The New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department decided that additional insured endorsement only provided additional insured coverage to an entity in direct contractual privity with the named insured. The decision reinforces the New York law, which controls policy language entitlement to added insured coverage.
Why the Confirmation?
The New York Supreme Court was forced to confirm this law due to a recent case. Brought to heed on Sept. 15, 2016, the case involved the Dormitory Authority of New York (DASNY), Gilbane Building Co. /TDX Construction Corp (a joint venture, or JV)., and Sampson Construction Company.
The contract between DASNY and the JV stated that all prime contractors retained by DASNY were to name the construction manager as an additional insured under the liability policies. This was a requirement.
Next, DASNY contracted with Sampson to retain its services as a prime contractor in all foundation and excavation labor. In this contract, Sampson agreed to name the construction manager as an additional insured on its commercial general liability policy. The company then purchases a commercial general liability insurance plan from Liberty Insurance.
The policy Sampson procured from Liberty contained the following information about additional insured endorsements:
WHO IS AN INSURED: (Section II) is amended to include as an insured any person or organization with whom you have agreed to add as an additional insured by written contract, but only with respect to liability arising out of your operations or premises owned by or rented to you.
Moving forward – the work Sampson did on the job site allegedly created property damage to the building adjacent. Thus, DASNY filed suit against Sampson and the architect. Then the architect bought a suit against the JV, too. The JV then sought coverage under the Liberty policy that Sampson procured for the DASNY contract as additional insured.
Liberty denied coverage. So the defendants opened a declaratory judgment action against Liberty. Then Liberty made a play for a summary judgment, claiming that additional summary judgment would require some direct contractual privity with the named insured, Sampson.
The court then denied Liberty’s motion on the basis that the policy only required a written contract in which Sampson is a party. This requirement was satisfied when DASNY and Sampson entered a contract. However, this was overturned on appeal based on the additional insured endorsement.
While the Sampson and DASNY contract was evidence that Sampson agreed to provide coverage, the court ruled that this has no impact on the coverage Liberty agreed to provide them. This opened the door for the JV to pursue Sampson on a breach of contract clause, as a third-party beneficiary.
Nothing Has Changed
The concept that New York courts read closely regarding additional insured endorsements determined whether privity was required is nothing new. The Gilbane Court relied on numerous prior decisions with similar language, including:
AB Green Gansevoort, LLC v. Peter Scalamandre & Sons, Inc., 102 A.D.3d 425, 961 N.Y.S.2d 3 (1st Dep’t 2013) (requiring contractual privity where additional insured endorsement stated that “an organization is added as an additional insured ‘when you and such organization have agreed in writing in a contract or agreement that such organization be added as an additional insured on your policy.’”); Linarello v. City Univ. of New York, 6 A.D.3d 192, 774 N.Y.S.2d 517 (1st Dep’t 2004) (same). See also Zoological Soc. of Buffalo, Inc. v. Carvedrock, LLC, No. 10-CV-35-A, 2014 WL 3748545 (W.D.N.Y. July 29, 2014) (requiring contractual privity where additional insured endorsement afforded coverage to “[a]ny person or organization with whom you have agreed, in a written contract, that such person or organization should be added as an insured on your policy, provided such written contract is fully executed prior to the ‘occurrence’ in which coverage is sought under this policy.”)
The JV and courts attempted to distinguish the language in each policy, but the Gilbane Court clearly stated that privity between named insured and additional insured is required.
For more information about Additional Insured Coverage, contact Skyline Risk Management, Inc. at (718) 267-6600