The court found coverage was properly denied based on the subcontractor's failure to follow contract specifications in blasting at the job site. Westfield Ins. Co. v. Carpenter Reclamation, Inc., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 130752 (S.D. W. Va. Sept. 18, 2014).
Carpenter was hired by the Board of Education (BOE) to perform preliminary site clearing, demolition, rock excavation, and establishment of sub-grade for a building. Carpenter was to excavate to 3.5 feet below the floor subgrade so that plumbing and other utilities could be installed.
Carpenter, however, blasted to depths deeper than required, including some areas that were up to nine feet. The BOE sued, alleging over-blasting and having to pay the cost of remediating the problem, along with breach of contract issues.
Carpenter tendered to its insurer, Westfield. Coverage was denied because Westfield contended the BOE did not allege property damage or an occurrence.
Westfield filed for suit for a declaratory judgment. Westfield moved for summary judgment, arguing that Carpenter excavated to depths beyond what was called for in the contract and then used improper fill to try and remedy the problem. By installing improper fill, Carpenter did not conform to the contract. Consequently, there was no property damage or occurrence alleged by the BOE in the underlying suit.
Carpenter argued that the alleged overblasting and over-excavation caused physical harm to the subsurface rock. Further, the overblasting was unexpected and unintended, resulting in physical harm and damage to tangible property.
The court agreed with Westfield that the BOE's allegations did not allege an occurrence resulting in property damage. Carpenter's argument that the overblasting somehow damaged the BOE's property was illogical because it caused damage to the very rock which was to be excavated after the blasting.