Canada: SCC Holds That "Faulty Workmanship" Exclusion Does Not Preclude Coverage

The insurance industry will be interested in Ledcor Construction Ltd v. Northbridge Indemnity Insurance Co1 because of principles the Supreme Court of Canada applied to the "faulty workmanship" exclusion in a Builders' Risk policy. The Court held that the exclusion does not preclude coverage "merely because the damage results to that part of the project on which the contractor was working."

The decision also establishes that insurance contracts need to be interpreted consistently because they are standard form contracts.  This was noted to be an exception to the Court's decision in Sattva2 where it was decided that the interpretation of a contract was reviewed on a reasonableness standard on appeal: this meant that there would be no "correct" interpretation of a contract. The Court recognized that standard insurance contracts cannot be given different meaning in different situations.


The claim arose from scratched windows. A contractor was hired to clean the windows of a recently-completed office tower. In carrying out the work, the contractor scratched the windows resulting in some $2 million in costs to replace damaged windows.

The owner and the general contractor claimed against the project all-risk Builders' Risk policy. The insurers denied the claim, relying on the exclusion clause, which provided that the policy did not insure:

The cost of making good faulty workmanship...unless physical damage not otherwise excluded by this policy results, in which event this policy shall insure such resulting damage.

The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench found that the window-cleaning was "faulty workmanship" and that the exclusion clause did not exclude the damage that the cleaning caused. The Court of Appeal reversed that decision on the grounds that the coverage was for physical loss or damage and therefore the exclusion had to be interpreted to exclude from coverage some kind of physical loss.  The Court of Appeal developed a test of physical connectedness to find the boundary between faulty workmanship and resulting damage.

The Supreme Court's Decision

The Supreme Court concluded that the damaged glass was covered as resultant damage.  It rejected the lower court's conclusion that the covered damage could not be to the part of the building that the contractor was working on. It found the physical connectedness test to be unnecessary.

Because the Supreme Court found the exclusion clause to be ambiguous it applied well established principles for the interpretation of insurance contracts. It looked to the broader purpose of the policy for guidance, noting that all-risk coverage is meant to be broad and faulty workmanship exclusions are meant to be narrow.

The insurers argued that case law supported the conclusion that resultant damage did not include damage to the part of the project on which the contractor was working.  The decision includes a helpful review of a number of cases where similar issues were considered.  The Supreme Court held: interpretation...that precludes from coverage any and all damage from a contractor's faulty workmanship merely because the damage results to part of the project on which the contractor was working would....undermine the purpose behind builders' risk policies.

This interpretation is said to coincide with the builders' realistic expectations and ensures that courts do not arrive at an unrealistic result.

Although the Supreme Court provides useful guidance on the interpretation of the exclusion clause, the decision is more significant for the decision that carves out an exception to its recent decision in Sattva Capital Corp v Creston Moly Corp3 that contractual interpretation is a question of mixed fact and law which means that interpretations must be "reasonable" but not "correct". Insurers and courts alike recognized that this meant that policy wordings could be given different meanings in different contexts.

The Supreme Court noted that insurance contracts "are generally determined by the standard form contract" and concluded that interpretation of standard form contracts is "a question of law in most circumstances".

The foregoing means that previous precedent will guide the interpretation of insurance contracts. Unlike other contracts, the factual circumstances in which the contract is signed are largely unimportant since insurance coverage conditions are usually very similar amongst customers. To ensure consistency and predictability for insurers and their customers, courts need to interpret the same contractual language the same way.  This is possible when trial courts interpret contractual language on a correctness standard, rather than the less precise reasonableness standard. 

Concerns for Insurers

While the decision appears to settle the question of how policies should be interpreted and the value of precedent cases, some concern arises from the fact that the Supreme Court concludes that these principles apply in "most circumstances".  It is arguable that in cases where an insurer negotiates the terms of the policy, as opposed to presenting standard language, the contract is no longer a "standard form" to which the correctness standard applies.

Another issue to watch arises from the Supreme Court's reliance on the purpose of the policy in interpreting the policy.  Courts have increasingly taken the view that policy language determines the outcome on the basis that the insurer has the power to draft the language to meet the intention.  This case suggests that the purpose of a policy or class of policies might be argued in establishing the reasonable interpretation of policy wordings.

The Supreme Court's focus on the purpose behind builders' risk policies means that insurers may want to review exclusion clauses in those policies to ensure that they are clear in their intention so that Courts are not required to inquire into the purpose that underlies the policy.


The Supreme Court settled the issue of whether or not the exception to the faulty workmanship exclusion that covers resultant damage can include damage to the part of the project that the insured is working on – it can.  The Supreme Court also creates an exception to Sattva that should be welcome to insurers, clarifying that the standard of correctness applies in interpreting standard form insurance contracts.  This will reduce the likelihood of inconsistent interpretations of the same or similar wordings in different cases.  As such, existing precedent remains a useful tool in interpreting insurance contracts.


1  2016 SCC 37

2 Sattva Capital Corp. v. Creston Moly Corp., 2014 SCC 53

3 2014 SCC 53

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
8 Nov 2016, Seminar, Ottawa, Canada

The prospect of an internal investigation raises many thorny issues. This presentation will canvass some of the potential triggering events, and discuss how to structure an investigation, retain forensic assistance and manage the inevitable ethical issues that will arise.

22 Nov 2016, Seminar, Ottawa, Canada

From the boardroom to the shop floor, effective organizations recognize the value of having a diverse workplace. This presentation will explore effective strategies to promote diversity, defeat bias and encourage a broader community outlook.

7 Dec 2016, Seminar, Ottawa, Canada

Staying local but going global presents its challenges. Gowling WLG lawyers offer an international roundtable on doing business in the U.K., France, Germany, China and Russia. This three-hour session will videoconference in lawyers from around the world to discuss business and intellectual property hurdles.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.