Alabama Supreme Court Reverses Course, Finds Insurance Coverage For Faulty Workmanship Claims

Companies such as homebuilders, construction companies and contractors face significant financial risk from bodily injury and property damage claims arising from allegedly faulty workmanship or construction defects. Although these companies purchase commercial general liability ("CGL") policies to manage those risks, they often face obstacles to recovery under policy terms and exclusions that purportedly preclude coverage for faulty workmanship when the damage is to the construction project itself. The Alabama Supreme Court's decision in Owners Ins. Co. v. Jim Carr Homebuilder, LLC, however, highlights a growing majority among courts nationwide which have held that damage to a construction or building project purportedly due to the policyholder's faulty workmanship can constitute a covered "occurrence" under the CGL policy. The decision may also signal a willingness by courts to adopt a pro-policyholder interpretation of the "Your Work" exclusion, a common barrier to coverage for bodily injury or property damage arising from faulty workmanship after the construction project is complete, holding that the exclusion is inapplicable where the policyholder purchases completed operations coverage.


In Owners Ins. Co. v. Jim Carr Homebuilder, LLC, Thomas and Pat Johnson hired Jim Carr Homebuilders ("JCH") to construct a new $1.2 million home on Lay Lake in Wilsonville, Alabama. When the Johnsons moved into their new home, they discovered water leaking through the roof, walls and floors, which caused water damage throughout the home. After JCH was unable to fix the problem, the Johnsons sued for breach of contract, fraud, and negligence and wantonness. The dispute was arbitrated, which resulted in a finding that JCH's work was defective and a $600,000 award for the Johnsons.

JCH sought coverage under its CGL policy with the Owners Insurance Company ("Owners Insurance"). Owners Insurance, however, refused to provide coverage, arguing that faulty workmanship did not constitute an "occurrence," a term defined under the policy as "an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions." The carrier filed suit, seeking a judicial declaration that the claim was not covered under the CGL policy, but the trial court ruled in favor of coverage.

Owners Insurance appealed, and in September 2013, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court's decision, holding that there was no coverage...

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