24th & Hoffman Investors, LLC v. Northfield Insurance Co.Annotate this Case
Northfield issued a policy to insure an apartment complex. The coverage excludes liability for violations of the insured’s duty to maintain habitable premises; this exclusion also encompasses coverage for “any claim or ‘suit’ ” that also alleges habitability claims. Tenants sued the insured, alleging multiple habitability claims and other causes of action that were arguably not based on habitability. Northfield declined to defend the tenants’ lawsuit. After settling the underlying action, the insured sued Northfield for breach of its duty to defend. The trial court concluded the case presented a “mixed” action containing both potentially covered and uncovered claims, and that Northfield was obliged to provide a defense.
The court of appeal reversed. The policy exclusion is plain and clear. The court rejected arguments that claims for retaliation, conversion, and trespass to chattels did not arise from the duty to provide habitable premises. The retaliation concerned complaints about habitable conditions and the claims are alleged in a suit that also alleges habitability claims.