Langdon & Emison has joined three top-tier civil litigation firms for plaintiffs in the representation of businesses whose business interruption insurance claims have been denied. In its first action, the Kansas City-based law firm of Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP filed a class action lawsuit on Friday, April 24, against The Cincinnati Insurance Company, Inc., alleging breach of contract stemming from its refusal to pay property insurance claims related to COVID-19. The other two firms in the alliance are Miller Schirger LLC, and Shaffer Lombardo Shurin.
Stueve Siegel represents Promotional Headwear International, a wholesale distributor of custom-branded merchandise, including custom promotional hats sold to businesses around the world for marketing purposes. A family-owned business, it was established in 1937 and operates under the name Sportsman Caps & Bags.
As a result of the coronavirus, the company was forced to suspend its business. It estimates that stay-at-home orders led to a 95 percent loss in sales.
Promotional Headwear International holds an all-risk commercial property insurance policy from The Cincinnati Insurance Company to protect it in the event of business interruption. Promotional Headwear International’s policy does not contain an exclusion for pandemics or virus-related losses.
“The Cincinnati Insurance Company refuses to honor its promise to provide the protection that our client, a loyal customer, purchased,” said Patrick Stueve, founding partner at Stueve Siegel Hanson. “Unfortunately, this is not a unique situation: The insurance industry appears to be taking a uniform approach to business interruption claims during this pandemic: no matter how clear the policy— ‘deny coverage.’”
According to Stueve, “The insurance companies are telling brokers and the public that these policies only cover physical damage to the property and that they don’t insure against a pandemic. They may be doing this to deter businesses from filing claims, but many of the policies we have reviewed cover any non-excluded physical ‘loss.’ And while there may be pandemic exclusions in some policies, I haven’t seen one yet that contains a reference to pandemics. It is important that each business get legal counsel regarding their particular policy language.”
The lawsuit, filed April 24 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief for loss of business income and extra expenses and compensatory damages.
This class action represents the first lawsuit brought by Stueve Siegel Hanson and a consortium of top-tier plaintiffs’ firms working together to advocate for business owners in the wake of COVID-19. Together, these firms bring more than 100 years of experience in complex litigation against insurance companies and more than $1 billion in recoveries.