Following New Jersey, where similar legislation remains under informal discussion, lawmakers in Ohio, Massachusetts, and New York have now introduced legislation that would provide relief to small businesses for COVID-19 business interruption losses.  The legislation is conceptually identical to the legislation introduced in New Jersey, discussed here last week.  Although the New Jersey bill was

Following on the heels of the directive issued to business-interruption eruption, insurers by the New York Department of Financial Services, Ricardo Lara, the Insurance Commissioner for the State of California, issued a “request for information,” about business interruption and related coverages so that the State can address “public policy options” and “understand the number and scope of business interruption type coverages in effect” in California and “the approximate number of [such] policies that exclude viruses such as COVID-19.”

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A Houston-area wig store filed the first Texas COVID-19 lawsuit concerning business interruption losses Thursday in a state court in Harris County. The plaintiff, Barbara Lane Snowden DBA Hair Goals Club, filed suit, a copy of which can be found here, against Twin City Fire Insurance Company, a Hartford Insurance company. The lawsuit alleges that plaintiff has sustained and will continue to sustain covered losses during the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent Harris County Stay Home Order. The lawsuit further alleges that plaintiff already sought coverage for its business interruption costs under the Twin City policy, but that claim was denied. Accordingly, plaintiff has alleged breach of contract, unfair settlement practices, violation of the Prompt Pay Act, and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing for Twin City’s wrongful denial of the claim.

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Two more lawsuits were filed yesterday concerning business interruption losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  The plaintiffs, the Chickasaw and Choctaw nations, filed their lawsuits, copies of which can be found here and here, in Oklahoma state court against a litany of property insurers, led by AIG.  The lawsuits seek an order that any financial losses suffered by the nations’ casinos, restaurants and other businesses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic are covered by the nations’ insurance policies.

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Last week, we reported that the New Jersey General Assembly passed a bill that would force property insurers to cover certain business interruption losses arising from COVID-19.  The bill presented a lifeline to small businesses in New Jersey that are being racked by the economic fallout stemming from COVID-19.  Before reaching the New Jersey

On March 16, 2020, the New Jersey General Assembly passed a bill that would force property insurers to cover business interruption losses arising from the COVID-19 virus sustained by small businesses (less than 100 employees working more than 25 hours a week); a copy of the bill can be found here.  Significantly, the bill would force coverage even where the insurer believes its policy should not apply.  In particular, the bill provides that property policies in effect as of March 9, 2020, will be construed as providing “coverage for business interruption due to global virus transmission or pandemic,” including COVID-19.  As written, the law would defeat any attempt by insurers to rely on exclusions that purport to preclude coverage for business income loss resulting from viruses, including the much-touted ISO CP 01 40 07 06 Virus or Bacteria Exclusion that insurer-side advocates have been championing as a purported bar to COVID-19 losses.  The bill would provide much-needed relief to the New Jersey policyholders that are enduring the worst of COVID-19’s economic impact with the least ability to withstand it.

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In what may be entirely unprecedented, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), the insurance regulatory body for insurers operating in New York, has ordered that all property and casualty insurers authorized to issue policies in New York to provide details on the business interruption coverage provided in the types of policies for which it has ongoing exposure for COVID-19 related losses.  A copy of the NYDFS March 10, 2020 Order (Order) can be found here.

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The CDC reports that, as of the end of last week, the coronavirus disease had spread through China and to 31 other countries and territories, including the United States, which has now seen its first two related deaths. The public health response in the United States has been swift and includes travel advisories, heightened airport screening, and repatriation and quarantine of potentially infected individuals. Outside the United States, countries like China, Italy, and South Korea have implemented more severe measures to combat the disease. From smart phones to automobiles, coronavirus has major short- and long-term implications for public and private companies facing potentially significant supply chain disruptions, store and office closures, and other logistical issues. These business losses, however, may be covered by insurance. Below are several key insurance considerations for policyholders to contemplate when evaluating the availability of insurance coverage for coronavirus-driven losses.

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Earlier last week, Hunton insurance partner Michael Levine spoke with Business Insurance about the mounting concerns over insuring Coronavirus-related business income and supply chain losses.  As of today, almost 80,000 cases have been reported world-wide and more than 2,250 are confirmed to have died as a result of the disease.  Companies across the globe have been impacted, with loss of materials, markets and distribution representing a common thread among reported losses and disruptions.  But these “supply chain” losses may be compensable through insurance.  Policyholders will be forced to evaluate complex policy provisions and endorsements to ascertain whether their insurance program should respond.  In particular, policyholders must determine whether their policy wording requires some element of physical loss or damage to property to trigger business interruption or contingent business interruption coverage.  Even where such a requirement exists, however, some policies are written so that loss of use of property is sufficient to implicate coverage.  Likewise, questions exist concerning contamination to property, and whether that too may constitute physical loss, damage or loss of use.  For these reasons, among others, Levine explained to Business Insurance that “contingent business interruption . . . is going to be one of the battlegrounds, if not the main battleground, particularly in the supply chain area.” Levine further noted that claims could be complicated by the physical damage requirement.

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