Business, Interrupted

Nancy Sher Cohen’s insurance team is reviewing policies and advising businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic

Published in 2020 Southern California Super Lawyers Magazine — February 2020

Photo by: Dustin Snipes

Nancy Sher Cohen heads up Lathrop GPM’s Los Angeles office as well as its insurance recovery and counseling practice team. Her clients include Fortune 500 companies and Holocaust victims, and over the years she has helped policyholders recover more than $1 billion in insurance coverage lawsuits. We spoke this week.


How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your practice?

We are overwhelmed with work because our clients need to know what coverages they have for business interruption related to this epidemic. We have a team of people reviewing insurance policies and advising businesses on this topic. We are extremely busy. Our staff has been amazing.

Working from home?

Our entire staff is working from home and we are having no trouble servicing clients. Our technology is top-notch, allowing us to work from home as if we were in the office. Since everyone is in the same boat, no matter what your business, there is enormous support and empathy and I believe this time we will be known for how well we pulled together and helped each other.

What issues are arising with your clients?

There are two main issues which have come up—without regard to insurance sublimits for virus and certain virus exclusions.

Sublimits?

Sublimits are further limits to the policy above and beyond the overall limits of the policy. For example, there can be a $50,000 sublimit for viruses, which means the policy may cover viruses but all they will pay is $50,000, even though the policy usually covers $1 million.

Got it. And the two main issues that have come up?

First, the policies often require impairment to premises because of an order from civil authority [to take effect]. Given all the many orders from local and state governments, policyholders have arguments that this base has been met. Second, [to take effect], the policies usually require damage to property—which brokers are telling clients has not happened in the absence of a person suffering from coronavirus [coming onto] the premises. We don’t necessarily agree, but again state agencies are starting to jump in on this point and asking carriers for clarification. In any event, notice needs to be given to carriers.

How common is it for an insurance policy to have sublimits for virus-related matters?

I am not sure I can answer that. I have seen them several times now, but don’t have a large enough group to know for sure.

Is there concern for the insurance industry itself? So many businesses filing claims at once?

No. The insurance industry shares the risk throughout the world and has reinsurance so no one insurer bears too much of the burden.

You should know that the federal government is considering legislation that would be similar to legislation passed by the federal government after 9/11. This would allow insurers to provide coverage in the future for viruses and pandemics by sharing the cost of this coverage between the federal government and insurance companies.

For more on Ms. Cohen, read our 2019 feature, “A Midwestern Soul”

For more information and articles for legal professionals navigating COVID-19 as it relates to their law practice and clients, visit FindLaw’s COVID-19 resource center or visit superlawyers.com/articles (search for COVID-19).

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