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Federal District Court Continues to Find Construction Defects do Not Arise From An Occurrence

May 10, 2012 — CDJ Staff

Coverage for construction defects continues to be hotly contested in Hawaii state and federal courts. In a recent decision, Judge Mollway felt bound to follow the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Burlington Ins. Co. v. Oceanic Design & Constr., Inc., 383 F.3d 940, 944 (9th Cir. 2004), where the court found construction defect claims arise from breach of contract, not from an occurrence. Judge Mollway’s most recent decision on the issue is Illinois Nat. Ins. Co. v. Nordic PCL Constr., Inc., 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58464 (D. Haw. April 26, 2012).

Nordic constructed a grocery store for Safeway. In addition to the grocery store, Nordic built a 165-space rooftop parking deck, retail shops and related improvements. After opening for business in 2007, Safeway experienced significant leaks. Safeway demanded that Nordic repair the parking deck. Nordic sent the demand letter to the insurer, who agreed to appoint counsel subject to a reservation of rights.

Safeway filed suit against Nordic in state court alleging, among other things, breach of contract and negligence. The insurer provided Nordic with a defense, but Nordic hired independent counsel.

The insurer filed for declaratory relief in federal district court.

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Federal District Court Continues to Find Construction Defects do Not Arise From An Occurrence