Below is the abstract for “Infected Judgment: Problematic Rush to Conventional Wisdom and Insurance Coverage Denial in a Pandemic,” available for download on SSRN.
The COVID-19 pandemic created not only a public health crisis but also an insurance coverage imbroglio, prompting near-immediate business interruption claims by policyholders impacted by government restrictions ordered in response to the pandemic. Insurers and their representatives “presponded” to the looming coverage claims by quickly moving to denigrate arguments for coverage, engaging in a pre-emptive strike that has largely worked to date, inducing too many courts to rush to judgment by declaring—as a matter of law—that policy terms such as “direct physical loss or damage” do not even arguably encompass the business shutdowns resulting from COVID-19.
Our closer examination of the term and of other key coverage questions suggests that policyholders have a much stronger case than suggested by the initial—and often superficial and conclusory—conventional wisdom flowing from the first wave of judicial decisions. Only a few courts have analyzed the COVID coverage debate with the type of reflective care, judicial humility, and respect for the trial process one would hope to see. The “early returns” in these coverage wars have been analytically disappointing, creating risk of an unfortunate path dependency or cascade of cases excessively narrowing the meaning of key terms such as “loss” and “damage,” and diminishing the quality of future coverage decisions.