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A federal district court in Phoenix has dismissed COVID-19 business interruption-related litigation filed by 19 minor league baseball teams in 10 states against Nationwide Mutual Insurance units, citing their coverages’ virus exclusion.
Twenty-four entities associated with 19 teams had filed suit against the Nationwide units in August on charges of breach of contract and anticipatory breach of contract, seeking a declaratory judgment for their refusal, or anticipated refusal, to provide coverage in connection with the COVID-19-related cessation of games, according to Friday’s ruling in Chattanooga Professional Baseball LLC, et al. v. National Casualty Co., et al.
The court agreed with the insurers that a virus exclusion expressly excludes coverage, in granting the defendants’ motion to dismiss the litigation.
“Plaintiffs do not dispute that the virus exclusion — meaning that policy coverage does not include losses stemming from or related to a virus — is clear and unambiguous,” the ruling said.
“Rather, they contend that the exclusion’s existence should not result in a dismissal of their complaint” because the issue of whether the losses caused by the virus “is a question of fact that cannot be decided at this juncture,” and that the insurers are legally barred from applying the exclusion.
“Plaintiffs’ argument that a factual dispute exists as to the cause of their loss is not plausible,” the ruling said in granting the insurers’ motion to dismiss the case.
Their complaint “explicitly attributes their losses to the virus,” said the decision, which also said the teams’ contention the insurers are legally barred from applying the exclusion was “unpersuasive.”
The plaintiffs in the case include minor league teams from California, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.
The insurers’ attorney had no comment, while plaintiffs’ attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.