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Court Grants Summary Judgment to Insurer in HVAC Defect Case

August 4, 2011 — CDJ Staff

The US District Court in Colorado has determined in the case of RK Mechanical, Inc. v. Travelers Property Casualty Company of America that Travelers did not breach its insurance contract when it refused to cover RK Mechanical.

RK Mechanical performed an HVAC installation for a residential project for which J.E. Dunn Rocky Mountain was the general contractor. As part of the work, RK “installed approximately one hundred seventy-one CPVC flanges, which were manufactured by Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Company.” Two of these flanges failed in June, 2009 leading to water damage. RK replaced the cracked flanges and engaged in water remediation. “Travelers paid Dunn and RK for the costs associated with the water damage associated with the Flange Failure.” The court notes that Travelers did not pay for the cracked flanges, however.

Subsequently, RK examined the remaining flanges, finding many cracked ones. These were replaced with new ones. Later, all the Charlotte flanges were replaced with ones from another manufacturer. RK applied for coverage.

All sides brought in their experts: “Microbac Laboratories, Inc. prepared a report on behalf of RK concluding that the Flange Failure was due, in part, to an assembly or workmanship defect in addition to manufacturing defects in the flanges. Higgins & Associates prepared a report on behalf of Travelers concluding that the flanges failed due to improper installation. Plastic Failure Labs prepared a report on behalf of the flange manufacturer concluding that the flanges failed due to improper installation by RK.”

At this point, Travelers denied coverage. RK sued alleging that the coverage for flange failure and water damage implicitly includes mitigation costs. The court rejected this claim, noting it would do so even if Travelers had paid for the replacement of the first two flanges. Nor did the court find that replacement of the faulty flanges is not "a covered cause of loss." RK also argued that as it was required to mitigate, Travelers was obligated to cover costs. However, the court found that “the mitigation costs expended by RK were not incurred in an effort to avoid damages from a potential breach of contract by Travelers.” The court additionally noted that despite RK’s claims, the Colorado courts have not found a common law duty to mitigate. Finally, the court found that the exclusions in the policy were not in violation of public policy.

Read the court’s decision…

Court Grants Summary Judgment to Insurer in HVAC Defect Case