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Archive for the ‘Insurance Coverage and Extra-Contractual Liability’ Category

More Restaurant Owners ask Courts to Find that COVID-19 Has Caused “Direct Physical Loss” Triggering Business Interruption Coverage

Posted on: April 1st, 2020

By: Renata Hoddinott and Isis Miranda

Famed chef Thomas Keller’s restaurant groups sued two insurers in Napa County Superior Court last week, seeking a declaration that the policies cover business interruption losses incurred because of a Shelter-at-Home Order. In the lawsuit, two of the Keller group’s Yountville restaurants, The French Laundry, a Michelin three-star winner, and also-acclaimed Bouchon Bistro, seek a determination that Hartford Fire Insurance Company and Trumbull Insurance Company (collectively “Hartford”) are obligated to pay substantial business interruption losses.

Those losses occurred, according to the Complaint, after the Napa Health Officer issued the Shelter-at-Home Order on March 18, 2020, that directed all residents to stay at their homes and all non-essential businesses to halt operations. As a result of the order, the Keller group temporarily shuttered the two restaurants and furloughed more than 300 employees.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most states have ordered restaurants to close their dining rooms, including in California, Nevada and New York, where Keller operates several restaurants, as well. While some restaurants have shifted their operations to takeout and delivery, many—for logistical or financial considerations—have elected to closed entirely.

While restaurants and businesses of all sizes are experiencing losses, Keller’s may be greater than others as the nine-course tasting menu at The French Laundry is $325 per person with any selection from its extensive wine list not included in that price.  It is not unusual for dinner for two at The French Laundry to cost $1,000. Thus, Keller’s losses will be substantial.

But will they be covered? Property insurance policies typically require “physical loss or damage” to property. When property is destroyed by fire or storm, that threshold requirement is easily met. But here the alleged “physical loss or damage” from a virus is invisible.

California courts generally adhere to the traditional interpretation of the term “physical,” as requiring some tangible aspect perceptible through the senses. In MRI Healthcare Center of Glendale, Inc. v. State Farm General Insurance Co., a California appellate court concluded that the insured had not sustained a “physical loss” because it failed to demonstrate any “distinct, demonstrable [or] physical alteration” of the MRI machine, which failed after it was turned off to allow for repairs to the hospital for rain damage. The court explained: “For there to be a ‘loss’ within the meaning of the policy, some external force must have acted upon the insured property to cause a physical change in the condition of the property, i.e., it must have been ‘damaged’ within the common understanding of that term.”

In so holding, the MRI Healthcare court relied on another California appellate court case, Ward General Insurance Services, Inc. v. Employers Fire Insurance Company (2003), which found that loss of information stored in a database did not constitute “direct physical loss.” The court in Ward General referred to the dictionary definition of the term “physical” before concluding: “Thus, relying on the ordinary and popular sense of the words, we say with confidence that the loss of plaintiff’s database does not qualify as a ‘direct physical loss,’ unless the database has a material existence, formed out of tangible matter, and is perceptible to the sense of touch.”

The requirement that property must be physically altered or changed to constitute property damage may preclude coverage for business owners looking to their property policies to mitigate their losses. Property policies also typically require that the resulting loss of income was caused by the property damage. Therefore, California courts would need to find that the alleged damage to physical property was the predominant cause of the loss of income, rather than, for example, fear of contagion.

Keller alleges that Hartford issued an all-risk policy to his restaurants, providing coverage for losses from direct physical loss or direct physical damage unless the loss is specifically excluded or limited. The Complaint also alleges that Keller’s policy includes additional coverages in the event of business closures by order of Civil Authority and specifically extends coverage to direct physical loss or damage caused by virus.

Like similar complaints filed in the wake of COVID-19, Keller’s Complaint claims the scientific community has largely recognized the virus as a case of real physical loss. It claims that the virus can remain on surfaces of objects or materials for up to 28 days.

The Complaint also invokes the government’s authority, claiming that the Napa County Health Department explicitly states it issued the Order because of evidence of physical damage to property. The Order provides: “This Order is issued based on evidence of increasing occurrence of COVID-19 throughout the Bay Area, increasing likelihood of occurrence of COVID-19 within the County, and the physical damage to property caused by the virus.”

