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Illinois Partners Prevail in COVID-19 Coverage Case

Litchfield Cavo LLP Founding Partner Daniel G. Litchfield and the Firm’s COVID-19 Resource Team that includes Chicago Partner Laurence J. Tooth secured a favorable result at The Supreme Court of Ohio for a COVID-19 coverage claim on behalf of our insurance company client.

In March 2020, our client’s insured audiology practice temporarily suspended operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and sought coverage under our client’s commercial property insurance policy. Our partners, Dan and Laurence, argued on behalf of our client that the policy provides coverage only for direct physical loss or damage to property, which Plaintiff’s complaint did not allege. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio certified the following question to The Supreme Court of Ohio:

Does the general presence in the community, or on surfaces at a premises, of the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, constitute direct physical loss or damage to property; or does the presence on a premises of a person infected with COVID-19 constitute direct physical loss or damage to property at that premises?

In addition, the Federal Court noted the significance of this question as many suits seeking coverage under the same or similar language are pending in Ohio state and federal courts.

The Supreme Court concluded that under Ohio Law, direct physical loss or damage to property explicitly requires physical change to the property. Therefore, the Court held that the presence of the virus in the air, on a surface or in the community does not serve as direct physical loss or damage, agreeing with our attorneys’ arguments.

Dan focuses his practice on insurance coverage and extra-contractual liability counseling, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), litigation, trials and appeals. He has handled a wide variety of civil cases over the years, including construction defect, business tort, antitrust and employment discrimination cases.

Laurence counsels insurers and handles insurance coverage litigation against first- and third-party insurance claims. He has experience handling claims involving policies for D&O liability, professional liability, employment practices liability, cyber liability and commercial general liability.