On November 24, 2022, New York’s Adult Survivors Act (“ASA”) (S.66A/A.648A) will go into effect and likely will usher in a tidal wave of litigation across the state. Employers will be impacted by the law, in addition to individuals, and the resulting litigation could span many years – particularly with the ongoing court delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, developing a proactive defense strategy for ASA claims and resolving potential insurance coverage issues in advance, is of vital importance as this date draws near.
On January 12, 2022, the closely watched Nevada lawsuit filed by emergency medicine providers against one of the largest health insurance companies in the world—UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company—was again the focus of hundreds of thousands of providers throughout the country.
The recent hearing followed a seven-week trial during which the jury found that United and its affiliates deliberately underpaid frontline healthcare workers for emergency medical services. The jury awarded $60 million in punitive damages and $2.65 million in compensatory damages to three Nevada-based emergency physician group affiliates of TeamHealth, a physician services and staffing company.
As we previously reported, Judge Bough of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri denied an insurance carrier’s motion for summary judgment in K.C. Hopps Ltd. v. The Cincinnati Ins. Co. Inc., No. 20-cv-00437-SRB (W.D. Mo. Sept. 21, 2021) and sent the case to trial.
On October 28, after a three day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the insurer. The case involved claims by a group of restaurants under their insurance policies’ business income (and extra expense) coverage form. Under that coverage, the insurer is obligated to pay for the insured’s ...
Although insurers largely have continued to have success in federal court defeating COVID-19 business interruption lawsuits, one judge – Judge Stephen Bough of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri – continues to be pro-policyholder. As we previously reported, last year he refused to dismiss several suits brought by policyholders seeking business interruption coverage for COVID-19 related losses.
Last week, in K.C. Hopps Ltd. v. The Cincinnati Ins. Co. Inc., No. 20-cv-00437-SRB (W.D. Mo. Sept. 21, 2021), Judge Bough gave policyholders ...
Scores of insureds have sued their insurance carriers seeking coverage for business interruption losses stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and related governmental closure orders. A vast majority have lost. Time and again, courts presiding over these cases have rejected them on the ground that there was no physical loss or damage to the insured’s property. In one Pennsylvania state court, that trend has changed.
In MacMilles, LLC d/b/a Grant Street Tavern v. Erie Insurance Exchange, Judge Christine Ward of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, recently ...
As we have written here previously, businesses across the country have brought lawsuits against their insurers seeking coverage for losses related to COVID-19. According to the COVID Coverage Litigation Tracker at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School, over 1,500 suits have been filed since March 2020 in state and federal court. Some interesting statistics based on that information:
- Over one third of the cases have been filed by food services establishments.
- Almost one quarter of the cases were brought as class actions.
- Approximately one third of the cases involved ...
Following up on our prior discussion of Studio 417, Inc., et al. v. The Cincinnati Ins. Comp., a different federal judge in the Western District of Missouri recently ruled in Zwillo V, Corp. v. Lexington Insurance Co. that a Kansas City restaurant could not recover for COVID-19 business interruption losses under an insurance policy and, in the process, questioned the reasoning of Studio 417, Inc. and other recent decisions.
The owner of a restaurant in Kansas City (the “Insured”), purchased a commercial property insurance policy from Lexington Insurance Company (the ...
In what can be considered a victory for the drinking classes (see Taps & Bourbon on Terrace, LLC v. Underwriters at Lloyds London, et al.), a Philadelphia judge recently ruled that a tavern’s lawsuit for business interruption coverage for losses caused by COVID-19 will survive for another round. Taps & Bourbon on Terrace (“Taps & Bourbon”) alleged that it sustained business losses resulting from “the COVID-19 pandemic and  state and local orders mandating that all non-essential businesses be temporarily closed.” In what has become a familiar rejoinder during this ...
Following up on our recent post about a business interruption insurance decision by a Washington D.C. court, a federal judge in Missouri ruled last month, in Studio 417, Inc., et al. v. The Cincinnati Ins. Comp., No. 20-cv-03127-SRB, that businesses can sue their insurance carrier for business interruption losses caused by COVID-19.