Typical “Civil Authority” policy provisions provide coverage for business interruption losses stemming from a government order that prohibits access to the insured’s premises. They generally require that lack of access result from “physical loss or damage” to property other than the insured’s premises, which itself resulted from a “covered cause of loss.”

Keller alleges that all access to the restaurant properties is denied as a result of the Order. Notably, however, Keller’s lawsuit does not include his other Yountville eatery, the more casual Ad Hoc, which is open for takeout orders per its website.

A court might also need to address whether the Order “prohibits” access to the affected restaurants and whether the Order was issued because of physical damage to property. Although the Order itself provides that it was “issued based on evidence of . . . physical damage to property caused by the virus,” and Keller alleges that the presence of  COVID-19 constitutes property damage by lingering on surfaces for up to 28 days, California precedent may not support a finding that the property has been physically changed or altered.

Keller seeks a judicial determination that: (1) the Order constitutes a prohibition of access to premises by a Civil Authority as defined in the policy; (2) the Order triggers coverage because the policy does not include an exclusion for a viral pandemic and actually extends coverage for loss or damage due to virus; and (3) the policy provides coverage for any current and future civil authority closures of restaurants in Napa County and provides business income coverage due to physical loss or damage from COVID-19.

Keller’s attorney says the suit against Hartford–and other similar challenges filed by business owners–is intended to establish legal precedent that businesses facing mandated coronavirus closures are covered by their business interruption insurance policies. Keller is not the only restauranteur seeking such a determination relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, one of Keller’s attorneys filed suit on behalf of New Orleans seafood restaurant Oceana Grill seeking a declaration that its policy with Lloyd’s of London covers “direct physical loss” from “the event of the businesses closure by order of Civil Authority.”

The American Property Casualty Insurance Association has issued a broad statement that it believes most insurance policies—including those with business interruption coverage—do not cover losses stemming from viruses such as COVID-19, and that to “retroactively rewrite existing insurance policies” could put the insurance industry at risk.

Those seeking to evaluate coverage in a specific context must, of course, analyze the language of the specific policies, including, but not limited to, coverage provisions regarding crisis management, business interruption and contingent business interruption, and civil authority coverage.

While similar suits for business interruption losses were filed by insureds following the mad cow disease outbreak, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the Ebola virus, the widespread reach of COVID-19 indicates that coverage litigation stemming from it will be equally widespread. FMG will continue to report on coverage issues arising from these and future cases that will undoubtedly be filed in the coming days and months.

UPDATE:

Scratch Restaurants LLC, which operates Scratch Bar and Sushi Bar Los Angeles, sued Farmers Group in the Los Angeles Superior Court on April 1. The Scratch lawsuit asks the Court to declare whether stay-at-home orders and orders restricting in-person dining, issued by Los Angeles and Santa Barbara authorities, trigger Civil Authority and Business Income coverage under their policy.

Unlike some of the complaints reported on in this and other FMG blog posts, Scratch’s does not allege as fact that coronavirus has caused physical damage. Instead, Scratch asks the Court to declare whether it is entitled to coverage if it “can prove that there has been a physical loss and damage to the property in the immediate area of the insured properties.” It alleges that such a declaration will prevent Scratch “from being left without vital coverage acquired to ensured the survival of [its] businesses.” By implication, if nothing else, Scratch is seeking relief for losses that it cannot (yet) prove to be covered.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include the CARES Act, education claims, law enforcement, the real-world impact of business restrictions, and the viruses’ impact on the construction industry. Click here to register.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.** 

Coalition of Insurance and Business Groups Propose the COVID-19 Business and Employee Continuity and Recovery Fund

Posted on: April 1st, 2020

By: Nicole L. Graham and Zachariah E. Moura

A broad coalition has urged the federal government to create a recovery fund for businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Representatives of 36 trade groups from real estate, insurance, retail and other sectors issued a joint letter to the Trump Administration and Congress asking for rapid delivery of liquidity to impacted businesses—regardless of size, industry or location—to mitigate a larger financial crisis. 

