Law360 (June 21, 2021, 6:29 PM EDT) -- The operators of almost 50 dental clinics in Arkansas and Missouri told an Arkansas federal court Monday that Cincinnati Insurance Co. owes them coverage for losses they sustained because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Rock Dental Arkansas and Rock Dental Missouri said they purchased property insurance from Cincinnati to protect their business in the event of a temporary closure, such as the government-mandated restrictions and shutdowns.
"The loss incurred by plaintiffs is the very type they took out the policy to protect against," the operators said in the complaint. "Almost overnight, plaintiffs were unable to operate their business, and revenue plummeted while expenses continued."
In their bid for coverage, the clinic operators alleged that Cincinnati didn't include exclusions in its policy for viruses, communicable diseases, or pandemics. The "all-risk" policy it purchased encompassed COVID-19 losses for that reason, they said.
Cognizant of their policies' requirement of "physical loss or damage" for coverage, the operators said that simply the loss of use of a property would qualify. Cincinnati chose not to limit the meaning of physical loss or damage, the operators alleged, saying that they could have made a requirement of physical alteration or deformity more explicit.
The operators said that if Cincinnati "wished to exclude viruses from conditions that caused direct physical loss, it could have stated so in plain language, language that was drafted and suggested by industry specialists over a decade ago."
The Rock Dental owners are alleging breach of contract for failing to pay out civil authority and business income claims. They asked the court for a judgment holding their insurer responsible for coverage. They are also seeking a jury trial.
Cincinnati has been at the center of several more coronavirus coverage disputes with dental clinics in recent months. Last month, the insurer notched a victory against a clinic in one of Vermont's first pandemic coverage decisions. And the insurer is facing appeals of clinic losses in the Seventh Circuit and the Eleventh Circuit.
Only two more insurers have faced more pandemic coverage suits than Cincinnati, according to data compiled by the University of Pennsylvania's Carey School of Law. It has faced at least 164 suits since the pandemic began, according to the data.
Representatives for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A spokesperson for Cincinnati did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Randall K. Pulliam and Jake Windley of Carney Bates & Pulliam PLLC.
Counsel information for Cincinnati was not immediately available.
The case is Rock Dental Arkansas PLLC et al. v. The Cincinnati Insurance Co., case number 4:21-cv-00526, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
--Additional reporting by Daphne Zhang. Editing by Haylee Pearl.
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