When the pandemic began in early 2020 and sweeping lockdowns went into effect, insurance firms were facing a catastrophe. Billions of dollars’ worth of claims -- many from Hollywood companies, including those involved with the live-event business -- were pouring in across the country.Litigation
But instead of paying out, insurance companies looked to the fine print and started to deny claims en masse. Most insurers found that policies for lost revenue because of business interruptions excluded coverage for closures forced by the pandemic and required physical loss or damage to property.
A legal war erupted over COVID-related insurance claims, and more than 2,300 lawsuits challenging coverage decisions have been filed, according to a COVID-19 insurance litigation tracker created by Penn Law professor Tom Baker.
‘With respect to business interruption claims, the insurance industry as a whole took a very aggressive position fighting those,’ says Ty Childress, chair of Jones Day’s insurance recovery group and the lead lawyer for World Trade Center Properties in the 9/11 insurance cases. ‘You had smaller entities that shut down. This was their only survival.’
Janet Ruiz of the Insurance Information Institute, a trade association whose members include some of the biggest insurers in the world, contends insurance companies didn’t have the capacity to handle a crisis the magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic. ‘After SARS, insurers realized that pandemics are international,’ Ruiz says.