GLENVIEW, Ill. (CBS) — There was a small victory this week for a group of restaurants fighting to have insurance companies pay out certain COVID-19 claims.
As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Tuesday, a federal judge ruled one case can proceed – despite the insurance company’s request to have it tossed.READ MORE: Environmentalist Chad Pregracke Wants To Turn Old I-80 Bridge Over Mississippi River Into Crossing For Bison
The owner of one restaurant in Glenview, and another in Wilmette, said he has insurance to protect him from business interruptions. He has been paying premiums for decades and has never had a claim before – which is why he began fighting when he did have a claim and was denied.
The Valley Lodge Restaurant in Glenview has been in business for 52 years. Owner Bill Stavrou and employees get ready nightly for dinner clientele.
Lunch hours were scrapped months ago, in one of many business hits due to the pandemic.
“It’s hard to quantify exactly how financially hit we’ve been” Stavrou said. We’ve been running so hard, so fast to do everything every day that we haven’t done the math.”
But Stavrou said one thing is crystal clear – business at his restaurants has been interrupted. He has been paying Society Insurance to protect him from such an interruption, but Society Insurance denied his claim.
Stavrou sued the insurance company to get them to pay up. Society moved to have the lawsuit dismissed, but late Monday, a federal judge ruled Stavrou’s case can move forward.
“We wouldn’t have filed a claim if we didn’t believe it was a just cause,” Stavrou said.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: 2 Rounds Of Severe Storms Possible Sunday
Even the judge in the case acknowledged the pandemic-related interruption claim is virtually unprecedented.
In his ruling, the judge stated, “The fundamental questions at stake in the litigation are how properly to classify the interruption that has happened here, and whether this particular interruption is covered under the policy,” and found the policy does not contain a specific pandemic-related coverage exclusion.
Stavrou’s attorney, Shannon McNulty, calls the ruling highly significant for many Midwestern businesses in particular hit hard by COVID-19.
“By definition, I believe that it is – our business was been disrupted and interrupted, and that’s by definition what we’ve been paying for for the last 52 years,” Stavrou said.
Society Insurance Company clearly does not see it that way. A spokesperson said Tuesday afternoon that the company is disappointed with the ruling and will continue to fight it.
The Valley Inn group is one of three restaurant groups suing the insurance company.
As to the significance of the judge’s ruling for other restaurant owners in groups, policy language will be key. But if Valley Lodge wins, it could pave the way for similar cases, and it could determine the future of the insurance company.MORE NEWS: United Airlines Plane Flies From Houston To Chicago With Special All-Black Crew In Honor Of Juneteenth
For instance, the judge mentioned one memo from Society’s chief executive officer to employees last March, in which he stated: “The insurance industry combined does not have enough assets to fund these losses…. Only government has the financial power to respond to these types of events.”