Goddard Preschools Sue For Virus Business Losses In Pa.

By Matt Fair
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Law360 (November 19, 2020, 5:16 PM EST) -- A group of Goddard School franchisees have launched a string of lawsuits in Pennsylvania state court accusing Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co. of wrongfully refusing to cover financial losses they've sustained as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The eight Goddard School locations, located across Pennsylvania and Ohio, said Philadelphia Indemnity wrongfully denied claims for coverage by citing policy language barring claims related to viral or bacterial contamination.

"Coverage under an all-risk policy is to be broadly interpreted and provided, and exclusions are to be narrowly construed in favor of coverage," the schools argued in eight largely identical complaints filed in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Tuesday. "The virus exclusion does not apply to this pandemic. The policy does not identify any exclusions for a pandemic."

These lawsuits add to a growing torrent of litigation insurers are facing as businesses seek to recoup financial damage they've sustained as a result of COVID-19 mitigation measures implemented by state and local authorities.

According to the complaints, the owners of the eight Goddard preschool franchise locations were denied coverage based on virus exclusions written into their policies, and on grounds that none of the schools suffered physical property damage or loss as a result of the pandemic.

But the schools argued in their complaints that their policies with Philadelphia Indemnity included specific language designed to cover losses, regardless of physical damage, if they were to lose access to their facilities as a result of an order by civil authorities.

Business-closure orders inked by authorities in Pennsylvania, the complaints said, obviously fit the bill.

They argued that virus exclusions written in the policies, meanwhile, were intended to bar coverage for "discrete" instances of contamination at individual properties, and were not meant to apply to a global pandemic.

The schools added that Philadelphia Indemnity could have specifically mentioned pandemics in their exclusion if they meant for it to apply to situations like the COVID-19 outbreak, and noted that other insurers specifically barred coverage for pandemic-related losses in their policies.

Representatives for the parties did not immediately return messages seeking comment on Thursday.

The franchises are represented by Arnold Levin, Laurence S. Berman, Frederick Longer and Daniel Levin of Levin Sedran & Berman LLP, and Richard Golomb and Kenneth Grunfeld of Golomb & Honik PC.

Counsel information for Philadelphia Indemnity was not immediately available.

The cases are Striper LLC v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., case number 201101509; Bellanza Inc. v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., case number 201101522; Bellmazia Enterprises LLC v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., case number 201101518; Speranza - Horsham Investment Group LLC v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., case number 201101524; Ballmaizia - North Huntington Investment Group LLP v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., case number 201101517; Bellanza Investments LLC v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., case number 201101516; Speranza - Broadview Heights Investment Group LLC v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., case number 201101526; and Jatyson Inc. v. Philadelphia Indemnity Insurance Co., case number 201101513, all before the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

--Editing by Ellen Johnson.

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