A Los Angeles-based Holocaust awareness organization is suing its insurer over its refusal to pay coronavirus-related business interruption claims.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and its documentary film unit Moriah Films filed the lawsuit Wednesday, April 29, in a California federal court, alleging the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies/Federal Insurance Co. wrongly denied coverage for economic losses brought on by coronavirus shutdowns.

According to Law 360, the lawsuit claims that the Simon Wiesenthal Center has lost its revenue streams because of the shutdowns, including its 2020 National Tribute Dinner honoring George and Amal Clooney; 2020 address by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Museum of Tolerance; and all of its New York fundraising events and Museum of Tolerance Programs.

“Real physical loss and damage”

Insurance companies have become a major target of lawsuits amid the coronavirus pandemic for their refusal to pay business interruption claims brought on by the widespread shutdowns. They typically claim that they’re not liable to pay the claims because the viral outbreak does not amount to physical damage.

The Wiesenthal Center, like other plaintiffs throughout the U.S., disputes that claim. Chubb should pay business interruption claims, the organization argues, because the coronavirus “creates a physical impact and loss on property as it alters surfaces, limiting or prohibiting the intended use of property and causing a dangerous property condition.”

“While some rogue media outlets have called the 2019-2020 coronavirus … an exaggerated mass hysteria that will unlikely create significant physical damage, the scientific community, and those personally affected by the virus, recognize the coronavirus as a global pandemic causing real physical loss and damage,” the center said, according to Law 360.

Civil authority-ordered shutdowns covered under policies

The lawsuit also points out that the Wiesenthal Center’s policy has a “civil authority” provision that covers business losses due to public officials ordering closures, which is what Los Angeles County did when it issued stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of the virus.

The Wiesenthal Center’s counsel told Law 360 that the insurance company’s denial of business interruption claims is “disgusting.”

“They continue to lie about the policies, lie about the exclusions, deny coronavirus causes a dangerous property condition in the area. And they’ve got no facts, they’re got no legal basis whatsoever to deny these claims,” he told Law 360.

Business interruption insurance denial litigation

Attorneys with Beasley Allen Law Firm are actively pursuing these cases already with our clients who received a denial communication from their insurance companies. Dee Miles, Head of our Consumer Fraud Section, Rachel Boyd and Paul Evans are spearheading this litigation for our firm. They would like to talk to you about any potential claims.

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