Appellate Case Looks at Insurance Policy Concerns Related to Injured Massachusetts Home Renovation Contractor

Summer months are often the time when home repairs are done. Home owners hire general contractors for a project, and those contractors may hire subcontractors to do specific parts of the project. If one of the workers gets hurt, questions of liability instantly arise. If the worker is an employee of the subcontractor or general contractor, he or she may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits through his or her employer. The injured worker may also choose to hold the home owner or other parties involved in the work liable through a personal injury suit. Litigation and payment of costs are often taken up by the insurance companies involved, and they may dispute amongst themselves the additional issues beyond the facts surrounding the injury.

Preferred Mut. Ins. Co. v. Vermont Mut. Ins. Co. (No. 13-P-1890) discusses whether or not the insurance company that provided a homeowners’ insurance policy for the family, including the son, could withdraw from their responsibility to provide coverage in the presence of another insurance policy covering the son’s business. The discussion began after the family began to to renovate their second floor bathroom and hired a business to work on the plumbing. An employee of the plumbing contractor injured himself after he fell from the second floor, due to an unsecured railing that was unfastened by the son when he was moving a cast iron bathtub. The employee and his wife sued to hold the parents and the son personally liable for the accident and for the wife’s loss of consortium.

The company issuing the home owner policy refused to defend the son. The son’s policy issued in connection with his business as a self-employed electrician agreed to defend the son in the suit but reserved the right to withdraw, depending on whether or not his role in the renovation project was personal or professional. The injured plumber and his wife were ultimately successful at the jury trial, winning an award of over $225,000.00 for the plumber and more than $12,000.00 for the wife. The son’s business insurance company had previously filed another action naming the home owner insurance company, the son, and the parents as defendants, declaring that if their policy limits were exceeded, the other insurance company was obligated to defend and indemnify the son.

After a hearing, the trial judge ruled that the son’s business insurance company had no duty at all to indemnify, and that the home owner insurance company had the duty to both defend and indemnify all costs attributed to the son. The court ordered the home owner insurance company to reimburse the entirety of the defense costs incurred by the business policy insurance company. The appellate court, in its review of the case, affirmed the majority of the trial judge’s ruling in that the home owner policy had a duty to defend and indemnify, but it vacated the ruling that business insurance company had no duty to defend. The court also affirmed that the business insurance company had no duty to indemnify. The court reached its conclusion based on the fact that both policies that named the son as an insured could reasonably be considered to cover the son under the policy. The appeals court did not feel that any specific exclusions applied, nor did the home owner insurance company properly point to the facts to show the son was acting in the capacity of his business alone.

If you are a worker who has recently been injured while on the job, contact the Massachusetts personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan. The case discussed above shows that there are often several routes to recovering money for costs, and it is best to have our experienced counsel at your side. For a free, confidential consultation today, contact our office at 508-822-6600.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Supreme Court Keeps Premises Liability Case Law Favorable for Injured Individuals, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, May 26, 2015
The Path to Damages after a Massachusetts Car Accident Can be a Complex, Winding One, Massachusetts Injury Lawyers Blog, May 22, 2015