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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.

Lockdowns, Landlords, & Litigation: Abercrombie & Fitch Flips The Script on Simon Property Group Inc.

Novel litigation between commercial property owners and tenants arises from COVID-19 lockdowns. Typically, owners sue for nonpayment of rent. But in Franklin County, Ohio, a large retail tenant turned the tables and sued the owner to recoup payments.

UPDATE: Ohio Businesses Remain Required to Post Exceptions to State-Wide Mask Mandate at All Entrances

On August 1, 2020, Lance D. Himes, Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Health, issued an amended order continuing the requirement that Ohio businesses post at all entrances any permitted exceptions they provide to customers, patrons, visitors, contractors, vendors and similar individuals to use facial coverings.

2020 Marcum National Construction Survey Marks a New, Post-Pandemic Construction Environment

The results of the 2020 Marcum National Construction Survey are in, and the construction industry’s outlook for the remainder of 2020 and beginning of 2021 remains cautiously optimistic despite the COVID-19 global pandemic. Ability to find skilled labor, healthcare expenses, and material costs remain the top concerns for the industry, while “lack of future work” joins the list.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits in the Wake of COVID-19

Several major “essential business” employers, including Walmart and Tyson, have been served with wrongful death lawsuits in relation to COVID-19. As many Ohio employees begin to return to work, employers should be prudent in following workplace safety practices.

We are Working in a Virtual, Video-Conferencing World – But What About Wiretapping?

Businesses and other organizations often have a need or desire to record telephone conversations related to their business interests and customer dealings; however, this practice is not always permissible as federal and state laws vary on this issue. Knowing and understanding your jurisdiction’s rules and regulations on this practice is essential to remaining in compliance with the law.