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Construction Insurance Bulletin


By October 1, 2010No Comments

Virtually all buildings have at least one thing in common: Glass, and usually a lot of it. When a building owner is having work done, the windows are very susceptible to damage. Glass is fragile. Unless they are careful, workers can easily break, scratch, or mar windows, even if they are not working on them directly. For example, a contractor spray painting outdoors can find that he has painted the windows if the wind is blowing the wrong way. In situations like this, the contractor’s attempts to clean the paint off the windows sometimes make the problem worse. The cleaning chemicals he uses might damage the glass. Window cleaning services run an obvious risk of accidentally damaging windows, but carpenters, siding installers, masons, roofing contractors, and others can all conceivably face blame should the building owner find something wrong with the glass after the job is done.

When something like this happens, many contractors will look for their Liability insurance to pay for the cost of repairing or replacing the windows. However, they might find out that their policies do not cover accidents such as these. The standard Commercial General Liability policy does not apply to property damage to “(t)hat particular part of real property on which (the insured) or any contractors or subcontractors working directly or indirectly on (the insured’s) behalf are performing operations, if the ‘property damage’ arises out of those operations.” It also does not apply to damage to “that particular part” of property that must be restored, repaired, or replaced because the insured’s work was performed incorrectly on it unless the insured has completed his work.

The meaning of the phrase “that particular part” has been the subject of many insurance coverage disputes and some lawsuits over the years. If a contractor is painting the side of a building, is the entire side “that particular part” of the property on which he is working? If so, then the insurance company will consider any windows on that side to be the subject of the work; the company will not pay for damage to them. If a worker is cleaning the glass and does damage to the window frames, are the frames also “that particular part”? If so, the company will not cover this damage, either. How then do insurance companies and courts decide what was “that particular part” of a contractor’s work?

Here are some of the factors they consider:

How close is the damaged property to the specific part of the work? The closer the subject of the work is to the damaged windows, the more likely it is that coverage will not apply. A contractor installing gutters or replacing roof shingles is further removed from the glass than is a contractor painting the shutters or caulking around the windows. The worker painting or caulking may not have coverage, while the one working on the gutters or shingles might.

When did the damage happen? Did it happen at the time the contractor was doing the work or same time after?

What was the scope of the contractor’s control over the project? If the contractor was responsible for moving equipment or protecting the windows in order to do the job, it might follow that the windows were part of his work.

Because of the uncertainty of coverage in these situations, speak with our agents about purchasing Property insurance that might cover a scratched glass loss. It is possible that a Builders Risk or Installation Floater policy might fill in the gap. Claims for damaged windows can cost tens of thousands of dollars; contractors would be wise not to ignore the risk.