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    Worcester, MA 01606

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    Washington Supreme Court Finds Agent’s Representations in Certificate of Insurance Bind Insurance Company to Additional Insured Coverage

    February 03, 2020 —
    In T-Mobile USA Inc. v. Selective Ins. Co. of Am., 450 P.3d 150 (Wash. 2019) the Washington Supreme Court addressed whether an insurance company is bound by its agent’s written representation—made in a certificate of insurance—that a particular corporation is an additional insured under a given policy. The question arose in a case where: (1) the Ninth Circuit had already ruled that the agent acted with apparent authority, but (2) the agent’s representation turned out to be inconsistent with the policy and (3) the certificate of insurance included additional text broadly disclaiming the certificate’s ability to “amend, extend or alter the coverage afforded by” the policy. According to the Court, under Washington law the answer is yes: an insurance company is bound by the representation of its agent in those circumstances. Otherwise, the Court reasoned, an insurance company’s representations would be meaningless and it could mislead without consequence. At the heart of this case were two T-Mobiles entities: T-Mobile USA and T-Mobile Northeast (“T-Mobile NE”), which were distinct legal entities. T-Mobile NE engaged a contractor to construct a cell phone tower on a rooftop in New York City. The contract between T-Mobile NE and the contractor required the contractor to obtain a general liability insurance policy, to annually provide T-Mobile NE “with certificates of insurance evidencing [that policy’s] coverage,” and to name T-Mobile NE as an additional insured under the policy. T-Mobile USA was not a party to the contract, but was nonetheless aware of it and approved the contract as to form. The contractor obtained the required insurance policy from Selective. The policy provided that a third party would automatically become an “additional insured” under the policy if the contractor and the third party entered into their own contract that required the contractor to add the third party to its insurance policy as an additional insured. Because T-Mobile USA did not have a contract with the contractor, it did not automatically become an additional insured under the policy. Nevertheless, over the course of several years, Selective’s agent issued a series of certificates of insurance to “T-Mobile USA Inc., its Subsidiaries and Affiliates” that stated that those entities were “included as an additional insured [under the policy] with respect to” certain areas of coverage. The agent signed those certificates as Selective’s “Authorized Representative.” Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Jason Taylor, Traub Lieberman
    Mr. Taylor may be contacted at jtaylor@tlsslaw.com

    Breaking with Tradition, The Current NLRB is on a Rulemaking Tear: Election Procedures, Recognition Bar, and 9(a) Collective Bargaining Relationships

    September 09, 2019 —
    In its 84-year history, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB, Board or Agency) has promulgated a very small number of rules pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act, relying, instead, on individualized adjudications to establish the Board’s legislative policies. However, breaking with that long tradition, the current Board now appears to be on the verge of a formal rulemaking jag for on May 22, the Board released its “Unified Agenda” of anticipated regulatory actions which, in addition to proceeding with rulemaking regarding joint employer standards, announced the Board’s intention to consider formal rulemaking in a number of critical areas. Consistent with that wide-ranging Agenda, on August 12, the Board published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) over the objection of Democratic appointee, Lauren McFerran, that would amend the Agency’s rules and regulations governing the filing and processing of election petitions in three very important ways. This NPRM, therefore, deserves attention. The first possible amendment will modify the Board’s administrative election blocking charge practice by establishing a regulation-based vote and impound procedure to be used when a party, typically a union facing possible decertification, files an unfair labor practice (ULP) charge and, based thereon, seeks to block the holding of an election. The second possible amendment will modify the Board’s current recognition bar case law by codifying prior Board case doctrine and creating a regulation-based requirement of notice of voluntary recognition to affected employees and a 45-day open period within which affected employees may call for an election before that voluntary recognition will be allowed to operate as a bar to employees raising later questions concerning the union’s representative status (QCR). Reprinted courtesy of Sheppard Mullin attorneys Keahn Morris, John Bolesta and James Hays Mr. Morris may be contacted at kmorris@sheppardmullin.com Mr. Bolesta may be contacted at jbolesta@sheppardmullin.com Mr. Hays may be contacted at jhays@sheppardmullin.com Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of

