The last few weeks have seen both ups and downs for companies that are pursuing business income claims. On the upside, two Washington state courts have now held in favor of policyholders, ruling that government shutdown orders can constitute “physical loss” covered by insurance. On the downside, Oregon, Washington, and other states have imposed new “freeze” orders similar to those we saw in the spring, including banning most in-person dining and restricting other “non-essential” operations. For restaurants in particular the re-imposition of these restrictions may be catastrophic. What impact will the courthouse wins have on businesses that are again being pushed to the brink? Continue Reading
Debris removal after a fire is complicated where hazardous substances may be present. Insurance may not defray the full cost, as debris removal coverage is often sub-limited. The State of Oregon DEQ and FEMA have teamed up to provide removal of some hazardous waste at no cost to property owners. However, owners have only until October 16 to fill out an access agreement (the “Right of Entry” Form), to participate in the process. For more information on what is available in your county, and to fill out the Right of Entry form, please visit: https://wildfire.oregon.gov/cleanup.
The wildfires sweeping through California, Oregon, and Washington have impacted many business sectors, and the cannabis industry is no exception. I interviewed Mike Rodgers, an insurance broker at the Fournier Group in Portland who focuses on the cannabis industry, about what cannabis losses may be covered and how to best position your insurance claim for success. Continue Reading
Our firm has filed lawsuits against Cincinnati Insurance Company in Multnomah County Circuit Court on behalf of RingSide Steakhouse, Mississippi Studios, Polaris Hall, and Revolution Hall, four cultural institutions that span Portland’s culinary roots to the city’s famous music scene. The lawsuits arise from Cincinnati’s denial of these iconic establishments’ claims for business income loss coverage arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue Reading
Our policyholder-side Insurance Recovery Practice Team is proud to represent United Policyholders, Washington Hospitality Association, and National Independent Venue Association in submitting an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in opposition to a motion to dismiss filed by the insurer in Vita Coffee v. Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, pending in the Western District of Washington. A copy of the brief is here. Our brief advocates for the faithful application of Washington law, under which insurance policies that contain vague or unclear language are interpreted broadly in favor of the insured, to one of the key issues in many pending business interruption cases: whether the current pandemic can constitute “direct physical loss of or damage to” insured property. This is the second amicus brief Miller Nash has filed in support of a policyholder facing a motion to dismiss from its business income loss insurer.
Vita Coffee operates coffee shops Washington State (and elsewhere) and was insured under a policy issued by Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, a subsidiary of Allianz. Vita Coffee, like many restaurants, closed down in March 2020 due to the pandemic, but was denied coverage for its business income loss.
At this point, it is unknown when the court will rule on the motion to dismiss.
Miller Nash has also filed two lawsuits over business interruption losses on behalf of firm clients; both cases are pending in the Western District of Washington.
Our firm has filed a lawsuit against Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company in King County Superior Court on behalf of Ethan Stowell’s restaurant group (ES Restaurant Group). The lawsuit arises from Fireman’s Fund denial of ES Restaurant’s Group’s claim for business income loss coverage arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This lawsuit concerns a carrier that intentionally removed its disease exclusion, but now claims its policy does not cover business income losses caused by a disease—COVID-19,” said Tristan Swanson, ES Restaurant Group’s lead lawyer. “What’s especially concerning is that Fireman’s Fund has likely misrepresented this in every denial across Washington State, given that the company appears to be denying claims by cutting and pasting the names of restaurants into a template response, falsely asserting that a disease exclusion may bar coverage in each one.” Tristan added that “he is proud to be representing a client like ES Restaurant Group; one that is willing to fight a battle which will likely benefit restaurants state-wide.” Continue Reading
Our policyholder-side Insurance Recovery Practice Team is proud to represent United Policyholders and the National Independent Venue Association in submitting an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in opposition to a motion to dismiss filed by the insurer in Dakota Ventures v. Oregon Mutual Insurance, pending in the District of Oregon. A copy of the brief is here. Our brief advocates for the faithful application of Oregon law, under which insurance policies that contain vague or unclear language are interpreted broadly in favor of the insured, to one of the key issues in many pending business interruption cases: whether the current pandemic can constitute “direct physical loss of or damage to” insured property.
Dakota Ventures operates a restaurant and grill in Washington State and was insured under a policy issued by Oregon-based Oregon Mutual. Dakota Ventures, like many restaurants, closed down in March 2020 due to the pandemic, but was denied coverage for its business income loss.
At this point, it is unknown when the court will rule on the motion to dismiss.
The historic protests responding to the death of George Floyd and calling for racial justice have been accompanied, in some cities, by property damage and looting. The motivations behind the damage may make little difference to business owners already dealing with losses due to pandemic-related closures. Fortunately, insurance coverage is usually available for vandalism and theft under standard business property policies, and may pay both to repair the damage and for lost business income. Claims for business income loss may be disputed at the valuation stage due to the pandemic but should be pursued regardless. Continue Reading
As we continue to provide our audience with updated information on developments in business interruption insurance coverage, we are inviting you to join this free virtual program which features Northwest Policyholder blog creator and editor, Seth Row, as a panelist.
Session II: Business Interruption Insurance Coverage
Date: Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Time: 11:00 AM Pacific/ 2:00 PM Eastern
Duration: 1 hour
More info: Click here
You are invited to join this webcast as we review existing policy clauses and best practices to submit a claim, how to document and support your claim, as well as current regulations and anticipated assistance from federal and state government. Northwest Policyholder blog creator and editor, Seth Row, is a panelist for this virtual program.
The ELA is proud to present a complimentary webinar series on topics and challenges that have come to the forefront for employers due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Straight Talk Series features legal specialists from key practice areas in candid, direct conversations addressing your most important questions. The format is driven by interactive discussions, audience polls, and Q&A. Participants can submit questions in advance or during the live program.
Use link below to register to join this webcast.
Registration Link: Click here
With a majority of businesses being run from home, using less secure networks, and disrupting normal security protocols, hackers are seeking to capitalize. The FCC and the FTC have seen an uptick in scams during the pandemic in the form of fake charities requesting donations, fake sources offering financial relief, fake information regarding COVID-19 vaccines, and phishing e‑mails. Ransomware attacks are also increasing as hackers prowl the Internet for vulnerable systems, while VPNs are in high demand.
Secure Your Information
Maintain security while working from home. Businesses should be taking reasonable measures to ensure the safety of personal information during these challenging times. Examples include:
- Encrypting video chat platforms and securing meetings with access codes for attendees. Most communication platforms encrypt chat programs by default, but this is not the case with video programs.
- Reminding employees to be aware of what’s in sight during video calls. Employees should be sure that confidential information is not visible to those with whom they are conferencing.
- Reminding employees that they should continue to use the same verification processes that they would use in the office to confirm the accuracy of payment requests. Remember: failure to use normal protocols may void insurance coverage or other risk-management protections.