The coalition gratefully acknowledges the loan programs instituted by the CARES Act and the Act’s support for “Main Street” businesses but advises that businesses seeking to avoid an “unprecedented systemic, economic crisis” need more liquidity. 

The proposed COVID-19 Business and Employee Continuity and Recovery Fund (the “Recovery Fund”) would be financed by the government. A special administrator would oversee the fund, with significant oversight and authority to enter into contracts to provide immediate relief to eligible businesses. 

The Recovery Fund would serve to help businesses retain and rehire their employees and meet operating expense obligations during a time when the businesses are unable to fully operate.  Quarantine and shelter-in-place measures, travel restrictions, and social distancing measures have created an unprecedented level of disruption across all industries. 

The letter warned, “[w]ithout broad-based and expeditious federal action, long-term damage to the financial markets, rampant unemployment, and irreparable harm to communities are almost certain.”  The proposed Recovery Fund is modeled after the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund and is designed to provide short-term and immediate relief to impacted businesses.  Some of the signatories including National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies and International Council of Shopping Centers have issued statements in support of the establishment of the Fund and called for swift action from the government. 

We will continue to monitor developments related to the Recovery Fund and provide updates as they occur. 

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include the CARES Act, education claims, law enforcement, the real-world impact of business restrictions, and the viruses’ impact on the construction industry. Click here to register.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.** 

With the 2020 Drafts in Limbo due to COVID-19, could College Athletes find Coverage under “Loss of Value” Policies?

Posted on: March 31st, 2020

By: Matthew Jones

The effective shutdown of sporting events due to the spread of COVID-19 is having a financial effect on many people in all walks of life.  Perhaps overlooked are college athletes who aspire to have contracts with professional teams. Increasingly, college athletes are insuring their careers against “Loss of Value” to protect the value of future contracts from decreasing below a predetermined amount due to significant injury or illness suffered during the coverage period. These policies are particularly important for athletes during the year leading up to their draft eligibility. Whether delays in the drafts will be covered by these policies is uncertain.

The policies require medical underwriting and may exclude specific pre-existing injuries or illnesses, such as osteoarthritis or degenerative conditions, drug and alcohol use, criminal acts, and mental, nervous or psychological disorders. Insurers first determine an athlete’s eligibility based on projected draft position. Depending on that position, policy limits vary between $1 million and $10 million. The underwriters then set a loss-of-value threshold: If the athlete is drafted below a specific position, and must sign for a lesser amount, the policy may be triggered. If the contract amount falls below that threshold as a direct result of injury or illness, the insurer will pay the difference between the contract’s value and the predetermined threshold.

Injury or illness does not automatically trigger benefits.  Instead, the athlete must tie the injury or illness directly to a decrease in value or lower draft position. Insurers evaluate other issues as well, including off-field conduct, poor performance during the season or at pre-draft events, a rise in the draft value of other athletes, and changes in a professional teams’ needs.

Loss of Value insurance generally applies in the context of injuries and illnesses, but what happens when a season has been forfeited?  The NCAA cancelled all spring sports for the remainder of the season, effectively ending the careers of many senior athletes in spring sports.  While some athletes may look to their Loss of Value insurance policies for protection, the policies may not apply if it the loss is not based on injury or illness. 

If an athlete contracted the coronavirus the analysis is much different.  When the NCAA is considering questions raised by an athlete’s illness it looks at “illness first manifested in the insured athlete during the period of this insurance which requires medical treatment by a physician and has negatively affected the athlete’s skills in a manner that causes substantial and material deterioration in his ability to perform in his occupation.”  It seems clear that coronavirus is as an “illness” under this definition assuming the athlete requires medical treatment, the illness negatively affects the athlete’s skills, and the negative effect causes substantial and material deterioration in the athlete’s ability to perform as a professional. 