    Don’t Waive Too Much In Your Mechanic’s Lien Waiver

    December 22, 2019 —
    In the past few years, the Virginia General Assembly has, with certain caveats, precluded pre-furnishing waiver of mechanic’s lien rights. While this essentially outlawed the types of mechanic’s lien waiver clauses that pervaded construction contracts in Virginia, the key to the previous sentence is “pre-furnishing.” What the General Assembly left intact were the usual waivers of mechanic’s lien rights typically required to be provided to Owners and others in the payment chain in exchange for payment. These lien waivers come in a few “flavors” from conditional to unconditional, partial to full. Their terms usually include an acknowledgement of receipt of payment (we’ll get to this later), and a statement that the one seeking payment knows of no possible claims by lower tier subcontractors and then waives all mechanic’s lien rights against the property for work performed and included in the request for payment. Often over my years as a Virginia construction attorney, I have noticed that these waivers are often signed without comment or review. They are just part of the process and more often than not are not even an issue for most projects. Of course, if they are an issue they can be a big one, and their terms can come back to bite a claimant that has not properly vetted them. The first potential issue is waiving lien rights while acknowledging receipt prior to actual receipt of the check or wire. Many of the waiver forms that are out there list a payment amount, or possibly simply state that the waiver is in exchange for some small payment, and then state “receipt of which is acknolwedged” or something similar. The issue here is that receipt may not have happened yet because these lien waivers are submitted as part of the payment package in order to get paid in the first place. In short, should you sign the waiver prior to payment, you may have acknowledged a non-event and in the event of non-payment have a written document stating that you waived your claim to a lien for that money. What a court would do with this, I am unsure, but why risk it? My advice, be sure your waiver is contingent on actual clearance of payment as well as receipt. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill
    Mr. Hill may be contacted at chrisghill@constructionlawva.com

    If You Purchase a House at an HOA Lien Foreclosure, Are You Entitled to Excess Sale Proceeds?

    February 03, 2020 —
    That pesky excess sale proceeds statute, A.R.S. § 33-727, is making waves again. We previously blogged about this statute here. In the prior post, we explained that excess sale proceeds (i.e., a foreclosure sale price greater than the lien being foreclosed) must be used to pay other lien creditors, in full, before the owner receives anything. Recently, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that creditors also take excess sale proceeds before the person who purchased the property at foreclosure. The case, Vista Santa Fe Homeowners Association v. Millan, No. 1 CA-CV 18-0609 (Ct. App. Oct. 15, 2019), is discussed below. The Facts In Vista Santa Fe, an individual bought a home secured by a first and second deed and trust. The homeowner defaulted on assessments owed to the Vista Santa Fe Homeowners Association (the “HOA”), and the HOA commenced an action to foreclose the resulting assessment lien. At the time, the HOA was owed approximately $14,000. Patterson Commercial Land Acquisition & Development, LLC (“Patterson”) purchased the property at the HOA’s sheriff’s sale for $42,000. After satisfying the HOA’s lien, the sheriff deposited the excess sale proceeds, in the amount of approximately $28,000, with the clerk of the court. Both Patterson and the second deed of trust holder, Bank of New York Mellon (“Bank”), submitted claims for the excess sale proceeds.[1] The trial court awarded the money to the Bank, and Patterson appealed. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Ben Reeves, Snell & Wilmer

    Property Owner’s Defense Goes Up in Smoke in Careless Smoking Case

    September 23, 2019 —
    Property owners owe a duty of reasonable care to avoid causing harm to neighboring properties. When a property owner knows or should know about a condition that poses a risk of danger to neighboring properties, the property owner must exercise reasonable care to make the condition safe. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland recently held that, where hundreds of discarded cigarette butts had accumulated in a bed of mulch over an extended period of time prior to the fire at issue, the owner of the property with the mulch beds owed a duty of care to its neighbors to prevent a foreseeable fire. In Steamfitters Local Union No. 602 v. Erie Insurance Exchange, 2019 Md. App. LEXIS 430 (May 30, 2019), a fire originated in a strip of mulch at property owned by the Steamfitters Local Union No. 602 (Union) and caused damage to neighboring properties. The fire occurred when an unknown person discarded a cigarette butt into the mulch. Following the fire, investigators found “hundreds, if not thousands of cigarettes” in the mulch where the fire originated. A representative for the Union acknowledged that there were more butts in the mulch “than there should have been” and that, “[i]n the right situation,” a carelessly discarded cigarette could cause a fire. The Union, however, had no rules or signs to prohibit or regulate smoking at the property, where apprentices would often gather prior to class. The insurance companies for the damaged neighbors filed subrogation actions alleging that the Union, as the property owner, failed to use reasonable care to prevent a foreseeable fire. A jury found in favor of the subrogating insurers and against the Union. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Michael J. Ciamaichelo, White and Williams LLP
    Mr. Ciamaichelo may be contacted at ciamaichelom@whiteandwilliams.com

