Is Covid-19 “Physical Loss or Damage” to Property?

Judge a man by his questions

Rather than by his answers.

-Voltaire

A fundamental coverage question is whether covid-19 can be considered a “physical loss or damage” to insured property. As discussed in an earlier blog, usually business interruption insurance is not triggered unless there’s “physical loss or damage” to insured property.

Courts throughout the nation have reached these conclusions about containments:

  • Asbestos can cause physical loss or damage to insured property if it actively presents a health hazard. Sentinel Mgmt. Co. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. Nos. C2-98-2304, CX 98-2372 (Minn. App. July 27, 1999);
  • Bacteria can cause physical loss or damage to insured property. Pillsbury Co. v. Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London, 705 F.Supp. 1396 (D. Minn. 1989);
  • Fumes can cause physical loss or damage to insured property. Western Fire Insurance Co. v. First Presbyterian Church, 437 P.2d 52 (Colo. 1968); and
  • Lead can cause physical loss or damage to insured property. Pirie v. Federal Insurance Co. 696 N.E.2d 553 (Mass. App. 1998).

One takeaway is that less-tangible containments like asbestos and bacteria can cause physical loss or damage to property. Because covid-19 is akin to bacteria, an argument could be made that it caused physical loss or damage to property. Another takeaway is that these containments rendered the insured property uninhabitable which, to the courts, meant the property sustained physical loss.

If, however, the physical loss or damage requirement is not met, possibly there are other avenues for coverage. That’s discussed here.

Have questions? Contact Me for a free consultation.

Evan Walker

Evan W. Walker is a La Jolla attorney who has practiced law since 2008. He has practiced law throughout California, Connecticut, and Louisiana.

Evan worked for and defended insurance companies during the first 7 years of his practice. Since 2015, he has represented people with personal injury and property damage claims and insurance disputes.

Evan’s practice is devoted to serious personal injury claims and catastrophic property damage claims. Areas of focus include security claims against bars and other businesses, government tort claims, fire and flood claims, and inverse condemnation. On behalf of clients, Evan has fought insurance firms, international companies, cities, bars, and casinos.

Evan regularly shares his expertise with other attorneys by teaching courses on insurance and inverse condemnation. He has taught several continuing legal education courses to Attorney Credits, a nationwide CLE company, and ProLawCLE, another nationwide CLE company. He also contributes to various podcasts and publications.

Associations:

  • Member, State Bar of California
  • Member, San Diego Bar Association
  • Member, Consumer Attorneys of California
  • Member, Consumer Attorneys of San Diego
  • Member, La Jolla Bar Association
  • Member, La Jolla Village Merchants Association
  • Member, San Diego Chamber of Commerce