Carrier Has Duty to Defend Claim for Active Malfunction of Product

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The insureds were sued by homeowners in two separate suits alleging defects in the construction of their homes.

October 19, 2020
Tred R. Eyerly - Insurance Law Hawaii

Rejecting that the underlying claim was based solely on faulty workmanship, the Third Circuit held the insurer had a duty to defend allegations of a malfunctioning product. Nautilus Ins. Co. v. 200 Christina Street Partners LLC, 2020 U.S. App. LEXIS 22118 (3d Cir. July 16, 2020).

The insureds were sued by homeowners in two separate suits alleging defects in the construction of their homes. Nautilus defended under a reservation of rights. Nautilus filed suit in District Court and moved for judgment on the pleadings. The District Court denied the motion, finding Nautilus had a duty to defend because the underlying claims sufficiently alleged product--related tort clams that could fall within the scope of coverage under the relevant policies.

The Third Circuit affirmed. There was a distinction between a claim of faulty workmanship, for which the insurer did not have a duty to defend, and a claim of "active malfunction" of a product, for which an insurer did have such a duty. An active malfunction was sufficiently fortuitous as to constitute an "occurrence."

Mr. Eyerly may be contacted at te@hawaiilawyer.com



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