Court Denies Applicability of Professional Services Exclusion

Court Denies Applicability of Professional Services Exclusion

Morsheda Hashem - Querrey & Harrow, Ltd. - Chicago - October 23, 2020

            In a declaratory judgment action, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois held that an insurer, Travelers Property Casualty Company of America (“Travelers”), had a dMorsheda Hashemuty to defend its insured, Collins Engineers, Inc. (“Collins”), under its insurance policy that included a professional services exclusion. Collins Engineers, Inc., v. Travelers Property Casualty Company of America, N.D, Ill., No. 19-1203, March 27, 2020.

            There, an embankment supporting tracks for the Chicago Transit Authority’s (“CTA”) collapsed and consequently disrupted train services for months to and from Skokie, Illinois. Subsequently, the CTA sued several parties that were involved in the project, including Collins.

Collins was a subcontractor hired by the embankment project’s general contractor, Walsh Construction Company (“Walsh”) to design an earth retention system used for the project. Thereafter, Collins notified its insurer, Travelers, and requested that Travelers defend Collins in the suit by the CTA.

Travelers declined to defend Collins, arguing that the CTA’s claims fell within the professional services exclusion under Traveler’s insurance policy with Collins. Collins then filed the lawsuit, seeking a declaratory judgment that Travelers had a duty to defend it under the insurance policy. Thus, the issue in this case is whether Travelers had a duty to defend Collins or whether Travelers, the insurer, is relieved of that duty by the “professional services” exclusion.

            The professional services endorsement portion of the policy that Travelers cited to as an exception states that losses from bodily injury or property damage “arising out of the rendering or failure to render ‘professional services’” are excluded from coverage. “Professional services” are those services that require specialized skill or training.

Here, the CTA alleged that Collins had performed physical or manual services, besides professional services. Accordingly, the court noted that an insurer had a duty to defend even where the insurer is unlikely to be found liable in the underlying suits. As a result, the court granted Collins’ motion for partial summary judgment and denied Travelers’ motion for summary judgment.

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