Investment giant Berkshire Hathaway and its subsidiary National Fire & Marine Insurance Co. on Monday asked a federal court in Pennsylvania to dismiss a COVID-19-damages coverage claim by a bar and grill in the state, claiming a virus exclusion “plainly applies.”
The proposed class-action lawsuit was filed in June by 1 S.A.N.T. Inc., doing business as the Town & Country Bar and Grill in New Castle, Pa., and reported by Law360 on Monday. The coronavirus pandemic and state and local restrictions on restaurants have led to a wave of lawsuits.
Town & Country, which filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, is looking to represent a national class of National Fire customers who were denied coverage of their coronavirus losses, seeking damages equal to lost business or the limits of policies.
National Fire argued that it had denied Town & Country’s claim because the restaurant didn't sustain “direct physical loss of or damage to covered property.”
The insurance company also argued that the alleged loss or damage was excluded under the policy because it stemmed from a virus, and the closure orders issued by state and local governments didn’t prohibit access to the property, a requirement for civil authority coverage.
“The decision of this court will be important and widely reported,” National Fire said. “This could be the first decision on enforcement of the virus exclusion for COVID-19 in federal court.”
Berkshire Hathaway, in a separate motion that seeks dismissal of the case, said nothing in Town & Country’s complaint establishes jurisdiction over the Omaha, Neb.-based company in Pennsylvania.
Town & Country is represented by attorneys with Carlson Lynch LLP of Pittsburgh, Pa.
Berkshire Hathaway and National Fire are represented by lawyers with Duane Morris LLP of Philadelphia.
Irvine, Calif.-based In-N-Out in May sued Zurich American Insurance Co. in U.S. District Court for Central California over denial of the chain’s claim for business interruption losses tied to the coronavirus pandemic.
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