procuring their own fire insurance policies for the premises. In 2013, de Carion leased his commercial space to Frances Todd, Inc. d/b/a The Wooden Duck, Eric Todd Gellerman and Amy Frances Feber (Lessees).

Reprinted courtesy of Gus Sara, White and Williams LLP and William L. Doerler, White and Williams LLP
Mr. Sara may be contacted at sarag@whiteandwilliams.com
Mr. Doerler may be contacted at doerlerw@whiteandwilliams.com



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