While the starting point for assessing an insurer’s duty to defend requires comparing the allegations contained within a complaint to the language contained within the insured’s policy, the majority of states require an insurer to do more. In Alabama, a failure of the underlying complaint to allege damages falling within the policy’s terms is not necessarily fatal to coverage – if there are facts provable by admissible evidence to place the loss within coverage.
The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama recently examined Alabama’s broadened duty to defend standard in Frankenmuth Mutual Insurance Company v. Gates Builders, No. 20-00596, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 83645 (S.D. Ala. Apr. 29, 2021). In Frankenmuth, the magistrate judge was tasked with determining whether the court should abstain from hearing an insurer’s declaratory judgment coverage action pending the resolution of the underlying state court action.
The underlying state court action arose out of an allegedly defective construction project. Frankenmuth’s insured, Gates Builders, was hired to perform exterior and structural rehabilitation work at the Resort Conference Center Condominium (the Condominium) in Gulf Shores, Alabama. The project began in July 2014 and concluded in June 2015. In 2019, Gates Builders was informed that the Condominium’s decks were sagging. Gates Builders shored up the decks and provided the Condominium with a quote for the cost of repairs. In July 2020, the Condominium’s Association filed suit, alleging that the work performed in 2014 and 2015 was faulty and had caused damage to the Condominium.
Reprinted courtesy of Anthony L. Miscioscia, White and Williams and Margo Meta, White and Williams
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