August 27, 2020 Articles

Virus and Pollution Exclusions in Coronavirus-Related Business Interruption Claims

An exploration of some of the arguments that policyholders and insurers have asserted to date regarding the application of virus and pollution exclusions to business interruption insurance claims.

By John Buchanan and Suzan Charlton[1]

Some property and casualty insurers’ public statements would suggest that virus and contamination exclusions universally bar coverage for claims arising from the coronavirus pandemic. [2] But not all policies contain such exclusions, and not all such exclusions are created equal. Some so-called virus exclusions may fail to capture the coronavirus unambiguously in their litanies of excluded perils; others may apply only to particular coverage grants; and others may contain exceptions allowing for express virus or pandemic coverage grants. In addition, doctrines of regulatory estoppel, principles of public policy, or currently pending legislation may render even the broadest virus exclusions unenforceable as written. At the same time, however, policyholders whose policies lack any virus exclusions may still find that their insurers dispute coronavirus-related coverage by relying on their general pollution or contamination exclusions, even with no specific reference to viruses in their insurance contracts.

While we are still in the early days of coronavirus-related coverage litigation,[3]  we explore here some of the arguments that policyholders and insurers have asserted to date regarding the application of virus and pollution exclusions to business interruption insurance claims.

Premium Content For:
  • Litigation Section
Join - Now