Given the limited coverage offered, it might seem the OCP is past its prime and of little practical use. However, the OCP is not designed to be a substitute for a CGL; it is most effective when written in conjunction with a CGL. Most commonly, an OCP policy is usually an alternative to adding the owner or contractor as an additional insured on the CGL policy of the general contractor or subcontractor.
What follows are some the benefits and drawbacks of the OCP policy compared to the more common additional insured endorsements. To make the explanation more concrete, let's apply each situation to a hypothetical general contractor called Great Big General Contractor, Inc. (GBGC), and its subcontractor, Not So Big Subcontractor, Inc. (NSBS).
Benefits of the OCP
The following are some of the benefits of an OCP policy.
Limits. As an additional insured, you have to share the limits with all other insureds (including the named insured) for the same occurrence and also must share the aggregate limit for multiple occurrences. If you don't yearn to share (at least your insurance), then the OCP policy is an option. The OCP policy limits (the OCP policy has an each occurrence and an aggregate limit) are dedicated exclusively to the named insured. In our hypothetical, when GBGC requires NSBS to purchase an OCP with GBGC as the named insured (NSBS would be the contractor "designated" on the OCP Declarations), the OCP policy limits available to GBGC can be exhausted only by payment of claims on behalf of GBGC—there is no sharing involved!
Other Insurance. The battle lines are drawn when the coverage for the additional insured is to be "primary and noncontributory." In our hypothetical, if GBGC was an additional insured on the CGL policy of NSBS, GBGC would likely expect that the liability coverage available to GBGC as an additional insured would be primary coverage to GBGC (the NSBS CGL insurer would respond first) and the CGL insurer for NSBS would not seek contribution from GBGC's own CGL insurer.
Of course, this doesn't always work as planned. The OCP policy's Other Insurance condition helps resolve this persistent problem by stating:
The insurance afforded by this Coverage Part is primary insurance and we will not seek contribution from any other insurance available to you unless the other insurance is provided by a contractor other than the designated "contractor" for the same operation and job location designated in the Declarations. [Emphasis added.]
Simply put, the OCP insurer will pay on behalf of GBGC first and will not seek contribution from GBGC's own liability insurance.
Policy Cancellation. From time to time, a general contractor tenders a claim to the CGL insurer of its subcontractor, seeking coverage as an additional insured and, to its surprise, finds the subcontractor's CGL policy has been canceled. If in our example, GBGC tendered a claim as an additional insured to the CGL insurer of NSBS and found the policy was canceled, GBGC could refer back the certificate of insurance. However, GBGC would find that NSBS's insurer stated it would endeavor to provide GBGC notice of cancellation, but if it didn't, its agent or insurer of NSBS is not liable. By contrast, the OCP policy is issued to and should be delivered to the named insured (GBGC).
Possibly more importantly, the OCP policy cannot be canceled without giving advance written notice to the first named insured (GBGC) as well as the designated "contractor" (NSBS). Reliance on a certificate of insurance and the "endeavor" wording for cancellation notice is not a concern with the OCP policy.
Losses. While the OCP does not benefit the "designated contractor" in that no liability insurance protection is provided to the "designated contractor" (who in our hypothetical is NSBS), there is a very clear "noncoverage" benefit to the contractor purchasing OCP coverage for another. Losses paid by the OCP insurer are usually outside of the contractor's liability insurance program and therefore there is usually little or no effect on the contractor's own insurance costs. If the insurer of the OCP policy purchased by NSBS for GBGC pays a $1 million liability loss on behalf of GBGC, that loss will usually not be factored into future premiums of NSBS.
This benefit is even greater to the contractor purchasing the OCP if the contractor has a loss-sensitive program, such as large deductible program. If NSBS has included GBGC as an additional insured on NSBS's CGL policy, and NSBS's CGL is written with $250,000 each-occurrence liability deductible, the same claim paid on behalf of GBGC as an additional insured would likely cost NSBS $250,000, the amount of the deductible. When considering its deductible, the OCP policy looks much more attractive to NSBS.
The Drawbacks of the OCP
Continuing with our illustration, the following are some the limitations of the OCP policy compared to the more common additional insured endorsements.
Limited Insuring Agreement. As noted above, the coverage promised to the named insured is indeed very limited in its scope. The insuring agreement has two parts to consider.
First, the named insured is covered only for its liability for the acts of the designated contractor, but only while the designated contractor is performing operations for the named insured at the location specified in the Declarations. In our example, GBGC is covered only if the liability of GBGC is alleged to arise from the actions of NSBS. In other words, coverage only applies to GBGC if the allegations are that GBGC is liable because of the negligence of NSBS. Imposing liability on a blameless party (GBGC) for the actions of others (NSBS) is often called vicarious liability. Coverage for the actions of GBGC (except for "general supervision") is expressly excluded.
