The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES BREYER, District Judge
This diversity jurisdiction insurance coverage dispute arises from a
lawsuit to foreclose on a mechanics lien. Now pending are the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment. After carefully considering the
papers filed by the parties, including their supplemental memoranda, and
having had the benefit of oral argument, plaintiffs motion for summary
judgment is DENIED and defendant's motion is GRANTED.
In April 2000, Balch Enterprises, Inc. ("BEI") purchased three parcels
of land on Rock Avenue, San Jose, California for the purpose of building
three warehouse-type buildings. Several months later BEI entered into a
construction loan agreement with Fremont Bank. A 32,000 square foot
building was constructed at 900 Rock Avenue from mid-2000 to February
2001. Jack Balch, BEI president, was construction manager for the
warehouse building construction.
On June 30, 2000, while the warehouse at 900 Rock Avenue ("the
Building") was being constructed, BEI entered into a lease of the
Building with 360networksUSA, Inc. ("360"). On March 5, 2001, 360 entered
into a construction contract with Howard S. Wright Construction Co.
("Wright"), whereby Wright would construct certain improvements to the
Building for the purpose of 360's occupancy. Wright actually began
construction of the improvements between November 2000 and March 2001.
During the year 2001, 360 became unable to pay Wright. Wright ceased
work on the project and in June 2001 recorded a mechanics lien on the
Building in excess of $3,000,000.00. In August 2001, Wright filed a
lawsuit against BEI to foreclose the mechanics lien.
"Mechanics, materialmen, contractors, and the like have an automatic
lien on property upon which they have bestowed labor or furnished
material as long as the work was done "at the instance of the owner' or
the owner's agent. When the property is subject to a lease and the lessee
orders the work to be done on the leased premises without the lessor's
knowledge, then the lien attaches only to the lessee's leasehold
interest. However, improvements constructed with the owner's knowledge
are deemed to be at the instance of the owner unless the owner
gives notice of nonresponsibility." See Howard Wright Construction
Co. v. Superior Court, 106 Cal.App.4th 314, 321 (2003).
According to plaintiff the primary issue in the underlying lawsuit was
the merits of BEI's affirmative defense: whether BEI properly recorded
and posted the notices of nonresponsibility. The lawsuit settled before
the issue was adjudicated. BEI claims that defendant owed it a duty to
defend it in the Wright lawsuit.
360's lease with BEI required 360 to obtain a Commercial General
Liability Policy protecting BEI "against claims for bodily injury,
personal injury and property damage based upon or arising out of the
ownership, use, occupancy or maintenance of the Premises." Lease ¶
8.2. In accordance with its obligations under the lease, 360 obtained a
Commercial General Liability policy from defendant Insurance Company of
Pennsylvania ("Insurance Company")
for the policy period November. 30, 2000 to November 30, 2001 ("the
Policy"). Insurance Company also issued a Certificate of Insurance
Additional Insured Endorsement in favor of BEL The Certificate provided
that BEI is named as an insured with respect to its liability "arising
out of' 360's operations performed for BEI.
The Policy provides coverage on an occurrence basis for "bodily injury
and property damage" liability. Property damage is defined as "physical
injury to tangible property," as well as "loss of use of tangible
property that is not physically injured."
The Policy also contains "Design Professional Liability Coverage." The
The Company will pay on behalf of the Insured all sums
in excess of the deductible that the Insured shall
become legally obligated to pay as damages because of
actual or alleged negligent acts, errors or omissions
arising out of professional services rendered for
others under contract by the Insured or any entity for
whom the Insured is legally liable.
Plaintiff moves for summary adjudication of its claim that Insurance
Company was obligated to defend the Wright v. BEI lawsuit pursuant to the
Design Professional Liability Coverage. Defendant opposes plaintiffs
motion and makes its own cross-motion for an order that it had no duty to
defend under any Policy provision.
At oral argument defendant for the first time argued that plaintiff was
not an additional insured with respect to the Design Professional
Liability Coverage and therefore plaintiffs claim failed as a matter of
law. Since the parties had not briefed this issue, the Court continued
the motion to give the parties the opportunity to file supplemental
memoranda. The ...