A decision by a Hamilton County judge Jan. 7 may open the door for many Ohio businesses to sue insurance companies over lost business due to COVID.
Judge Thomas Beridon refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the restaurant Primavista against Cincinnati Insurance, saying, "whether COVID-19 and/or Ohio's orders caused property damage is a question of fact. As such, a reasonable jury could find Primavista was entitled to coverage."
The Price Hill restaurant says it had a comprehensive policy with broad coverage and viruses are not excluded.
Primavista attorney Steve Wolterman says the fact that the policy did not exclude coverage for viruses, like many policies do, "was a driving factor in causing our client to believe coverage was applicable here."
Wolterman sees this court decision as "an extremely important hurdle but it's an early one. There's a long road ahead." He intends to file a class-action lawsuit for the dozens and dozens of Ohio businesses he's heard from who are insured by Cincinnati Insurance.
Wolterman's partner Matt Metzger says some businesses just take the insurance company's word for it that loss of business because of COVID is not covered.
"This is not a settled question," he says. "There are dozens of cases that disagree with that contention and dozens of cases around the country that are going to trial where a jury is going to decide that issue, whether a virus does cause physical loss or physical damage."
Cincinnati Insurance didn't want to comment on pending litigation but said this in an email to WVXU:
"We respect the legal process. As this case continues, we believe that the language of our policy contract will ultimately be enforced. Our commercial property insurance policies require direct physical loss or damage to property and do not provide coverage in this case."
Primavista was closed for months and has since reopened with reduced capacity.
Read Judge Beridon's order in full below.