In June, our blog covered the growing number of COVID-19-related business interruption claims, and whether or not those claims could, or likely would, be paid. Since then, more interruption claims have been filed, rejected, and proceeded to litigation. Because it appears we’re looking at a new wave of COVID cases, it’s reasonable to expect more interruption lawsuits and government response.
BUSINESS CLAIMS LITIGATION
Notable among new denied claims litigation is a business interruption lawsuit filed by Portland, Oregon business owners who urged Governor Kate Brown to shut down the state in the spring so that they could file business interruption claims based on her exercise of civil authority. Plaintiff business owners were then outraged to discover that their claims were denied. State shutdown orders don’t include physically cordoning off the businesses as we usually see required by the interruption coverage terms. (In hindsight, someone should have read the policy first.)
Fifteen minor league baseball teams are suing over denied interruption claims in Pennsylvania federal court. Plaintiffs include the Chattanooga Lookouts and the Amarillo Sod Poodles.
FEDERAL AND STATE BUSINESS INTERRUPTION CLAIMS LEGISLATION
As we anticipated in June, Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has introduced the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act (HR 7011) in the House. The bill would require the Fed to shoulder 95% of losses above the deductible, up to $750 billion. Mike Thompson’s (D-CA) grandstanding Business Interruption Coverage Act has, predictably, stalled in committee. Several states are attempting similar legislation, but have faced strong counter-efforts from industry trade groups, including APCIA (the American Property Casualty Insurance Association).
Louisiana’s COVID insurance bill has passed the state’s Senate and advanced to the House, making it technically the leader among state efforts to force payment of business interruption claims which were denied based on policy exclusions. However, the bill was amended by the Louisiana Senate to remove the requirement of COVID-19-related business interruption coverage, so SB 477, even if passed, wouldn’t apply retroactively to claims filed prior to enactment. All other similar state bills remain in committee or have yet to be introduced.
CIVIL DISORDER AND FUTURE HURRICANE DAMAGE
Meanwhile, the riots and related looting as an unfortunate side effect of the Black Lives Matter movement (while not anywhere near the financial impact of COVID-19) have achieved the distinction in our industry of being the first ever riot and civil disorder catastrophic event to occur in multiple states. As of June 25, these damages are projected by analyst Meyer Shields to be “relatively modest”. By way of comparison, the 1992 Los Angeles riots set new US records with damages at $1.4 billion, inflation adjusted.
Considering the above-average hurricane season predicted for this year (described in our May blog post), it looks like 2020 will be a historic year for our industry. If you haven’t contacted Vector Risk Solutions about our independent adjusters, you’d better get right on that. Get started with us today and be prepared for the second half of a year of unprecedented claims!