In an attempt to help these athletes, the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility.  But what does such a decision do to those athletes who contracted the virus?  Does it mitigate or diminish the potential losses of the athletes? As with other COVID-related matters, these unprecedented questions will likely need to be resolved through litigation.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include the CCPA, the CARES Act, Education Claims, Law Enforcement and the viruses’ impact on the Construction Industry. Click here to register.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.** 

More States are Following New Jersey’s Lead in Enacting Legislation to Require Insurers to Cover COVID-19 Losses

Posted on: March 31st, 2020

By: Erin Lamb and Ben Dunlap

FMG reported extensively after New Jersey began debating a bill that would force insurers to cover Business Interruption losses arising from COVID-19. The New Jersey bill would require courts to ignore virus and bacteria exclusions, or other policy language that might exclude such losses.

Now legislatures in other states are joining that effort.

New York:  Assemblyman Robert C. Carroll, whose district covers parts of Brooklyn including Park Slope, introduced A10266, an Act “requiring certain perils be covered under business interruption insurance during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.” The bill starts by saying it applies  “[n]otwithstanding any provisions of law, rule or regulation to the contrary.…” It goes on to decree that any policy of insurance insuring against loss or damage of property that includes the loss of use and occupancy and business interruption, must treat such interruption as a “covered peril” during a period of “declared state emergency due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.”

The New York bill appears designed to nullify the 2006 ISO exclusion on losses for virus or bacteria. Assemblyman Carroll wrote an op-ed stating that it is “…unconscionable that insurance companies that were bailed out in 2008 won’t pay out… because they say ’viruses’ were either explicitly carved out of policies or because adjusters claim a ‘virus’ is not a ‘physical’ interruption.” Like the New Jersey bill, the New York law would apply to businesses with less than 100 eligible employees and calls for funds to be collected and made available for relief and reimbursement for insurers who must pay claims under this Act. Such funds would be collected from the insurance companies themselves in a special purpose apportionment. It would be retroactive to March 7, 2020.

Carroll is calling for the New York State Legislature to push off passing a state budget until COVID-19 related policy issues are addressed. Such a measure is essentially the only way that the law could pass in this legislative session, and it would still be subject to constitutional challenge.

Massachusetts: The Massachusetts legislature is considering another bill that attacks the virus exclusion, and states that “…no insurer in the commonwealth may deny a claim for the loss of use and occupancy and business interruption on account of (i) COVID-19 being a virus (even if the relevant insurance policy excludes losses resulting from viruses); or (ii) there being no physical damage to the property of the insured or to any other relevant property.”

The bill’s application is limited to policies issued to businesses in Massachusetts with 150 or fewer full-time employees. It would also apply only until the termination of the state of emergency declared in the Governor’s March 10, 2020 Executive Order 591.

The Massachusetts bill also creates a reimbursement process. Before it can be passed in the current session, the legislature must first grant the bill special emergency status.

To FMG’s knowledge, the Massachusetts bill is the first of its kind to tie COVID-19 denials to unfair practices. It specifically invokes the provisions of M.G.L. c. 176D, which regulates unfair practices by insurance companies, creating the potential for substantial penalties on insurers.

Ohio: HB No. 589 also would require insurers offering business interruption insurance to cover losses attributable to COVID-19.

If passed, the Ohio bill would provide that “every policy of insurance insuring against loss or damage to property, which includes the loss of use and occupancy and business interruption, in force in [Ohio] on the effective date of this section, shall be construed to include among the covered perils under that policy, coverage for business interruption due to global virus transmission or pandemic during the state of emergency.”

It also would require that “[t]he coverage required by this section shall indemnify the insured, subject to the limits under the policy, for any loss of business or business interruption for the duration of the state of emergency,” which the bill defines as “the state of emergency declared under Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020, to protect the well-being of Ohio citizens from the dangerous effects of COVID-19.”

The bill would limit its effects only to insureds: (1) located in Ohio; and (2) who employ 100 or fewer eligible employees; and (3) are covered by a policy in force on the effective date of this section.

Like the other bills in this category, Ohio’s bill would allow insurers who pay applicable COVID-19-related losses to request from the Ohio Superintendent of Insurance “relief and reimbursement from funds collected and made available” for the purpose of the bill. Further, the bill would require the Superintendent to assess all Ohio insurers for the funds needed to satisfy eligible reimbursement claims.

