County loses fire insurance appeal
Thursday, February 06, 2014 10:00 AM
The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a November 2012 decision that ruled against the county being able to recover some of the costs to rebuild the Courthouse after a fire.
The Courthouse suffered extensive damage in May 2009 as workers were nearing completion of a remodeling project. The fire caused more than $6 million in damage.
The defendants in the case are Teton Corp., Innovative Roofing Solutions Inc., Gutapfel Roofing Inc. and Daniel L. Gutapfel.
A special judge ruled against the county because it declined to purchase a separate insurance plan for the remodeling project, meaning only the county's general insurance plan covered the building.
The defendants claimed the fire caused damage to a piece of property the county owns, which would also make the county responsible for damage to the contents of the building.
According to the contract signed by the parties, the county had to notify contractors if it chose not to purchase additional insurance to cover the project.
"While Jefferson County had the right to purchase separate 'all risk' insurance ... it breached the contract by failing to notify Teton ... of its decision to rely on existing coverage," Judge Paul Mathias wrote in the majority opinion. He was joined by Judge Edward Najam Jr.
The county requested a chance to file claims for damages to non-work property, which included desk, files and other contents of the building.
Judge Elaine Brown wrote a dissenting opinion, arguing that the county should be able to move forward with a lawsuit.
"There is no dispute that Jefferson County's property insurance policy covered the courthouse for work-related damages," she wrote. "It would have been superfluous for Teton to have purchased additional property insurance for the courthouse. Thus, any breach of the agreement by Jefferson County was not a material breach and should not dictate the outcome."