On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Bergen County, Nos. L-3080-06 and L-7340-06.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Wefing, Parker and R. B. Coleman.
Essex Insurance Company ("Essex") appeals from a trial court order granting summary judgment to Pyramid Construction & Engineering, LLC ("Pyramid") and declaring that Essex is obligated to defend and indemnify Pyramid in connection with claims asserted against it in litigation captioned Gabriele v. Pyramid. After reviewing the record in light of the contentions advanced on appeal, we affirm.
Pyramid was the prime contractor on a construction project known as Riverside Plaza located in Lyndhurst, New Jersey.
Pyramid was insured under a commercial general liability policy issued by Essex. On August 3, 2005, Salvatore Gabriele was killed at the jobsite when he was struck by falling debris. At the time of his death, Gabriele was employed by Bravante Automatic Sprinkler Co. which was a subcontractor on the project but not a subcontractor of Pyramid.
A wrongful death action was commenced, seeking damages on behalf of Gabriele's estate and his survivors, and Pyramid was joined as a defendant in that action. Pyramid notified Essex, which declined coverage. Essex relied upon one portion of the "Additional Conditions Endorsement" attached to Pyramid's policy. The concluding paragraph of that endorsement stated:
Further, there is no coverage under this policy for 'bodily injury', 'personal injury' or 'property damage' sustained by any contractor, self-employed contractor, and/or subcontractor, or any employee, leased worker, temporary worker or volunteer help of the same.
Since Gabriele was an employee of a subcontractor on the site, Essex maintained that the claim for damages following his death was excluded under this language.
Pyramid then filed a declaratory judgment action that was consolidated with the pending wrongful death suit. The question of whether Pyramid was entitled to coverage under the Essex policy was presented to the trial court on cross-motions for summary judgment. Pyramid contended that the policy was, at best, ambiguous and that under well-settled principles of construction, it was entitled to coverage under the policy. The trial court agreed; it granted Pyramid's motion and denied that of Essex. This appeal followed.
Pyramid restates the argument it made below. It points both to the placement of this language within the policy and to the declarations page of the policy which indicates that contractors and subcontractors are included within the policy's coverage. Essex, on the other hand, contends that no ambiguity exists at all in the policy language and that the trial court erred when it relied on the doctrine of reasonable expectations.
We note the apparent facial conflict between the policy's declarations page, which indicates unrestricted coverage for subcontractors and the exclusionary language upon which Essex relies. In such a posture,
[w]e recognize those well-settled principles governing the interpretation of contracts of insurance that mandate broad reading of coverage provisions, narrow reading of exclusionary provisions, resolution of ambiguities in the insured's favor, and construction consistent with the insured's reasonable expectations. ...