Timing is everything. Just as conference season is getting into full swing, COVID-19 has lashed out in force. In the past 24 hours alone, we have received numerous calls from clients about annual meetings, trade shows and speaking engagements they have been compelled to cancel, all on short notice, due to the novel coronavirus.
While there has been much discussion about the potential for business-interruption and other coverages for losses stemming from coronavirus-related cancellations, slowdowns, supply chain disruptions and the like, including on this blog, many businesses have another front-line protection – event cancellation insurance – for the immediate losses occasioned by the necessary cancelations of many marquee events. Policyholders buy these specialized policies reasonably expecting that they will spring into action under these very circumstances, where a major event requiring extensive advanced preparation and investment suddenly must be canceled due to forces beyond the control of the stakeholders. Yet many seem to be downplaying (see here and here) the applicability of this coverage in the face of COVID 19. Insurers advertised these policies as providing protection for just these kinds of situations. While sensationalist headlines in some articles (e.g., about the South by Southwest Festival in Austin) have proclaimed that event-cancellation insurance “does not apply,” policyholders should not take that “no” for an answer. These policies often provide much broader coverage, with few or no applicable exclusions, making it critically important to carefully examine the wording of your event cancellation insurance. Our insurance coverage lawyers can assist with a quick review of your policies and advise on potential arguments favoring coverage under what may seem on a first read to be limited policies.