In response to the large number of COVID-19-related losses that businesses are experiencing, insurers have begun issuing statements informing their insureds of whether their policies will respond to the losses, and if so, what coverage will be afforded. Insurers cannot take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to the COVID-19 losses because, besides factual differences, the losses are occurring within all fifty states which means 50 different state law interpretations will apply.
Recently, on March 27, 2020, a number of restaurants and movie theaters located in and around Chicago (the “Insureds”) filed a declaratory judgement action, titled Big Onion Tavern Group, LLC et al. v. Society Insurance, Inc., against their property insurance carrier, Society Insurance, Inc. (“Society”), seeking coverage for business interruption resulting from the shutdown order issued by the governor of Illinois. The suit alleges that Society improperly denied their business interruption claims by using a boiler plate denial. The denial issued by Society is allegedly used for all COVID-19 losses regardless of the applicable jurisdiction’s interpretation of the policy language and the specific coverage purchased by the insured. Further, in its denial, Society takes the position that any loss related to a government-issued closure order is uncovered, even though the Insureds specifically purchased business interruption coverage and their policies did not contain an exclusion for losses caused by viruses.