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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As previously reported on the Hunton Employment & Labor Perspectives Blog, workers’ compensation provides the exclusive remedy for injuries and illness that employees suffer arising out of and within the course of their employment.   Workers’ compensation provides the exclusive remedy for injuries and illness that employees suffer arising out of and within the course of their employment.  In the early stages of this pandemic, work-related travel to high impact countries or work-related exposure in a case that was being tracked by public health authorities provided support for work-related exposure.  In healthcare settings, work-related exposure will likely be established when exposure to infected patients occurs.  But in other settings and as the diseases spreads in the United States, the analysis about whether an illness is covered by workers’ compensation will be more difficult.

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On Monday, Oceana Grill, a restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana, became the first to file a lawsuit over coverage for COVID-19 business interruption losses.  The lawsuit, styled Cajun Conti, LLC, et al. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s of London, et al. (La. Dist. Court, Orleans Parish), seeks a declaratory judgment that an “all risks” property insurance policy issued by Lloyd’s of London must cover losses resulting from the closure of the restaurant following an order by the Governor of Louisiana restricting public gatherings and the Mayor of New Orleans’ order closing restaurants.

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In a prior post, we predicted that novel coronavirus (COVID-19) risks could implicate D&O and similar management liability coverage arising from so-called “event-driven” litigation, a new kind of securities class action that relies on specific adverse events, rather than fraudulent financial disclosures or accounting issues, as the catalyst for targeting both companies and their directors and officers for the resulting drop in stock price. It appears that ship has sailed, so to speak, as Kevin LaCroix at D&O Diary reported over the weekend that a plaintiff shareholder had filed a securities class action lawsuit against Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd. alleging that the company employed misleading sales tactics related to the outbreak.

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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.
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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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