Client Alerts, News Articles & Blog Posts

Everything you need to know about BMD and the industry.

Only Courts Can Decide if COVID-19 Chaos is Included Under Business Interruption Coverage

Despite paying insurance premiums for years, businesses are now being told by insurance companies and brokers that the business interruption coverage in their policy does not apply to coronavirus losses. However, the question of whether business interruption coverage extends to losses caused by the current pandemic will ultimately be answered by the courts, not insurance carriers. These legal decisions will depend upon the specific language of the policy and the facts and circumstances surrounding the claim. For more information on the specific issues regarding business interruption coverage claims, please see the prior guidance provided by BMD here.

Lawsuits are being filed in Ohio and many other states to challenge coverage denials based on coronavirus losses. Insurance companies will vigorously defend these claims at all stages, including at the pre-suit claim level. Currently, insurance carriers are  requiring businesses to submit substantial documentation after a proof of loss has been submitted. Intentional or not,  requiring businesses to submit substantial documentation, including proof that the coronavirus was present at their location, will likely dissuade a number of businesses from asserting claims and lessen the number of lawsuits challenging coverage denials.

While there are legislative efforts to provide business interruption coverage to small businesses in Ohio and other states, the legislative process will take time, and the outcome is uncertain.

In the interim, what should be businesses being doing to preserve their rights to pursue relief under their insurance policies? Business should:

  1. Request copies of all insurance policies from brokers or directly from insurers. While business interruption coverage concerns the property coverage included in almost all commercial policies, other coverages may exist and apply, depending upon the industry.

  2. Gather documentation to support any coronavirus insurance claims that the business intends to assert. The type and nature of documentation will largely depend upon the business involved. For example, restaurants, bars, movie theaters, salons, and fitness centers in Ohio should obtain a copy of the pertinent order shutting down their establishments. Businesses should also gather all financial documentation demonstrating losses from the shutdown or earlier, depending upon the circumstances.

  3. Consider filing a proof of claim to preserve the rights of the business under the insurance policy. While this can be done independently, many businesses would benefit from discussing this option or obtaining assistance from insurance brokers or legal counsel to submit a proof of loss or claim in accordance with the terms of the insurance policy.

  4. Consult with legal counsel about insurance policies and whether coverage may exist for coronavirus losses. Not all policies include the same language or exclusions. Furthermore, this issue is developing based on the arguments and opinions adopted by Courts in Ohio and other states. It will be important to discuss with counsel how to substantiate a claim and the options for pursuing claims in Court. Finally, given the multitude of legal issues presented by the novel coronavirus, businesses should also discuss their current policies and potential insurance needs.

Businesses should not be discouraged by the multitude of articles disseminated by the insurance industry over the last month to dissuade businesses from filing coronavirus claims. Insurance coverage is always dependent upon the language of the policy and the facts and circumstances surrounding the claims as presented. The courts, not the insurance industry, decide whether coverage exists. For this reason, it is important to be proactive now to preserve your rights and know your options.

For more information, please contact Kyle A. Johnson at kajohnson@bmdllc.com or 330.374.7475 or Hal DeSaussure at hdesaussure@bmdllc.com or 330.436.8914.

HHS Announces an Additional $20 Billion In Provider Relief Grants

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced an additional $20 billion in new funding for providers on October 1, 2020. Eligible providers include those that have already received Provider Relief Fund payments as well as previously ineligible providers, such as those who began practicing in 2020, and an expanded group of behavioral health providers confronting the emergence of increased mental health and substance use issues exacerbated by the pandemic. The new Phase 3 General Distribution is designed to balance an equitable payment of 2% of annual revenue from patient care for all applicants plus an add-on payment to account for revenue losses and expenses attributable to COVID-19.

DOL Proposes New Rule Regarding Independent Contractor Status - But How Will the Election Affect Its Future?

On September 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a new proposed rule regarding employee and independent contractor status under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The full text of the proposed rule is available here. The rule's drafters intend to reduce uncertainty and enhance the precision and predictability of the long-standing "economic reality" test, which currently relies on a multifactor balancing test.

Major Change to Franklin County, Ohio Eviction Process: Landlord Testimony Required

Although there is currently a nationwide temporary halt on all residential evictions through December 31, 2020 in place, the eviction process in Franklin County – which processes the highest number of evictions in the State of Ohio at approximately 18,000 a year – recently changed significantly.

UPDATE: Governor Dewine Signs HB 606 Granting Short Window of Immunity from COVID-19 Personal Injury Lawsuits

The Ohio General Assembly, in Am. Sub. H.B. No. 606, is in the final stages of passing a law that will prohibit lawsuits seeking damages from COVID-19. This includes injury, death, or loss to person or property if the lawsuits are based, in whole or in part, on the exposure to, or the transmission or contraction of the coronavirus, unless the defendant in the lawsuit acted intentionally or recklessly. In circumstances where this immunity does not apply, H.B. 606 prohibits such claims being aggregated and brought as a class action.

Revised Department of Labor FFCRA Guidance, Effective September 16, 2020

In response to attacks on the legality of the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule regarding the Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA” or the “Act”), which took effect in April 2020, the Department of Labor issued new guidance on Friday, September 11th to formally address ongoing questions and concerns related to the COVID-19 legislation.