Law360 (March 16, 2021, 8:26 PM EDT) -- A Minnesota flower shop owner can't force Florists' Mutual Insurance Co. to cover pandemic-related losses, a federal judge ruled Tuesday, saying the shop didn't show that the virus was present at its property.
U.S. District Judge Michael J. Davis said the fate of Bachman's Inc.'s business interruption lawsuit is akin to similarly dismissed suits brought by a Minnesota hair salon and an event center company. Those cases held that Minnesota law doesn't recognize coverage for loss of use without actual contamination, and mark a trend that could send policyholders out looking for another forum for COVID-19 business interruption claims.
Judge Davis said the coronavirus "can be easily eliminated with routine cleaning procedures." Even if Bachman's could show that the virus existed on its premises, Judge Davis held that is not enough to trigger coverage for physical damage or physical loss to the property under Florists' policy.
He dismissed Bachman's suit with prejudice.
Like many other businesses across the country, Bachman's closed the doors to its Twin Cities family floral and garden business due to government orders. Bachman's suit, filed in Minnesota state court but removed to federal court, alleged Florists' wrongfully denied coverage and breached its duties.
Judge Davis' decision sides with the majority of other courts that similar government shutdown orders don't trigger coverage for a policyholder's losses from its inability to use its property. The judge noted other favorable decisions for insurers that might have policyholders thinking twice about filing in those states.
A Florida federal judge kicked a Miami restaurant chain's coverage suit because there were no covered losses caused by "direct physical loss or damage to property" resulting from COVID-19. Similar business interruption coverage efforts by a dental office and six barbershops were dismissed by an Illinois federal judge and a Texas federal judge, respectively, for not having a physical loss to trigger coverage.
A chiropractic center's proposed class action over coverage for losses sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, was recently permitted to proceed by a New Jersey federal judge.
Representatives for Florists' declined to comment.
Counsel and representatives for Bachman's didn't respond to requests for comment.
Bachman's is represented by Thomas J. Shroyer, Matthew P. Kostolnik and Aaron P. Minster of Moss & Barnett.
Florists' is represented by Dale O. Thornsjo and Lance D. Meyer of O'Meara Leer Wagner & Kohl PA.
The case is Bachman's Inc. v. Florists' Mutual Insurance Co., case number 0:20-cv-02399, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota.
--Additional reporting by Daphne Zhang, Lauren Berg, Lauraann Wood, Jeff Sistrunk and Hailey Konnath. Editing by Regan Estes.
For a reprint of this article, please contact email@example.com.