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Insurer asks court to throw out COVID-19 claims


Selective Insurance Group Inc. on Wednesday filed motions to dismiss two lawsuits filed by businesses that had sued the insurer seeking coverage for coronavirus-related business interruption claims.

The filings in federal court in Philadelphia allege that the suits filed by an aerospace products manufacturer and a clothing store fail to state a claim covered by the policies.

The two similarly worded lawsuits, C.A. Spalding Co. v. Selective Insurance Group Inc. and Jul-Bur Associates and Julie’s Bottega v. Selective Insurance Co. of America, were filed last month. The same law firm represents both policyholders.

The businesses argued, like numerous other commercial policyholders have in other suits against insurers, that they are owed business interruption coverage for losses they incurred after they were forced to close their operations in mid-March under government orders intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The policyholders argue that the presence of the coronavirus constitutes physical damage triggering coverage under the civil authority clause in their policies, regardless of an exclusion for virus-related losses also included in the policies.

In motions to dismiss, which were also similarly worded, Branchville, New Jersey-based Selective argues that the policies only respond to business interruption losses caused by “direct physical loss of or damage to property,” court papers say.

In addition, the civil authority clause, which covers income lost following government-imposed restrictions, is also triggered by property damage; the damage must be sustained at a property other than the policyholder’s; and access must be prohibited due to dangerous conditions or to allow civil authorities unimpeded access to a damaged property, court papers say.

“All three requirements must be satisfied, but Plaintiff cannot satisfy any of them,” Selective argues in both cases.

In addition, the policies exclude losses resulting from “The enforcement of or compliance with any ordinance or law” regulating the use or repair of a property and losses related to a “virus or bacteria,” court papers say.

More insurance and risk management news on the coronavirus crisis here