Gone Fishing: Tenant’s Insurer Casts A Line Seeking To Subrogate Against The Landlord

Person holding fishing rod

"There will be no further fish fries on Center Street until someone pays to repair the collapsed floor at J&J Fish on Center Street, Inc." - The US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin

October 17, 2022
William L. Doerler - The Subrogation Strategist

In J&J Fish on Ctr. Str., Inc. v. Crum & Forster Specialty Ins. Co., No. 20-cv-644-bhl, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16361, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (District Court) recognized that “[t]here will be no further fish fries on Center Street until someone pays to repair the collapsed floor at J&J Fish on Center Street, Inc. (J&J Fish).” The contenders were: 1) J&J Fish; 2) its’ insurer, Crum & Forster Specialty Insurance Company (Insurer); and 3) J&J Fish’s landlord, Vision Land, LLC (Vision). Recognizing Insurer’s right to subrogate against Vision based on the terms of the parties’ lease, the District Court held Insurer owed J&J Fish coverage for the losses it sustained, but that Insurer could subrogate against Vision for anything it had to pay J&J Fish.

In J&J Fish, Vision and J&J Fish signed a lease (Lease) for a building (the Building) located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Lease required Vision to “purchase and keep in full force and effect on the building(s) . . . insurance against fire and such other risks as may be included in all-risks policies . . .” Vision, however, never obtained any insurance on the Building. Pursuant to the Lease, Vision also agreed to “maintain and repair the structure including the slab floor and exterior walls of the Premises.”

With respect to J&J Fish, the Lease required J&J Fish to maintain “Physical Damage insurance, including but not limited to fire . . . and all other risks of direct physical loss as insured . . . for the full replacement cost of all additions, improvements (including leasehold improvements) and alterations to the Premises.” J&J Fish purchased a commercial property and casualty insurance policy (the Policy) from Insurer. The Policy covered “additions, improvements . . . and alterations” as the Lease required. In addition, it insured the Building itself against “collapse,” subject to certain exceptions.

Mr. Doerler may be contacted at doerlerw@whiteandwilliams.com



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