A growing number of U.S. courts are ruling against employers who’ve filed insurance claims for business interruption coverage stemming from government-ordered coronavirus shutdowns.
The Insurance Information Institute reports insurers have won more than a dozen cases since May, with judges ruling that the policies only kick in if a property sustains physical damage. The business owners had argued that the coverage should have started when local or state governments issued stay-at-home orders that hampered their ability to operate.
A couple of Charleston-area cases are still pending in federal court. Black Magic Cafe says its losses started on March 17, when Gov. Henry McMaster ordered a temporary halt to dine-in services at South Carolina restaurants.
The historic Calhoun Mansion at 10 Meeting St., now known as The Williams Mansion, sued its insurer after a McMaster executive order shut down museums.
A bill that would have required insurance carriers to cover coronavirus-related business losses — co-sponsored by Sen. Sandy Senn, a Charleston Republican, and Sen. Marlon Kimpson, a Charleston Democrat — was introduced in the S.C. Statehouse in April but went nowhere.
Recent court rulings indicate the local cases might be a losing cause.
For example, Judge Thomas Thrash last week dismissed a federal lawsuit brought by restaurant in Georgia, ruling that a government stay-at-home order did not cause the business to sustain direct physical loss of or damage to its insured property or surrounding premises.
Similarly, a U.S. District Court judge in Florida last month dismissed a trade show display company’s claims, saying “the plain language of the policies reflect that actual, concrete damage is necessary.”
And in another ruling in California last month, Judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo ruled against a pair of barbershops, stating: “Most courts have rejected these claims, finding that the