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SGL attorneys obtain defense verdict for insurance company client


Bob Laurie and Beth Ahlstrand recently obtained a defense verdict in favor of Nationwide Insurance Company of America against a plaintiff’s claims of liability for the negligence of an independent contractor. The matter arose after plaintiff hired a painting contractor to restore windows at the house, perform exterior and interior painting, and conduct lead paint encapsulation. As the project was nearing completion, an unknown employee of the painting contractor used a disconnected toilet causing water and waste to flood portions of the house. The painting contractor submitted a claim to his insurance carrier, Nationwide, and coverage was eventually provided for the loss. During the remediation process, Plaintiff claims that Nationwide controlled the remediation and that a Nationwide representative directed him to turn off the heat to the house. As a result of the loss of heat, Plaintiff claims that the home’s historic horsehair plaster walls cracked. Following a bench trial and upon the submission of trial briefs, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to prove his negligence claim against Nationwide. In particular, the court found that plaintiff failed to prove that Nationwide controlled the premises during the remediation or that Nationwide controlled the independent contractors hired to remediate the property. The court also found that even assuming that plaintiff established that Nationwide controlled the premises, he failed to prove that the damage to the horsehair plaster walls was proximately caused by the failure to properly heat the premises during the remediation.