Who will pay? Businesses, insurers tangle over pandemic coverage

By   – Staff reporter, Columbus Business First


Troy Stacy once thought he’d open and run multiple bar/record shops in Ohio, but now he’s fighting to keep just the one.

Stacy opened Craft & Vinyl at 1806 W. 5th Ave. in 2018, but because of the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing restrictions he’s now in his second month without any business.

“We live and breathe on our cash flow,” he said. “This has been devastating.”

He’s applied for federal aid, but is waiting for an answer. In the meantime he’s trying to generate money through a GoFundMe and pre-sales of his book about pairing beer and music.

While there’s plenty of anger to go around, Stacy and other business owners have centered on their insurance providers, feeling those companies have abandoned them in their moment of greatest need.

Stacy is in one of several lawsuits nationwide seeking class-action status that argue insurers, in his case Cincinnati Insurance Co., should pay out business interruption coverage on losses incurred due to the pandemic. Similar cases exist outside that class-action push as well.

“(Stacy) fulfilled every piece of his contract,” said Kenneth Abbarno, an attorney with Chicago-based DiCello Levitt Gutzler. “And they turned their back on him.”

Jeff Smith, CEO of the Ohio Insurance Agents trade and business services group, is sympathetic to the business owners’ perspectives, but said policies do not – and equally significant in the industry’s eyes cannot – cover the cost of a pandemic.

“People are in distress and they’re looking for solutions,” he said. “But business interruption coverage was not underwritten for a global pandemic. There’s been no premium paid to cover it. We’re only capitalized to cover what’s been underwritten.”

Stacy’s case argues, among other things, that damage from a virus is not excluded from the policy and therefore should be covered.

Read More

Jeff Smith, chief executive officer for the OIA, provided his own response to this article. His Business Interruption Coverage response article can be found on the OIA blog page.read more.


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