Plaintiffs, owners of a hair salon and various restaurants (the “Insureds”) purchased an all risks policy from Cincinnati Insurance Company (the “Insurer”). As a result of losses sustained due to COVID-19, the Insureds sought business ...
On August 6, 2020, in Rose’s 1 LLC, et al. v. Erie Insurance Exchange, a District of Columbia trial court granted an insurer’s cross motion for summary judgment on the issue of whether COVID-19 closure orders constitute a “direct physical loss” under a commercial property policy. Plaintiff insureds (“Insureds”) own several restaurants in Washington D.C. that were forced to close and suffered serious revenue losses stemming from the Mayor’s orders to close non-essential businesses and ordering people to stay home. As a result, the Insureds made claims to Defendant Erie Insurance Exchange (the “Insurer”) under their policies that included coverage for “loss of ‘income’ and/or ‘rental income’” sustained “due to partial or total ‘interruption of business’ resulting directly from ‘loss’ or damage” to the property insured. The policy also stated that it “insures against direct physical ‘loss.’”
Dictionary Definitions Open to Interpretation
As the Court framed the issue, “[a]t the most basic level, the parties dispute whether the closure of the restaurants due to Mayor Bowser’s orders constituted a ‘direct physical loss’ under the policy.” To support their argument, the Insureds relied on dictionary definitions of “direct” as “[w]ithout intervening persons, conditions, or agencies; immediate;” and “physical” as pertaining to things “[o]f or pertaining to matter, or the world as perceived by the senses; material as [opposed] to mental or spiritual.” The policy defined “loss,” as “direct and accidental loss of or damage to covered property.”
The Insureds relied on these definitions to make three arguments. First, they argued that the loss of use of their restaurant properties was “direct” because the closures were the direct result of the Mayor’s orders without intervening action. The Court rejected that argument because those orders commanded individuals and businesses to take certain actions and “[s[tanding alone and absent intervening actions by individuals and businesses, the orders did not affect any direct changes to the properties.”
Second, the Insureds argued that their losses were “physical” because the COVID-19 virus is “material” and “tangible,” and because the harm they experienced was caused by the Mayor’s orders rather than diners being afraid to eat out. The Court also rejected that argument because the Insureds offered no evidence that COVID-19 was actually present on their properties at the time they were forced to close and the mayor’s orders did not impact the tangible structure of the properties.
Third, the Insureds argued that the policy’s definition of “loss” as encompassing either “loss” or “damage,” required the insurer to “treat the term ‘loss’ as distinct from ‘damage,’ which connotes physical damage to the property,” and thus “loss” incorporates “loss of use.” The Court rejected that argument and held that the words “direct” and “physical” modify the word “loss” and therefore any “loss of use” must be “caused, without the intervention of other persons or conditions, by something pertaining to matter—in other words, a direct physical intrusion [onto] the insured property.” The Court held that the Mayor’s orders did not constitute such a direct physical intrusion.
While businesses and their employees continue to operate in the “new frontier” of working-from-home during the COVID-19 pandemic and the gradual reopening of the economy, a serious risk continues to present itself: the threat of cybercrime. The increased use of remote access to work systems and related applications has made businesses a prime target for those unscrupulous individuals seeking to encroach on companies’ cyber-landscape. Flaws in VPNs, firewalls, and videoconferencing, for example, have exposed many companies’ electronic infrastructures to these incursions. Similarly, the at-home workforce has increasingly been subjected to social engineering attacks often cloaked as communications purporting to provide information about pandemic-related issues.
In addition to the technical measures necessary to confront these threats, businesses would be well-advised to ensure that their cyber insurance is up to date and responds to this challenging new environment. Such coverage may be found in a variety of insurance, including property policies, commercial crime bonds or in stand-alone cyber risk policies. Regardless of where it resides, cyber insurance typically provides coverage for data breaches, ransomware attacks and employee wrongdoing, and for loss of business income occasioned by covered occurrences.
While the jurisprudence related to these issues continues to develop, some recent cases provide insight into how courts may decide cyber coverage questions in the current environment.