Second, the named insured of an OCP is covered only for its liability arising out of its acts or omissions in the "general supervision" of the designated contractor and then only for the operations at the location shown in the Declarations. In our example, GBGC is only covered for its direct liability—that is, for its own actions—if the liability arises out of "general supervision" of NSBS. "General supervision" is not defined, so it can be a bit difficult to determine exactly where coverage begins and ends for GBGC.
If GBGC was an additional insured on the CGL policy of NSBS, using the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) CG 20 10 or CG 20 33 July 2004 edition date, whether the liability alleged against GBGC involved only GBGC's vicarious liability for the actions of NSBS or "general supervision" is not decisive as to coverage. Provided the liability was caused at least in part by the acts or omissions of NSBS (or in part by NSBS's subcontractors) in the performance of NSBS ongoing operations for GBGC, GBGC is provided coverage as an additional insured. Put another way, if NSBS actions in performing for GBGC are even a slight factor in causing the injury or damage that is alleged to be the liability of GBGC, GBGC is protected as an additional insured.
Vicarious Liability. When coverage is limited to the vicarious liability of the named insured, coverage applies only to liability imposed on the named insured as a result of the designated contractor's acts and not as result of the named insured's own acts or failure to act. Although the OCP does not use the phrase "vicarious liability," one court stated:
… the courts must construe the "arising out of [the subcontractor's work]" provision as one providing coverage in cases where the alleged liability is vicarious. [Emphasis added.]
St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. and Hardin Constr. Grp., Inc. v. Hanover Ins. and Travelers Ins., 187 F. Supp. 2d. 584 (E.D.N.C. 2000).
However, conventional wisdom to the contrary, one who engages an independent contractor is usually not vicariously liable for the acts or omissions of the independent contractor.
Except as stated in sections 410–429, the employer of an independent contractor is not liable for physical harm caused to another by an act or omission of the contractor or his servants.
Restatement of the Law (Second) of Torts.
While there are clearly exceptions to this general rule, the general rule is still observed in many instances. For example, in a situation where the court was ascertaining coverage for an insured covered only for its vicarious liability for the acts of an independent contractor, the court observed:
North Carolina courts recognize three exceptions to the rule that general contractors are not subject to liability when their subcontractors have been negligent: 1) situations where the general contractor/employer retains control over the manner and method of the subcontractor's substantive work; 2) situations where the work is deemed to be inherently dangerous; and 3) situations involving negligent hiring and/or retention of the subcontractor by the general contractor. Rather, each of the exceptions to the no-liability rule suggest forms of direct liability—liability on the part of the general contractor for something the general contractor has done or failed to do. [Emphasis added.]
St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. and Hardin Constr. Grp.
The court went on to find no coverage for the additional insured:
The complaint does not, at any point, mention vicarious liability, nor does the complaint assert in lay terms that Durham seeks to hold Hardin liable for J&A Mechanical's negligent acts. Thus, it would appear that Hardin's liability, as alleged in the complaint, does not arise out of J&A Mechanical's work but rather, out of its own independent acts and omissions, alleged in detail in Durham's complaint. [Emphasis added.]
As the court found the insured was provided coverage only for its vicarious liability, and there was no attempt to impose vicarious liability on insured, no coverage was afforded to the insured.
The limited circumstances in which vicarious liability may be imposed on those who engage independent contractors has been the topic of some discussion by a few courts in the context of additional insured coverage. Here is one court's observation:
We reject Maryland Casualty's argument that the intent of an additional insured endorsement is to "provide protection where the named insured, performing a job for the additional insured, blunders." Where the additional insured is held no more than vicariously liable for the acts of the named insured, the additional insured would have an action for indemnity against the primary wrongdoer. "Thus, an endorsement that provides coverage only for the additional insured's vicarious liability may be illusory and provide no coverage at all." In this light, it is obvious that additional insureds expect more from an endorsement clause than mere protection from vicarious liability. [Emphasis added.]
Marathon Ashland Pipeline v. Maryland Cas., 243 F.3d 1232 (10th Cir. 2001).
Even though the above case concerns interpreting the breadth of an additional insured endorsement, it is revealing to consider how little coverage this court believes is provided for an insured when the coverage is for its vicarious liability for the acts of an independent contractor.
General Supervision. Courts have provided some guidance as to what it considered to be "general supervision." In Union Electric v. Pacific Indem., 422 S.W.2d 87 (Mo. App. 1967), an employee (Palmer) of the subcontractor (Davey) was seriously injured when he came into contact with an uninsulated power line when trimming trees around the line pursuant to a contract with Union Electric. Palmer brought a complaint against Union Electric, alleging Union Electric was negligent in failing to warn Palmer of inadequately insulated power lines. Union Electric's insurer contended that Union Electric's alleged liability did not result from Union's supervision of Davey in that Union supervised only the result of the work did not supervise the method, manner, or means of performance of the work.
