The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio recently ruled in the case of Henderson Road Restaurant Systems, Inc. vs. Zurich American Insurance Company, that the restaurant group is entitled to business interruption insurance coverage due to lost sales and increasing expenditures as a result of a government-ordered shutdown. Business interruption insurance has been widely disputed during the COVID-19 pandemic as many business owners have sought compensation for losses incurred during government-imposed shutdowns and curfews. The court ruled in favor of the restaurant group claiming it had a valid claim even though a provision within the policy denied coverage for any shutdowns caused by a microorganism. The Court argued the government orders were what caused the shutdown, not the actual novel coronavirus. Thus, the microorganism provision does not prevent the repayment.
In its defense, the insurer argued the restaurant group did not satisfy the requirement within the policy stating business income loss must be tied to “a direct physical loss of or damage to”. However, the court agreed with the restaurant group noting it lost its ability to use the insured properties for their intended purpose. The judge maintained the temporary state and local closure orders led to the restaurant group to suffer a covered loss because the orders prohibited them from allowing in-person dining, which was the foundation of their business model.
The case has been certified for an immediate appeal. If the court’s decision survives the appeal, all businesses in Ohio closed due to shutdown orders may be entitled to recover some form of their losses from their insurer. Policyholders and insurers in Ohio await a resolution of these key issues and will look for clarification of the policy interpretation rules by the Sixth Circuit or the Ohio Supreme Court.
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