On Wednesday, a federal judge in Texas denied Factory Mutual’s Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings, finding that the plaintiffs adequately alleged that the presence of COVID-19 on their property caused covered physical loss or damage in the case of Cinemark Holdings, Inc. v. Factory Mutual Insurance Co., No. 4:21-CV-00011 (E.D. Tex. May 5, 2021). This is the third COVID-19-related business interruption decision from Judge Amos Mazzant since March, but the first in favor of a policyholder. Taken together, the three decisions have two key takeaways and provide a roadmap for policyholders in all jurisdictions.
First, the Cinemark decision recognizes that the alleged presence of COVID-19 viral particles that physically altered the policyholder’s property is sufficient under federal pleading standards and controlling state law. In its motion, FM relied on Judge Mazzant’s recent decision in Selery Fulfillment, Inc. v. Colony Insurance Co., No. 4:20-CV-853, 2021 WL 963742 (E.D. Tex. Mar. 15, 2021), which dismissed a lawsuit alleging that the policyholder’s losses were caused by government orders that closed its business, rather than from the actual presence of the virus on its property. The Court held that government orders alone do not constitute physical loss or damage, and declined to rule on whether the physical presence of the virus does. Judge Mazzant reached the same conclusion weeks later in Aggie Investments, L.L.C. v. Continental Casualty Co., No. 4:21-CV-0013, 2021 WL 1550479 (E.D. Tex. Apr. 20, 2021).
Reprinted courtesy of Michael S. Levine, Hunton Andrews Kurth and Joseph T. Niczky, Hunton Andrews Kurth
Mr. Levine may be contacted at mlevine@HuntonAK.com
Mr. Niczky may be contacted at jniczky@HuntonAK.com