COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The Ohio Supreme Court said Monday in a ruling consistent with multiple court rulings weighing across the country that commercial insurance policies did not cover businesses when the governor ordered them to close early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar issues with lost income.
The state’s superior court ruled that the temporary presence of COVID-19 in a community or business and the temporary presence of an infected person does not constitute direct bodily loss that may be covered.
“A number of other state and federal courts are considering insurance claims for business losses due to COVID and related closure orders, concluding that the mere loss of use of the premises does not constitute immediate material damage,” the Ohio court said..
Neuro-Communication Services Inc., an audiology firm in northeast Ohio, has argued that its “all risks” policy should cover financial losses from the shutdown. The company shut down for several weeks in the spring of 2020 and said it suffered a “significant loss of revenue,” according to an unspecified court document.
For all the controversy earlier this yearwhose attorney Nick DiCello likened the virus to a dangerous element, such as mold, that infiltrates businesses.
But Cincinnati Insurance’s lawyers. The policy only covers accidental physical damage to Neuro-Communication property and does not cover financial setbacks due to the coronavirus shutdown, the company said.
One of its lawyers argued that the flu, while less severe, happens every year but properties are not being replaced or repaired accordingly, and that the coronavirus likewise hurts people but doesn’t change buildings.
“For example, it would be absurd under the law to establish that a building has suffered direct physical loss or damage, because viruses are typically present in communities in the same way that influenza is typically present in communities in one season, each year,” said attorney Daniel Leigh Chifield (Daniel Litchfield) argued.
Messages seeking comment on the court decision were left with lawyers for both parties.
More than 250 courts across the country have considered and dismissed similar insurance claims for COVID-19 damages, according to the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, which said allowing coronavirus claims could be devastating to the insurance industry.
But the Restaurant Law Center, which urged the court to side with the neuro-communication service, argued that focusing on bodily harm ignores “unprecedented losses” beyond bodily harm.
In February, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit rejected an equivalent argument by seven Michigan restaurant companies that were also seeking damages from the Cincinnati insurance company.
Welsh-Huggins, a longtime Associated Press reporter, retired last month.