The District of New Jersey granted a motion to dismiss a restaurant owner’s purported class action lawsuit seeking business interruption coverage by analyzing: (1) the New Jersey Governor’s Executive Order and (2) the policy language, in a commercial all-risk property damage policy, that excluded coverage for losses covered by viruses.
In what could be a sign of things to come across the country, a new workers’ compensation insurance law recently took effect in California that may make it easier for employees to obtain workers’ compensation insurance benefits if they become ill from COVID-19.
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On July 31, the seven-member Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (JPML) heard oral argument of extraordinary length on the potential consolidation of all federal cases involving business interruption coverage relating to COVID-19 and/or COVID-19 shutdown orders, totaling approximately 449 such federal cases, roughly 200 of which are putative class actions.
On April 9, 2020, Governor Baker issued an emergency order, mandating that insurers cover all medically necessary emergency department and inpatient services costs of COVID-19 treatment at both out-of-network and in-network hospitals and other medical facilities, without any cost to the patient, setting the OON reimbursement rate at 135% of Medicare, and prohibiting providers from balance billing. The Governor appears to have relied on § 7 of the Massachusetts emergency preparedness and response law in issuing the Order. Section 7 gives the Governor broad powers during a state of emergency, including “[r]egulation of the business of insurance and protection of the interests of the holders of insurance policies and contracts and of beneficiaries thereunder and of the interest of the public in connection therewith.”
On July 30, the Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (the Panel) heard oral argument of extraordinary length on the potential consolidation of all the federal cases involving business interruption coverage relating to COVID-19 and/or the COVID-19 shut-down orders. There are some 449 such federal cases, approximately 200 of which are putative class actions.
Berkshire Hathaway and one of its units on Monday urged a Pennsylvania federal court to toss a restaurant’s suit seeking insurance coverage for losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, arguing that a virus exclusion “plainly applies” to the restaurant’s claims.
To read the full text of this article, please visit the Law360 website.
To date, approximately 150 business-interruption insurance coverage lawsuits have been filed in federal courts arising from COVID-19 and related government-ordered restrictions. In what appears to be the first substantive ruling on the merits in these cases, the Southern District of New York recently ruled against an insured who could not meet its burden to show a likelihood of success in establishing “property damage” due to the novel coronavirus to support its claim for injunctive relief. Judge Caproni expressed sympathy “for every small business that is having difficulties during this period of time,” but concluded that “New York law is clear” in requiring actual property damage to trigger business interruption coverage. Because the insured’s coverage theory rested on a government shutdown in the absence of any property damage, the Court denied its preliminary injunction motion, reasoning “this is just not what’s covered under these insurance policies.”
In the bellwether case of Joseph Tambellini, Inc. v. Erie Insurance Exchange, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was petitioned under its King’s Bench powers to assume plenary jurisdiction of an insurance coverage dispute that had been filed in the Court of Common Pleas, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The high court was asked to decide critical legal issues that would have impacted thousands of other insurance claims that might arise in the future from the COVID-19 pandemic. Duane Morris was retained by insurer trade associations, including APCIA, NAMIC, PAMIC, and the Insurance Federation of Pennsylvania (the “Insurance Industry Amici”), to oppose this extraordinary petition.
We previously wrote about the growing number of lawsuits by insureds seeking business interruption insurance coverage for business losses in response to the novel coronavirus (here and here), and the constraints that state and federal governments should face were they to compel such coverage. We also previously detailed nationwide efforts aimed at enacting legislation compelling business interruption and contingent business interruption insurance for COVID-19 losses. As of the date of this update, eight states have proposed a number of bills relating to business interruption insurance, and Congress has also waded in.
On May 11, 2020, Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman reminded businesses of the importance of complying with Governor Tom Wolf and Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine’s orders – for counties in both the red and yellow phases.
To read the full text of this post by Duane Morris partner Brad Molotsky, please visit the Duane Morris Project Development/Infrastructure/P3 Blog.