    Texas Walks the Line on When the Duty to Preserve Evidence at a Fire Scene Arises

    October 14, 2019 —
    The extent to which a loss scene can be altered before adversaries can legitimately cry spoliation has long been a mysterious battleground in the world of subrogation. In the case of In re Xterra Constr., LLC, No. 10-16-00420-CV, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 3927 (Tex. App. – Waco, May 15, 2019), the Court of Appeals of Texas, Tenth District, addressed the question of when a party has a duty to preserve evidence. The court found that the trial court abused its discretion in imposing sanctions on the defendants for the spoliation of evidence as the evidence at issue was already gone by the time the defendants knew or reasonably should have known there was a substantial chance a claim would be filed against them. In this matter, Xterra Construction, LLC, Venturi Capital, Inc. d/b/a Artisan Cabinets and Keith D. Richbourg (collectively, Xterra) leased a commercial space from building owners Daniel Hull and William H. Beazley, Jr. (collectively, Hull) to be used as a woodworking and cabinet making warehouse. On October 18, 2014, there was a fire at the warehouse. By October 20, 2014, Xterra informed its insurance carrier, Cincinnati Insurances Companies (“Cincinnati”) of the loss and Cincinnati’s adjuster, Leann Williams (Williams), met with Keith D. Richbourg (Richbourg) at the site. Williams also hired expert Jim Reil (Reil) to inspect the fire scene to perform a cause and origin investigation. The next day, Williams informed Hull’s attorney that Reil would inspect the scene on October 23, 2014. Hulls attorney, however, did not send anyone to the scene to participate in the inspection. Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of Lian Skaf, White and Williams LLP
    Mr. Skaf may be contacted at skafl@whiteandwilliams.com

    Ahead of the Storm: Preparing for Dorian

    September 16, 2019 —
    While Hurricane Dorian churns in the Atlantic with its sights currently set on the east coast of Florida, storm preparations should be well underway. As you are busy organizing efforts to secure your job sites, we at Peckar & Abramson offer some quick reminders that may prove helpful:
    • Review your contracts, particularly the force majeure provisions, and be sure to comply with applicable notice requirements
    • Even if not expressly required at this time, consider providing written notice to project owners that their projects are being prepared for a potential hurricane or tropical storm and that the productivity and progress of the work will be affected, with the actual time and cost impact to be determined after the event.
    • Consult your hurricane plan (which is often a contract exhibit) and confirm compliance with all specified safety, security and protection measures.
    • Provide written notice to your subcontractors and suppliers of the actions they are required to take to secure and protect their portions of the work and the timetable for completion of their storm preparations.
    Reprinted courtesy of Peckar & Abramson, PC attorneys Adam P. Handfinger, Stephen H. Reisman and Gary M. Stein Mr. Handfinger may be contacted at ahandfinger@pecklaw.com Mr. Reisman may be contacted at sreisman@pecklaw.com Mr. Stein may be contacted at gstein@pecklaw.com Read the court decision
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    Reprinted courtesy of

    Construction Lien Waiver Provisions Contractors Should Be Using

    January 06, 2020 —
    It is common in construction for a subcontractor or material supplier of any tier to be required to provide a lien waiver when receiving payment. But not all lien waivers are created equal. While at a minimum, a lien waiver, by definition, needs to include a release of liens, it can also include many other terms that can tie up loose ends or resolve potential problems before they begin. Additional Releases A typical lien release is going to release any liens and right to claim liens on the subject property. But a lien waiver can also include releases of any claims against surety bonds, other statutory rights or claims, and at its broadest, claims against the paying party. One example of a provision that could help accomplish this is a release of “any right arising from a payment bond that complies with a state or federal statute, any common law payment bond right, any claim for payment, and any rights under any similar ordinance, rule, or statute related to claim or payment rights.” Broad release language can also be used to effectively preclude any claims arising prior to the date of the release. Payment Representations and Warranties A typical lien release has no representations or warranties about payment to subcontractors or material suppliers of a lower tier. But contractors can include language requiring the company receiving payment to represent and warrant that all subcontractors of a lower tier have been paid or will be paid within a certain timeframe using the funds provided and that these are material representations and inducements into providing payment. On a related note, if the contract requires subcontractors to provide lien releases from lower tier subcontractors in addition to their own release when seeking payment, contractors can require the sub-subcontractor releases to include representations that they have been paid by the subcontractor to try and tie up payment loose ends all around. Reprinted courtesy of Jason Lambert, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved. Read the court decision
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    Mr. Lambert may be contacted at jason.lambert@nelsonmullins.com