Confusion Between Certificate Holder and Additional Insured Status Leaves GC Exposed to Multimillion-Dollar Suit

Lawsuit Summary:

A California judge ruled that an insurer had no duty to indemnify a general contractor, even though the GC was listed as a certificate holder on the COI. An employee of the GC’s subcontractor fell from scaffolding while working on the property and sued the homeowner after sustaining injuries from the fall. The homeowner then filed a complaint for indemnity against the GC, and GC was not able to access protection under the subcontractor’s insurance because they were not listed as an additional insured. The GC is now on the hook for this pricey lawsuit.

Key Takeaways from Alex Kario, Director of Operations at Jones:

  • COIs do not automatically provide coverage or rights to third parties. It’s crucial for general contractors to understand that being named as a certificate holder does not necessarily afford them any coverage or protections.
  • In the case of blanket endorsements, written contracts are essential to establish additional insured status. The court cited lack of evidence of a written contract between the subcontractor and GC requiring them to be added as an additional insured.


Alex’s Best Practice Tips: 

  • If you rely on COIs to verify additional insured status instead of endorsements, ensure there is explicit verbiage on the COI indicating the listed entities are additional insureds. It’s not enough if a company is merely listed on the Description of Operations section without verbiage indicating additional insured status applies.


  • Pay attention to which policy the additional insured applies to. Is it for general liability, automobile, umbrella, or something else? This is usually indicated in the Acord 25 COI checkbox columns or Description of Operations. 


  • Ensure completed operations are covered by the General Liability policy as completed operations exclusions are commonplace and can leave organizations exposed to unforeseen risks.

Resources on Additional Insureds:

 📄 Blog post

 📽️ Video

 📝 Quiz

All legal information sourced from Law360.

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