UTA sues insurer over $150m Covid-19 losses
United Talent Agency has filed a lawsuit against Chubb, its insurance company, for allegedly failing to cover any of the US$150 million worth of losses the agency says it has suffered during the coronavirus pandemic.
The complaint, filed in the Los Angeles County superior court on Friday (13 November), says its losses since March – which include the cancellations of tours by Guns N’ Roses, Post Malone, Pitbull and Toby Keith, as well as cancelled TV and film productions – should be covered under its business interruption policy with Chubb.
While UTA’s solicitor, Kirk Pasich, argues that financial losses due to the impact of Covid-19 constitute ‘damage’ under the policy, Chubb’s position is that business interruption policies only cover “direct physical loss or damage to property”.
According to Yahoo! Finance, this has been Chubb’s position since the beginning of the pandemic.
The agency is suing Chubb companies Vigilant and Federal for tortious interference and breach of contract.
“‘direct physical loss or damage to property’ extends to damage or loss caused by the presence of a hazardous substance”
In the complaint, Pasich says there is “no merit to Vigilant and Federal’s position that their policies do not insure the losses that UTA has suffered and is suffering,” nothing that: “Vigilant and Federal have known for decades that the phrase ‘direct physical loss or damage to property’ extends to damage or loss caused by the presence of a hazardous substance in the airspace inside a building or on property […] even if the property has not been physically altered.”
Chubb, for its part, clarified its position in an earnings call on 29 July (h/t Yahoo!), with CEO Evan Greenberg telling investors that business interruption policies are intended to cover damage due to events like a fire or a flood, not a disease.
“Plaintiff attorneys are attempting to torture or reverse engineer insurance contract language to conjure up business interruption coverage that for the most part simply doesn’t exist,” Greenberg said.
According to UTA, at least 13 employees, as well as five spouses and a number of dependents, have contracted Covid-19 this year.
Read IQ’s recent feature on the complexities of insuring events while Covid-19 is still a threat here.