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Insurance Coverage for Subcontractor Non-Compliance with Prevailing Wage Laws

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One Court says there is at least a Duty to Defend

Authored by attorney Neil Lowenstein

Subcontractor non-compliance with prevailing wage laws is unfortunately not uncommon. But might that be covered by the General Contractor’s insurance? For one design-build project that included coverage for professional liability a federal court in Washington has said there’s at least a duty to defend on the part of the insurer under that particular policy. The case is Bayley Constr. v. Great American E & S Ins. Co. 980 F. Supp. 2d 1281 (W.D. Wash. 2013).

In reaching its conclusion, the court noted that the duty to defend was governed by liberal construction principles and that under those principles the General Contractor’s obligation to ensure subcontractor compliance with prevailing wage laws required professional skill and judgment, and so within that particular policy’s coverage. While results will necessary vary depending upon each policy, this case suggests any General Contractor required to address subcontractor prevailing wage law non-compliance should consider triggering policy coverage, and when in doubt timely notify its carrier of related claims per the terms of the contractor’s insurance policy or policies.

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