As summer vacation rolls around and hotels, restaurants and other hospitality companies gear up for a busy tourist season, coastal businesses in the U.S. Southeast, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean may be welcoming an unexpected guest—the Great Atlantic Sargassum Seaweed Belt. Businesses are bracing for this ten-million-ton mass of brown seaweed, which is floating on the ocean surface and extending from the west coast of Africa to the Gulf of Mexico.
Articles Posted in Property Damage
“Blank Space” Becomes Big Win for Builder’s Risk Policyholder
Loyal readers of this blog may recall our recent analysis of Norwegian Hull Club v. North Star Fishing Co., an insurance coverage dispute that appeared likely to turn on the meaning of a blank space in a very large builder’s risk policy. After bench trial, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle has filled that gap—giving the policyholders most, but not all, of the coverage that they sought. Under the judge’s decision, based upon industry custom and practice, that blank space provided the policyholder with nearly $20 million in extra coverage.
A Missing Issue in “Blank Space” Insurance Ruling
Insurance coverage disputes often turn on the meaning of the specific words used in a policy. Norwegian Hull Club v. North Star Fishing Co., currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, presents a twist—it turns on the meaning of a blank space.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled that neither the policyholder nor the insurer was entitled to summary judgment regarding the interpretation of a critical policy provision, reasoning that an empty field rendered the clause ambiguous. But as the case now proceeds to trial, the most interesting part of the district court’s opinion might be its own blank space: contra proferentem, the argument it doesn’t address.
The Higher the Value, the Greater the Loss: The Importance of Updating Building Values in Inflationary Times
Earlier in 2022, CBRE forecasted a 14.1% year-over-year increase in construction costs by year-end 2022, as labor and material costs continue to rise, despite the expectation that overall cost inflation for materials would begin to cool by the end of the year. Commercial construction costs have indeed increased, as Turner Construction Company’s Third Quarter 2022 Building Cost Index reported an 8.62% yearly increase from the third quarter of 2021, a 2.18% quarterly increase from the second quarter of 2022. In addition to supply chain issues for building materials, skilled labor shortages and construction wage growth persists.
Ohio Appellate Court Ruling Is a Reminder that Cyber Coverage Can Be Found in Unexpected Places
As the number and severity of cyberattacks rise, the importance of insurance coverage to offset resultant loss becomes increasingly important. An opinion issued by the Ohio Court of Appeals is a happy reminder that there may be coverage for cyber-related loss even if you did not buy cyber-specific insurance and that policyholders should review their entire insurance portfolio when confronted by a cyber loss.
EPA Announces Increased Efforts to Require Cleanup of Coal Ash – Insurance Should Be a Component of Companies’ Response
Early in 2021, we wrote about potential insurance implications that could arise from the then-new Biden Administration’s expected regulatory priorities. Among other things, we noted that heightened scrutiny on coal ash was expected. On January 11, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) confirmed that prediction, issuing a press release announcing “key steps” it is taking to “protect groundwater from coal ash contamination.” As companies with coal ash liabilities consider EPA’s new guidance and next steps, they should be aware that they may have insurance that could cover some of their coal ash cleanup costs.
Flooded by Ida? Many Policyholders Can Expect Increased Premiums for Flood Insurance
After hitting the shores of Louisiana with winds of up to 172mph in late August, Hurricane Ida’s remnants barreled up to the northeastern United States, leaving waves of destruction in its wake. The deluge of rain—more than half-a-foot fell in just a few hours—turned streets and subway platforms into rivers. The catastrophic flooding caused by the record-breaking rainfall killed several dozen people, left thousands without power, and damaged countless homes and businesses. All told, Ida is said to have caused more than $50 billion in damage. And scientists predict that, because of climate change, heavy rainfall-producing storms like Ida will only become more and more frequent.
Insurance Considerations for Cannabis Delivery Services
The legal cannabis industry in the U.S. is growing at an unprecedented rate and is projected to reach $73.6 billion by 2027. While federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, many states have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana. As state restrictions ease, new business opportunities continue to emerge.
Reminder: If You Have a COVID-19 Insurance Claim, Be Aware of Impending Policy Deadlines
The United States declared a national emergency in response to COVID-19 on March 13, 2020, and states quickly followed with stay-at-home orders that impacted businesses and institutions nationwide. It has now been nine full months since the pandemic emerged in the United States and businesses began to shut down in the face of contamination and civil authority orders effecting restrictions on access to and use of their premises.
Out of the COVID Frying Pan: Valuing Business Interruption Claims from Wildfires in a Pandemic
One word that aptly describes the devastation that is 2020 is “relentless.” The COVID-19 pandemic has caused both personal and economic suffering throughout the world for over six months. Against the backdrop of the already devastating effects of COVID-19, several regions in the United States have recently experienced powerful storms and historically large wildfires. The wildfires in the western United States and Canada have been especially catastrophic this year—burning millions of acres, forcing evacuations, damaging air quality, and creating blankets of smoke extending over much of the country. The fires have destroyed homes and businesses and will lead to hundreds or thousands of insurance claims under homeowners, commercial property, and business interruption policies.
What happens under First Party Property/Business Interruption insurance when more than one arguably covered cause of loss impacts a business at the same time?