Coronavirus Business Interruption Battle Pits Business Lobby Against Itself

 Friday, May 8, 2020

 USA Today

Small businesses trying to get their state legislatures to force insurance companies to cover coronavirus losses are coming up against an opponent many might not have expected: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Businesses large and small often look to the chamber and its local counterparts to be their voice in statehouses and on Capitol Hill. The national organization fosters that expectation, saying on its website it represents “the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions.”

But in this battle, it’s the interests of enormous insurers facing billions in liability that hold sway.

The focus of the dispute is insurance for business interruptions, which after the SARS epidemic in 2003 usually exempts viruses. Eight states — and others in the wings — are considering bills that would close that loophole and make insurers pay up.

In a letter to Congress last week, the U.S. Chamber said allowing Congress or states to rewrite contracts to cover coronavirus losses is unconstitutional and would leave the insurance industry in ruins.
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