Pennsylvania Supreme Court Refuses to Consolidate COVID-19 Business Interruption Cases
Thousands of businesses across Pennsylvania have been forced to close their doors as a result of mandatory COVID-19-related statewide closures. In an effort to help offset resulting losses, many companies have begun filing business interruption claims with their insurance providers. Unfortunately, many insurers have refused to honor these claims, leaving business owners unsure of their right to compensation. In fact, in May, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had the opportunity to issue a ruling on the applicability of business interruption insurance policies to COVID-19 closures, but failed to do so.
While the effects of this ruling remain to be seen, many business owners will continue to grapple with their insurers over the scope of their policies. For help assessing your own rights under your policy, please call a Wilkes Barre business interruption insurance lawyer (COVID-19) who can evaluate your policy and explain your legal options.
Tambellini v. Erie Insurance
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s recent decision stemmed from the denial of a restaurant owner’s claim for compensation under his business interruption insurance policy after he suffered COVID-19-related business losses. In his petition, the claimant made two main requests, asking the Court to:
- Issue an expedited decision on its insurance coverage issues; and
- Consolidate all insurance claims related to the COVID-19 shutdowns into a single case.
The plaintiff’s insurer opposed the petition, arguing that consolidating litigation would be inappropriate, as all insurance contracts are different and the facts of individual claims must be weighed heavily in making claim determinations. Thus, the defendant argued, a broad ruling would be unable to address the nuances of each policyholder’s contract and unique situation. Instead, the defendant argued that the claims should be heard in trial court.
The PA Supreme Court’s Decision
In May, the state Supreme Court rejected the plaintiff’s emergency petition, although it failed to elaborate on the reasoning behind its decision. Fortunately, the Court’s refusal to consolidate the cases does not mean that future claimants will not be successful in their attempts to recover compensation under their business interruption insurance policies. Plaintiffs will still have the opportunity to demonstrate to a lower court that their losses fall under the purview of the policy, which could require proof that COVID-19 losses qualify as physical losses or do not fall under an insurer’s list of exclusions.
However, litigating this issue will undoubtedly prove difficult for many claimants, making it especially important for Pennsylvania business owners who are attempting to recover under their business interruption policies, to speak with an attorney about their legal options before proceeding with their claims.
Obtain a Legal Review of Your Case
If you are contending with a business insurance issue as a result of the COVID-19 shutdowns, you should speak with an experienced Pennsylvania business interruption insurance lawyer (COVID-19) about your options. Please call us at the Figured Law Firm today to learn more about how we can help. We can be reached at our office at 570-954-9299 or by online message.