Casey Jelinski wasn’t concerned about closing her De Pere, Wisconsin, arcade, Aunt Ethel’s Adult Emporium, when Gov. Tony Evers in March ordered all nonessential businesses to shut down to stop the spread of COVID-19. She knew her insurance company had her back.
“Because we’re like, ‘we’ve been paying our premiums for a couple of years now, we’ve got solid numbers, we have solid sales reports,’” she told the Green Bay Press Gazette. “So we can show comparative weeks from the previous year, same week, if we’ve got to be closed one week or two.
“It ended up being two months.”
She called her insurance agency to inquire about filing a business interruption claim on her business owner’s policy. The insurance she paid for month after month, year after year, promised to cover operating expenses in the event she had to temporarily close her business due to a disaster. But she was told COVID-19-related closures, even though they were mandated by the state, were not covered because her business didn’t sustain any physical damage like it would have had her business, say, caught on fire.
Jelinski filed a claim anyway, and it was denied.
Many small and mid-sized businesses suffering from government-mandated closures and restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic have been told by their insurers not to even bother filing business interruption claims because they won’t be covered.
But businesses should file a claim so they can get the denial on record, said Don Mjelde, president of the Brown County Tavern League and owner of the Green Bay bar Richard Craniums. “In the future, if it does fall in our direction that insurance companies were in the wrong, then they would have that claim of denial that they would be able to bring to court and try to recuperate any business loss they had during that time,” he said.
Many businesses across the country are doing just that — getting the denial on record and then seeking legal representation to get the coverage they are entitled to. Beasley Allen lawyers are helping.
We are actively investigating and filing claims against various insurance companies for denial of business interruption coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic, and are involved in advocating for consolidation of these actions in multidistrict litigation (MDL). Dee Miles, head of our Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section, Rachel Boyd, and Paul Evans, lawyers in the Section, are spearheading this litigation for our firm and are monitoring all MDL developments as they arise.