On December 9, 2020, in Elegant Massage, LLC v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No 2:20-cv-00265-RAJ-LRL (E.D.V.A. Dec. 9, 2020) , a Virginia federal court refused to dismiss a majority of the policyholder’s breach of contract claim and its request for bad faith damages, declaratory judgment and class certification, all stemming from the insurers’ denial of coverage for COVID-19 related business income losses. The policyholder, a spa, purchased an all-risk property insurance policy with coverage for, among other things, loss of business income and extra expense. The spa, a non-essential business, closed on March 16, 2020 as a result of state orders requiring all non-essential businesses to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It did not reopen until May 15. Once re-opened, however, the policyholder was required to implement operational controls and precautions to ensure the safety of the public and its employees. Following its closure, the policyholder sought coverage under its all-risk insurance policy. The insurer denied coverage for the claim, contending first that losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent closure orders did not constitute “property damage” within the meaning of the policy and, second, even if the losses were because of “property damage,” the claim implicated various exclusions to coverage. The policyholder then initiated suit against its insurers.

Continue Reading Federal Court Provides Soothing Comfort for Spa’s COVID-19 Business Income Claim

On November 25, 2020, an Illinois federal judge ruled in Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Co. v. S.B.C. Flood Waste Solutions, Inc., that an Iowa based insurance company must continue to defend a waste disposal company in an underlying trademark infringement and defamation lawsuit.

Continue Reading General Liability Insurer Must Defend Trademark and Other IP Claims

On November 19, 2020, a Delaware judge ruled in Indian Harbor Ins. Co. v. SharkNinja Operating LLC, et al., that insurer Indian Harbor must defend SharkNinja against underlying patent infringement and false advertising claims despite a patent infringement exclusion.

Continue Reading Insurer Ordered to Clean Up Robot Vacuum Cleaner’s IP-Related Suit

In March, we reported on the initial filing of several securities class action suits arising from the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). For example, at the start of the pandemic, shareholders of Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings, Ltd. filed a class action alleging that the company and certain officers violated the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934. The lawsuit alleged that the cruise line made false and misleading statements about COVID-19 in order to persuade consumers to purchase cruises. This allegedly caused the share prices to be cut in half.

Continue Reading COVID-19 Event-Driven Litigation Continues to Sail

In a resounding victory for policyholders, a North Carolina court ruled that “all-risk” property insurance policies cover the business-interruption losses suffered by 16 restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.  North State Deli, LLC v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., No. 20-CVS-02569 (N.C. Sup. Ct., Cty. of Durham, Oct. 7, 2020).  This is the first judgment in the country to find that policyholders are, in fact, entitled to coverage for losses of business income resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Equally important, the decision illustrates that a proper analysis of the operative policy provisions requires this result.

Continue Reading First Judgment Upholding Coverage for COVID-19 Business-Interruption Losses

On September 29, 2020, The National Law Review published an article by Scott DeVries, Lorie Masters, and Michael Huggins concerning setting the correct prism for construing policy language, which can be outcome-determinative in COVID-19 business interruption cases.  A key takeaway from the article is that a court’s adherence to traditional principles of insurance

A Michigan federal court held recently in Great American Fidelity Ins. Co. v. Stout Risius Ross, Inc., et al., 2020 WL 601784, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Feb. 7, 2020), that an insurer must defend an investment advisor against lawsuits alleging that it fraudulently overvalued the stock of a company destined for bankruptcy.  The court determined that the insurer failed to show that an exclusion barring coverage for claims arising out of ERISA and other securities laws violations was broad enough to bar coverage for accompanying common law claims of fraud and negligent misrepresentation.

Continue Reading Insurer Must Defend ERISA Claims Despite “Statutory” Violation Exclusion