Professor French's articles relied upon in several state supreme court cases
July 29, 2020
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A recent decision by the Supreme Court of Michigan in Skanska United States Bldg. v. M.A.P. Mech. Contrs, __ N.W.2d __, 2020 WL 3527909 (Mich. Jun. 29, 2020), cites and relies upon a law review article written by Penn State Law in University Park Professor of Practice Christopher C. French, Revisiting Construction Defects as Occurrences under CGL Insurance Policies, to effectively overrule existing precedent in Michigan that construction defects cannot be covered by a contractor’s commercial general liability (CGL) insurance. That article, along with an earlier law review article by French on the same subject, Construction Defects: Are They "Occurrences"?, have been cited by numerous courts across the country.
In his articles, French argues that if defective construction work done by subcontractors results in unintentional property damage, then the contractor’s commercial general liability (CGL) insurance should cover the damage. In the past, many courts, relying upon the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Weedo v. Stone-E-Brick, Inc., 405 A.2d 788 (N.J. 1979), held construction defects were not covered by CGL insurance. French argued that Weedo was based upon old policy language that has not been used in CGL policies since 1986 and the Weedo court failed to address the fundamental issue of whether construction defects could be “occurrences” (i.e., accidental) that cause property damage. French concluded in his articles that construction defects could be occurrences that cause property damage under the policy language contained in CGL policies today.
Since publishing, in addition to the Supreme Court of Michigan, at least 11 other courts have cited the articles, with many of them similarly overruling existing precedents to the extent they were inconsistent with French’s analysis. Included among the courts citing the articles and adopting French’s position are the Supreme Court of New Jersey (Cypress Point Condo. Ass'n, Inc. v. Adria Towers, L.L.C., 143 A.3d 273 (N.J. 2016)), the Supreme Court of West Virginia (Cherrington v. Erie Ins. Property and Cas. Co., 745 S.E.2d 508 (W.Va. 2013)), and the Tenth Circuit (Black & Veatch Corp. v. Aspen Ins. (UK) Ltd; Lloyd’s Syndicate 2003, 882 F.3d 952 (10th Cir. 2018)).
French has written extensively in the area where insurance law intersects with contract and tort law, and he currently teaches Contracts, Torts, Trial Advocacy, and Insurance Law. He has published numerous articles in law review journals at Duke University, Georgia State University, University of Nevada, University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, and University of Virginia, among other law schools, and he is a co-author of Insurance Law in a Nutshell and Insurance Law and Practice: Cases, Materials & Exercises, and he is the General Editor of New Appleman Pennsylvania Insurance Law Practice Guide. Before coming to Penn State Law, French taught at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and Villanova Law School, and he was a former partner at K&L Gates LLP where he worked as a commercial litigator.