In a COVID-19 insurance coverage lawsuit that Hilton Worldwide Holdings, Inc. filed against several insurers in Nevada state court, two recent rulings in favor of Hilton highlight the importance of strategic decisions early in a case. 

Continue Reading Nevada State Court Rulings Highlight Importance of Strategic Decisions Early in a Case

On February 6, 2023, The Claims Journal highlighted a letter by members of Hunton’s insurance team, submitted on behalf of United Policyholders, to the California Supreme Court, which alerts the Court to the fundamental infirmities in the “standard” expounded by the insurance industry in COVID-19 business interruption litigations nationwide. The letter was issued to assist the Court in addressing a question certified from the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in Another Planet Entertainment, LLC v. Vigilant Insurance Co, asking whether the actual or potential presence of the COVID-19 virus on an insured’s premises “constitute direct physical loss or damage to property” for purposes of coverage under a commercial property insurance policy.
Continue Reading Hunton Insurance Team Alerts California Supreme Court to “Physical Alteration” Fallacy

Last week, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in EMOI Services, L.L.C. v. Owners Ins. Co., 2022 WL 17905839 (Ohio, Dec. 27, 2022), that a policyholder did not suffer direct physical loss of or damage to computer media that was encrypted and rendered unusable. The Court reached its ruling even though “media” was defined in the policy to include “computer software,” concluding that software does not have a “physical existence.” The Supreme Court’s decision reverses an Ohio appellate court’s earlier ruling that the cyberattack triggered coverage under a commercial property insurance policy and builds upon plainly distinguishable rulings in COVID-19 business interruption cases, such as Santo’s Italian Café, L.L.C. v. Acuity Ins. Co., 15 F.4th 398, 402 (6th Cir. 2021), where the Sixth Circuit found that government orders issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic did not physically alter insured property.
Continue Reading Ohio Supreme Court Launches COVID-19 Holdings into Cyberspace; Denies Coverage for Physical Loss or Damage to Computer Software

The Insurance Coverage Law Center has published an article in which Hunton insurance recovery partner, Michael Levine, exposes evidence of insurance company sins unearthed in the COVID-19 business interruption insurance litigation battleground.  The article discusses evidence obtained from four of the largest property and business income insurers, which tends to prove that long before COVID-19, each understood virus and communicable disease to pose a risk of physical loss or damage sufficient to trigger coverage under their respective all-risk insurance products.  A copy of the article is available here, with permission from the Insurance Coverage Law Center.
Continue Reading Michael Levine and Peers Expose Insurers’ COVID-19 Sins

One of the threshold issues in COVID-19 insurance coverage cases that have been brought across the country is whether the policyholder’s allegations meet the applicable pleading standard in alleging that the virus caused physical loss or damage. In many cases, the courts have gotten it wrong, effectively holding policyholders to a higher standard than required. But recently, a California federal judge righted those wrongs by acknowledging the correct pleading standard in that case, which is whether the allegations state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). The Court, here, correctly recognized that the policyholder, the Los Angeles Lakers, met that pleading standard when it alleged that the COVID-19 virus can cause physical loss or damage by physically altering property.
Continue Reading California Court Forces Insurer to Play Ball in COVID-19 Insurance Coverage Suit

The Hunton insurance recovery team recently offered support in a matter of great importance to Maryland policyholders. The case is pending before the Maryland Court of Appeals on a question certified from a Maryland federal court in a COVID-19 business interruption insurance lawsuit brought by clothing manufacturer, Tapestry, Inc. Tapestry, the parent of luxury brands

As reported on this blog, policyholders have long been of the view that the presence of substances like COVID-19 and its causative virus  SARS-CoV-2, which render property dangerous or unfit for normal business operations, should be sufficient to trigger coverage under commercial all-risk insurance, as has been the case for more than 60 years.

However, many courts, federal courts in particular, despite decades of pro-policyholder precedent, have embraced the view that “viruses harm people, not [property].”  Thirty-one months after the start of the pandemic, the first state high court has gone in a different direction, according greater weight to pro-policyholder precedent.

Continue Reading Vermont Supreme Court Finds COVID-19 May Damage Property

A Texas jury has found that the presence of SARS-CoV-2 virus on the property of Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) caused “physical loss or damage” and resulting economic loss, triggering coverage under BCM’s commercial property insurance program. The jury awarded BCM over $48 million following a three-day trial; the award consisted of $42.8 million in business interruption, $3.3 million in extra expense, and $2.3 million in damage to research projects.
Continue Reading Texas Jury Finds Presence of SARS-CoV-2 Virus Causes “Physical Loss or Damage” to Property, Awards Over $48 Million to Baylor College of Medicine

Recently, an Illinois federal judge ruled that where government shutdown orders due to COVID-19 in different states impacted one insured, that insured suffered separate occurrences in each effected state. Dental Experts, LLC v. Massachusetts Bay Ins. Co., No. 20 C 5887, 2022 WL 2528104 (N.D. Ill. July 7, 2022).
Continue Reading COVID-19 Losses and Number of Occurrences

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and supply chain issues have caused several major event organizers to cancel or postpone concerts, sporting events, and awards shows, among many other large-scale events. For example, this week, Elton John postponed tour concerts after testing positive for Covid-19; last week, Adele put on hold her much-anticipated Las Vegas residency over “delivery delays” and Covid-19 diagnoses among her team; last month, the NHL, NBA, and the NFL rescheduled major games, with the NHL citing concerns about “the fluid nature of federal travel restrictions,” and the NFL citing “medical advice” after “seeing a new, highly transmissible form of the virus;” and the Grammys postponed its January 31 awards show in Los Angeles—to now take place on April 3 in Las Vegas. The cancellations and postponements of these types of events often have major financial effects on its organizers and producers. Given the risk of substantial losses following the cancellation of big-ticket events, businesses should be aware that they can tap into event cancellation insurance to mitigate and protect against these risks.
Continue Reading From Adele to the NFL, Large-Scale Event Disruptions Show the Need for Policyholders to Have a Strategy to Recover in the Event of a Loss