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Contractor’s Home Not Covered for Construction Defects

September 13, 2012 — CDJ Staff

The US District Court in Seattle has rejected most of the claims made by a Des Moines man over insurance coverage for water damage to his home. Judge John C. Coughenour granted summary judgment to Liberty Northwest in Ayar v. Liberty Northwest Insurance Corporation.

Sayad Ayar was the general contractor for the construction of his house. As a homeowner held a $1.5 million insurance policy from Liberty Northwest (LNW) that excluded “faulty, inadequate, or defective construction.”

In 2008, less than three years after his house was constructed, Mr. Ayar filed a claim after water leaked through his living room ceiling. LNW hired an engineering firm to investigate the damage. The engineering firm, CASE Forensics, concluded that the water intrusion was due to “the failure to install an adequate and continuous waterproof membrane, flashing, and drainage system within the balcony at the time of construction.” Ayar’s expert attributed the leakage to “damage done to the weather deck waterproofing during a storm event with high winds,” which would be covered under the policy. CASE Forensics reviewed these conclusions and rejected them. LNW denied coverage.

Further problems lead to further investigations, and in each case, LNW attributed the problems to construction defects. During this process, LNW “authorized Ayar to cut into the ceiling’s drywall in order to assist in determining the source of the water intrusion.” Mr. Ayar moved his family to a rental home. He requested that LNW cover the rental and other other costs.

LNW’s adjuster concluded that no coverage was available, but recommended paying Mr. Ayar $19,648.68 to reinstall drywall and repair the hole in the ceiling. The insurance company paid $2,000 to cover the cost of cutting into the ceiling. The also claimed the amount of drywall he removed was “excessive” and would not cover his relocation as “his home had been livable and because the loss was not covered.”

Ayar made four claims to the court in support of the argument that LNW misrepresented “pertinent facts or insurance policy provisions.” The court rejected three of these, noting that as all water damage was excluded, LNW’s citation of other sources of water intrusion was not a misrepresentation. “LNW did not rely on this provision as the reason for denying coverage.” Nor was LNW’s reference to “fungi, wet or dry rot” a misrepresentation. As for their reference to construction defects, it “was clearly appropriate given that the construction defect exclusion was the principal basis or denying the claim.” However, the court found that regarding the removal of drywall, “a triable issue of the facts exists.”

Ayar also claimed that LNW did not conduct a reasonable investigation, but the court found no evidence to support this conclusion. “This is not a case where the insurer failed to investigate or did so only half-heartedly.” Although the thoroughness of the investigation could not questioned, the court concluded that its timing could. Ayar claimed that LNW engaged in unreasonable delays. LNW counters that the delays were due to “Ayar’s own obstructive behavior and failure to cooperate with LNW’s investigation.”

The court dismissed all of Ayar’s claims, with the exception of whether LNW should have informed him that they would not pay for drywall repair unless there was damage, and whether LNW’s investigation failed to conclude its investigation within a thirty-day time line.

Read the court’s decision…

Contractor’s Home Not Covered for Construction Defects