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.
The Lloyds’ policy, like most first-party property insurance policies, affords coverage for business- interruption losses and contains an “extension of coverage in the event of the businesses closure by order of Civil Authority.” Specifically, the lawsuit seeks a declaration that “the policy provides coverage to plaintiffs for any future civil authority shutdowns of restaurants in the New Orleans area due to physical loss from Coronavirus contamination and that the policy provides business income coverage in the event that the coronavirus has contaminated the insured premises.” Furthermore, according to the complaint, “[t]he policy does not provide any exclusion due to losses, business or property, from a virus or global pandemic.”
As the complaint implies, an important issue will be whether the novel coronavirus constitutes the requisite “direct physical loss or damage” under the policy. Understanding COVID-19, its manner of transmission and its ability to live beyond a host organism helps support a conclusion that COVID-19 does indeed amount to the required direct physical loss or damage.
Reprinted courtesy of Lorelie S. Masters, Hunton Andrews Kurth and Michael S. Levine, Hunton Andrews Kurth
Ms. Masters may be contacted at lmasters@HuntonAK.com
Mr. Levine may be contacted at mlevine@HuntonAK.com