Ransomware - Covered
Earlier this year the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland considered the issue of how first-party “computer coverage” responded to data loss resulting from a ransomware attack. In National Ink & Stitch, LLC v. State Auto Property & Casualty Ins. Co., No. SAG-18-2138, 2020 WL 374460 (D. Md. Jan. 23, 2020), the insured was an embroidery and screen printing business that stored business-related art, logos, designs and graphics software on a server that became compromised by a ransomware attack. Id. at *1. As a result, the insured needed to recreate stored data that it was unable to access because of the incursion. Id. Further, after the software was replaced and reinstalled by experts, there remained a likelihood that remnants of the virus lingered on the system, leaving the insured with the unpalatable choice of either “wiping” the entire system or purchasing a new server. Id.
The policy at issue responded to “direct physical loss of damage to Covered Property at the premises…caused by…any Covered Cause of Loss.” Id. “Covered Property” included electronic data processing, recordings or storage media such as film, tapes, disks, etc. in addition to data stored on such media. Id. at *1-2. Software was included as “covered property” in the policy. Id. at *1. The insurer denied the claim on the basis that the insured had not experienced direct physical loss or damage to its computer system to justify reimbursement of the cost of replacing the entire system. Id. at *2. That is, because the insured “only lost data and could still use its computer system,” the insurer took the position that there was no “direct physical loss” and, therefore, no coverage. Id.
In finding that the insured should be reimbursed for its losses, the court determined that the plain language of the policy “contemplates that data and software are covered and can experience ‘direct physical loss or damage’” Id. at *3. The court refused to credit the insurer’s argument that a loss of software and its related functionality was not a direct loss to tangible property simply because the insured could still use the system albeit in a diminished fashion. Id. Instead, relying on relevant case law, the court it recognized that the insured’s computer system, while still functional, had been rendered inefficient and its storage capability was damaged in a way that its data and software could not be retrieved. Id. at *4. Accordingly, the court ruled that the policy did not require the computer system to be completely unable to function in order to constitute covered “physical loss or damage”. Id. at *5.
In granting summary judgment in favor of the insured, the court viewed the system’s loss of use and reliability and impaired function to be consistent with the “physical loss or damage to” language in the policy. Id. This was so because “not only did [insured] sustain a loss of its data and software, but [it] is left with a slower system which appears to be harboring a dormant virus, and is unable to access a significant portion of software and stored data.” Id.
On March 23, 2020, shortly after the Governors of California, New York, Connecticut and New Jersey issued orders closing non-essential businesses, we recommended that businesses review their insurance policies to determine if they had either business interruption coverage or civil authority coverage that might be available to lessen the economic blow of COVID-19. As explained here, business interruption coverage generally allows a business to recover certain losses in the event that the business suffers physical damage or loss that prevents it from operating its business ...
The COVID-19 pandemic has leveled a blow against businesses everywhere. The Governors of New York, California, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, for example, have ordered all non-essential businesses to close their physical locations and the California Governor has ordered all residents, except those performing essential functions, to stay home. Governors across the country have issued orders restricting various business activities. The trend is likely to continue in the coming weeks and to adversely impact the bottom line of many businesses.
Some businesses, however, may have ...
On March 10, 2020, the New York Department of Financial Services (“DFS”), which regulates a wide variety of financial institutions, including banks, insurance companies, and investment advisors doing business in New York, issued a series of letters regarding the response to the Novel Coronavirus (“COVID-19”). In addition to providing guidance, DFS has asked all regulated financial institutions to provide “assurance” that they have plans to address the operational and financial risks associated with COVID-19. A copy of the letter to regulated financial ...
- What Does the Upcoming Amendment to Federal Rule of Evidence 702 Mean for the Admission of Expert Testimony?
- Rare DOJ Criminal Indictment Related to Medicare Advantage Risk Adjustment
- What to Do When Your Distribution Checks Stop Arriving
- The Validity of More Than a Decade’s Worth of Federal Regulations Are at Stake as the U.S. Supreme Court Decides the Constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Funding Structure
- What to Know About the New DOJ Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) Safe Harbor Policy for Voluntary Self-Disclosures Made in Conjunction with Misconduct: Questions and Answers