You don't get to meet the Chief Judge of a U.S. Court of Appeals every day. Unless perhaps you work for her or belong to his nuclear family.
Blawgletter had the honor of having a visit with Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs, who presides over the Second Circuit, at our firm's open house last week in New York City. We found him fun to talk with. We noted that his Court starts each opinion with a "blurb" and the name of the judge who made the Ruling in Question. No other court of appeals does that. We don't know why.
Anyway, we left our tete-a-tete with His Honor feeling even better about his Court. And today we saw a brand-new opinion by none other than Chief Judge Jacobs.
The blurb says this:
Ment Bros. Iron Works, Inc. appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Hellerstein, J.) granting summary judgment in favor of Interstate Fire & Casualty Co. in an insurance dispute. Reversed.
Ment Bros. Iron Works, Inc. v. Interstate Fire & Cas. Co., No. 11-2596, slip op. at 1 (2d Cir. Dec. 11, 2012).
The fight related to coverage for a property damage claim against a welding subcontractor -- Ment Bros. -- whose welding sparks seem to have damaged windows in the penthouse of a new apartment building at 40 Mercer Street, in the Soho area of NYC. The building owner wanted Ment Bros. to pay for the harm, and Ment Bros. in turn desired its insurer, Interstate, to defend against and if necessary pay the claim. Interstate balked.
So did the district court. The dispute boiled down to whether 40 Mercer qualified as a "residential propert[y]" and if so whether it also constituted "apartments". The policy excluded coverage for "residential properties" other than ones with nothing but "apartments". Interstate pointed out that the owners always wanted to sell the units in the building as "condominiums" and not to rent them as "apartments". The district court gave that fact great weight and thus ruled that the claim fell within the exclusion for "residential properties".
The Second Circuit reversed. Chief Judge Jacobs wrote:
The contract wording governs. Whatever the developer's design or marketing plan, the wording of the exception to the exclusion, and the related definitions, indicate that Ment was covered. Moreover, the qualifying language in the policy supports the view that an apartment is not a condominium until after conversion:
In the event any "apartment" to which coverage under this policy applies is converted to a " condominium, . . . ", then coverage under this policy is excluded for any claims for . . . "property damage" arising out of . . . the construction of said "apartments" which occur after the conversion of the "apartment" into a "condominium, townhome or multi-family dwelling." J.A. 87 (emphases added).
Interstate does not dispute that at the time the damage occurred, the 40 Mercer project was owned by and titled to a single owner.
Id. at 12-13 (applying New York law).
By the way, the project looks mighty high-end to us. See, for instance, this: