Article by Melissa Wright
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently held that an additional insured was covered by a policy, where there was no direct claim against the named insured, even though the coverage was limited to claims arising from the negligence of the named insured.1 The most common additional insured endorsements are generally speaking very restrictive in their application. As this case demonstrates, such an endorsement may still provide protection to an additional insured even where the plaintiff has no direct claim against the named insured.
The plaintiff hired Davis Systems of North Bay Nipissing (“Davis Systems”) to repair damage to a hotel that was caused by a fire. Davis Systems in turn subcontracted that work to Crystal Clean Carpet & Upholstery Specialist (“Crystal Clean”). Crystal Clean allegedly left a window open in the middle of winter, causing the pipes to freeze and burst.
The plaintiff sued both Davis Systems and Crystal Clean for damages resulting from Crystal Clean’s alleged negligence. Davis Systems cross claimed against Crystal Clean and brought a third party action against Crystal Clean’s insurer, Economical Insurance Group (“Economical”). Under the policy of insurance Davis Systems was listed as an additional insured.
While the plaintiff eventually consented to a dismissal of the action against Crystal Clean, the cross claim and third party claim continued. Economical and Crystal Clean together brought a Rule 21.01(1)(b) motion seeking a dismissal of the third party claim on the basis it disclosed no reasonable cause of action.
In order for Economical to have a duty to defend the action against Davis Systems, there must be the possibility of a duty to indemnify.
Economical and Crystal Clean argued that since the action against Crystal Clean had been discontinued, the true nature and substance of the claim was with respect to Davis Systems’ negligent acts and not with respect to liability arising out of the operations of Crystal Clean. It argued that the discontinuance was an acknowledgement by the plaintiff that the factual allegations could not support its claim; accordingly coverage for Davis Systems’ omissions relating to Crystal Clean’s operation could not be triggered.
The court did not accept Economical and Crystal Clean’s argument for the following reasons. First, the court did not know the reasons why the plaintiff discontinued its claim against Crystal Clean. Second, even if the discontinuance could be said to be an admission, it was not binding on Davis Systems. Third, the discontinuance could only be said to be an acknowledgment that the plaintiff’s claim against Crystal Clean could not succeed. It was not an acknowledgment in respect of the plaintiff’s claim against Davis Systems.
The pleadings alleged that Davis Systems was liable to the plaintiff for breach of contract as a result of Crystal Clean’s negligence. This allegation was, in the court’s view, within the coverage provided by the policy. Notably, the exclusion in the additional insured clause was restricted solely to Davis Systems’ own negligent acts. The clause read as follows:
[..] Davis Systems are hereby added to the policy as additional Insureds but only with respect to liability arising out of the operations performed by or for the named insured but excluding any negligent acts committed by such additional Insured. (Emphasis in original)
As there was no other factual basis for Davis System to be liable other than Crystal Clean’s negligence, the discontinuance against Crystal Clean did not change the factual basis upon which the plaintiff was seeking to find Davis Systems liable. The policy covered damages for Crystal Clean’s negligence when those damages were sought from Davis Systems. Accordingly, the motion was dismissed.
In this case, there was real value added by the additional insured endorsement even though the language of the clause itself was restrictive. Additional insured endorsements should be carefully reviewed by your counsel to ensure that your interests are being protected.
1. Innvest Real Estate Trust (o/a Travelodge Airport North Bay) v. 1328151 Ontario Inc. (o/a Paul Davis Systems of North Bay Nipissing) et al., 2014 ONSC 5891
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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