National Surety Corp. v. Westlake Investments: On the Road to Right Reasoning

by Richard J. Kirschman, Whitfield & Eddy, PLC, Des Moines, IA
(Defense Update - Vol. XVIII., No. 1, Winter 2016)

On July 8, 1999, the Iowa Supreme Court issued its opinion in Pursell Constr., Inc. v. Hawkeye-Security Ins. Co., 596 N.W.2d 67 (Iowa 1999).  Pursell involved an insured contractor’s request for a defense and coverage from its insurer for an action by a general contractor alleging that Pursell had breached its contract and negligently failed to construct the lowest level of two houses at the elevation required by local ordinance.  Pursell Constr., 569 N.W.2d at 68.  In response to the contractor’s claims, Pursell pursued a declaratory judgment action against its insurer, Hawkeye, seeking a defense and coverage under its CGL policy.  Subsequent to the district court’s finding that there was coverage for the claims against Pursell, Hawkeye appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court, contending that the claims did not satisfy the policy’s “occurrence” requirement and, further, that several pertinent exclusions precluded coverage if an occurrence was found.

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