The court ruled:
The factual situation presented shows the insured's contract with Davey required the insured [Union Electric] to designate the areas along the distribution and transmission lines of the insured where Davey would cut and trim trees. … we hold that the words "general supervision" as used in the policy in question do not mean supervision of the method, manner, and/or means employed by Davey…We hold that the words mean supervision of the work of Davey only to the extent necessary to see that the work was done in accordance with the contract…and to provide the area of the transmission lines where Davey would cut and trim the trees. Palmer's claim fell within the coverage of the policy. Insured's failure to warn Palmer arose out of its supervisory function. [Emphasis added.]
In a similar case, Continental Cas. v. Florida & Light Co., 222 So. 2d 58 (Fla. App. 1969), the Court of Appeals in Florida found allegations made by an injured employee of a contractor to constitute omissions of general supervision, requiring the insurer to provide defense to Florida Power & Light. Specifically, the court cited the following specific allegations made by the contractor's injured employee:
Among other specific allegations were the following: Florida Power & Light (1) negligently failed to provide the employee with a safe place to work, (2) negligently failed to make reasonable inspection of the work site and the equipment on which the contractor was to do the work, (3) negligently failed to take reasonable precautions and adopt proper safeguards to protect him while he was doing the work, and (4) negligently required the work to be done upon a high voltage electrical transmission line which was so situated that there was a great danger of grounded material and equipment thereon being energized. All of these allegations may in their implications charge acts which constitute omission of general supervision under the broad language of the policy. This interpretation is authorized under the principle that any ambiguous term of an insurance policy will be most strongly construed against the insurance company. [Emphasis supplied.]
While the courts may find the scope of "general supervision" to be quite broad when interpreting the insuring agreement of the OCP liability policy, consider the facts and ruling in Citizens Mut. Ins. v. Employers Mut. Liab. Ins., 212 N.W.2d 724 (Mich. App. 1973). There, a contractor of the City of Alma was installing a new sewer line for the city when an employee of the contractor was killed when the trench in which the employee was working collapsed due to a water main rupture (the rupture caused the side walls of the trench to collapse). Coworkers of the worker could not shut off the water main as the hydrant key necessary to shut off the water was not available. The court observed:
"General supervision" of the actions of an independent contractor digging a sewer line does not and cannot, in our view, extend to keeping a hydrant key available for use in a possible emergency. It was the "act or omission of the named insured [Alma] or his employees". This is just exactly what Employers clearly, plainly, and unequivocally excluded from its coverage. [Emphasis added.]
Whether the City of Alma would have been covered as an additional insured under the CG 20 10, July 2004 edition, endorsement to the subcontractor's CGL for a similar incident is speculation at best. However, if it could be found that the contractor's acts or omissions had at least been a factor in the death of its own employee, the City of Alma would have had coverage as an additional insured. For example, if the City of Alma pointed to the contractor's failure to use a trench box to protect its employee, such an omission may be argued as partly causing the bodily injury.
Costs. While a small premium usually is charged for extending coverage to an additional insured, the premium for the OCP policy is based on the contract price between the named insured and the designated contractor (usually with a rate per $1,000 of the contract price). Thus, a separate OCP can be several thousand dollars of premium (or more) depending on the size of the project, the limits required, etc. While it usually is the responsibility of the general contractor or subcontractor to purchase the OCP, such costs must usually be factored into the overall cost of the project by the owner or general contractor.
Limits. Because of the arrangement of the OCP policy—the policy is purchased for the benefit of the named insured by the designated contractor—the named insured will not likely have limits beyond the limits provided in the OCP policy Declarations page. In contrast, although it is sometimes unintended, an additional insured at times has available to it the full limits of not only the CGL policy of the subcontractor, but also the full limits of the subcontractor's umbrella or excess liability insurance program. For example, if GBGC is a named insured on its own OCP policy purchased by NSBS, the umbrella insurer for NSBS will not usually provide limits to GBGC in excess of the OCP policy.
If GBGC was an additional insured on the CGL policy of NSBS, GBGC might have available to it not only NSBS CGL limit, but also the full limit of NSBS umbrella program, even if the limits of NSBS umbrella program exceed what was required of NSBS in its agreement with GBGC.
Completed Operations. The OCP policy excludes coverage for bodily injury or property damage if such injury or damage takes place after the earlier of when the operation has been completed or put to its intended use by anyone other than another contractor or subcontractor working for the Designated Contractor on that project.
The ISO CG 20 37 and many insurers' independently filed additional insured endorsements provide coverage for the additional insured for bodily injury or property damage within the products and completed operations hazard. This coverage option is not available on the OCP policy.