Federal reaction: At the federal level, Congresswoman Mikie Sherill of New Jersey signed a bipartisan letter to the heads of various industry groups urging them to consider coverage of such claims. Sherill told The Daily Beast that Congress is monitoring the issue and may include specific aid for business interruptions in a future stimulus bill.

We will continue to see these bills rolled out as Covid-19 claims increase. We will likely see a second round of such bills in the fall, once the pandemic has ceased enough for Americans to begin to see the toll of Covid-19 losses on local restaurants and small businesses, particularly if Congress has not acted.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include the CCPA, the CARES Act, Law Enforcement and the viruses’ impact on the Construction Industry. Click here to register.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.** 

Navigating Insurance Coverage Questions in the Age of COVID-19

Posted on: March 30th, 2020

By: Katie Cusack

It is no secret that concerns about coronavirus and COVID-19 have impacted tens of thousands of businesses across the world.  In many industries, its effects are novel, and many businesses are unsure of what their obligations are at this time and whether their insurance policies will cover any losses stemming from the effects of the virus and the disease it causes.  Two insurance policy types are particularly relevant to questions related to COVID-19 – business interruption and event insurance.    

Business Interruption Insurance

Whether business interruption insurance providers will be obligated under contract to cover business losses resulting from COVID-19 depends largely on the precise language of the policy and the facts surrounding any loss.  Due to somewhat recent viral outbreaks across the globe, many policies include language to exclude coverage for losses stemming from viral outbreaks.  Litigation over this issue has begun.  In mid-March a New Orleans restaurant company filed for a judgment that losses due to government-mandated closures related to COVID-19 would be covered by its property and business interruption policy.  New Orleans restaurants at the time the suit was filed were instructed to limit seating capacity, but now may only offer carry-out, drive-through, or delivery services.  According to the complaint, the restaurant’s business interruption insurance policy does not include any exclusions for losses caused by viruses or global pandemics. 

Last week, on March 24, two Native American tribes in Oklahoma – the Chickasaw Nation and the Choctaw Nation – filed lawsuits in Oklahoma state court seeking declarations that their “all risk” property insurance policies cover their “losses and expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic and infection” because “the United States of America became infected by COVID-19 resulting in a pandemic,” which is alleged to result in “direct physical loss or damage” to each Nation’s property.

On March 26, a California restaurant company also filed for a court judgment to confirm the restaurant’s insurance would cover losses resulting from COVID-19.  The restaurant company, French Laundry LP, claims it furloughed 300 employees after local authorities ordered individuals to stay at home.     

The outcome of these cases will of course depend on the terms and conditions of the insurance contract and the evidence.  

Event Insurance

Thousands of weddings, conferences, and other events across the country have been cancelled as a precaution against coronavirus and COVID-19.  As with business interruption insurance, whether coverage exists will be fact-specific.  And terms and conditions of event cancellation policies are often tailored to the specific event and its circumstances.  Many event insurance policies require a “necessary” cancellation or postponement for coverage to exist.  This will require close analysis of the cause – government-induced, fear-based, etc. – of a cancellation or postponement. 

The governmental restrictions on weddings, funerals, and general gatherings of individuals have varied from state-to-state, town-to-town, and within the same governmental area, day-to-day.  And in some places, gatherings have been permitted to go forward, but with a restriction on the number of participants.  Again, the policy language and the evidence should control the outcome. 

Pressure to Waive Coverage Exceptions

However, it is worth noting that there may be considerations outside of the language of an insurance policy and the factual situation surrounding a particular case.  Insurance providers may be pressured to make exceptions to their policies. 

In the case of medical insurance, some states have requested that providers waive certain costs for testing for COVID-19.  In addition, in other industries, some companies have waived conditions of a contract in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.  For example, certain airlines have waived change fees to allow customers to rebook their flights that were affected by COVID-19.    

The landscape changes daily, and it is important to understand the details behind the headlines.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include the CCPA, the CARES Act, Law Enforcement and the viruses’ impact on the Construction Industry. Click here to register.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.**