Wisznia Co., Inc. v. General Star Indemnity Co.

(Client: General Star Indemnity Co.)

On July 16, 2014, the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for the firm’s client, a CGL insurer, finding that the policies’ professional liability exclusions precluded any duty to defend the insured architecture firm (Wisznia Co.) in a lawsuit brought by Jefferson Parish alleging that the firm designed and prepared a defective set of plans for the Jefferson Parish Performing Arts Center. After settling the underlying Jefferson Parish lawsuit, Wisznia filed suit in federal court against its CGL insurer seeking a declaration that the insurer owed a duty to defend it in the Jefferson Parish lawsuit and must reimburse it $574,000 incurred in defense of that lawsuit. Represented by H. Minor Pipes, III and Catherine Fornias Giarrusso, the insurer sought summary judgment contending that the policies’ professional liability exclusions barred any defense obligation. The trial court agreed, granting summary judgment for the insurer, and Wisznia appealed to the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit upheld the trial court’s judgment, reasoning that “every one of the factual allegations pertained to the rendering of professional architecture services,” and thus the exclusion applied. The court rejected Wisznia’s claim that the Petition’s catch-all negligence allegation alone could give rise to a duty to defend under the CGL policies.