Law360 (June 26, 2020, 6:25 PM EDT) -- Global research firm Gartner Inc. sued U.S Specialty Insurance Co. in New York federal court, seeking up to $340 million in coverage from canceled events because of COVID-19, alleging the insurer breached its policy terms by avoiding paying for its loss.
Gartner alleged Thursday that Specialty had agreed that Gartner can increase its policies' coverage limit by $170 million for a potential total of $340 million in 2020. The research firm holds two event cancellation policies with the insurer.
In the suit, Gartner said that Specialty repeatedly delayed responding to its request to confirm coverage of losses from canceled events from March to May, while its policies specifically cover any loss arising from a communicable disease outbreak.
The global research firm holds over 70 industry conferences and events around the world and up to 250 smaller meetings for business executives under its "Evanta" brand. Gartner said it was forced to cancel its events starting in February due to the COVID-19 outbreak and it notified Specialty of the cancellations promptly.
However, Gartner claims that even though it specifically cited the pandemic and safety concerns as the reasons to stop holding its events, Specialty said the firm failed to provide a basis for why it canceled the events and asked Gartner to provide "burdensome" documents, according to the complaint.
Gartner said it acquired its first policy with Specialty in 2008. In order to compete with other insurers' offers at the time, Specialty granted it reinstatement rights to increase the coverage limit and indemnity amount for specific events.
"Specialty underwriters represented that the limits of liability could be reinstated at any time, if Gartner needed to do so," the research firm said. "The policy guaranteed that if Gartner needed additional coverage, it would be available and could be triggered for a set premium, thus ensuring that Gartner had access to double the limit."
The research firm said it paid a higher premium for the addition of new events and 2020 events and expected the ability to increase the coverage amount if needed, as it has done in the past decade.
Gartner provided the insurer with an event schedule on Feb 11, 2020, before it knew it would have to cancel events due to COVID-19. And it provided the first event cancellation notice to Specialty in late February. The research firm said it suffered a significant loss of over $150 million after it canceled its global conferences in Dubai, Tokyo, London, Sweden and locations in the U.S.
Gartner alleged that Specialty purposely delayed its response and imposed new policy restrictions, despite a prior agreement, after receiving the 2020 events schedule.
According to the complaint, Specialty sent Gartner a letter on May 13 stating that Gartner's demand for reinstating the coverage limit was "premature." Fourteen days later, Specialty told Gartner that it refused to insure some of its 2020 canceled events, saying that Gartner cannot increase the coverage limit for the events.
The insurer said that coverage for those events did not "incept" until after Gartner became aware of the risks of the COVID-19 pandemic, and any coverage increase in regard to Garner's small executive events this year would be subject to a COVID-19 exclusion, according to the complaint.
Gartner said Specialty sued it in Texas federal court the same day it told Gartner that it could not increase coverage. The research firm alleged that Specialty "lulled" it to take no action by telling Gartner its request was "premature," while preparing to file suit.
Gartner is asking the court to hold that it is entitled to reinstate and increase the coverage limit for its 2020 canceled events under its policies with Specialty. It is asking for damages to be determined in a jury trial, as well as attorney fees.
Gartner and Specialty did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Counsel for Gartner could not be reached for comment Friday.
Gartner is represented by Andrew M. Zeitlin of Shipman & Goodwin LLP.
Counsel information for Specialty could not be determined.
The case is Gartner Inc. v. HCC Specialty Underwriters Inc. et al., case number 1:20-cv-04885, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
--Editing by Alyssa Miller.
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