Menu Close

If the coronavirus continues to spread worldwide, insurers are likely to confront liability claims that span the spectrum of their insurance product lines. This issue was explored in part 3 of an article on this topic published in the National Law Review.

Workers’ compensation policies generally extend insurance benefits to employees for injuries “arising out of or in the course of employment.” Workers’ compensation actions concerning the language often address whether the claimed injury is truly work-related, focusing on such factors related to the loss as its nature, the injured employee’s activity, the time and the location. Consequently, employees and employers whose work is related to coronavirus should maintain detailed records identifying potential exposures.

General Liability Insurance may also be subject to increased claims. Businesses, particularly those that open their doors to the general public, may find themselves targets of claims that their negligence led to the exposure and infection of clients:

— Exposure resulting in bodily injury or property damage
— Negligence related to visitors to businesses or locations such as offices, daycare centers, retail shops, hotels and places of worship
— Product liability related to air filtration and recirculation, particularly in situations involving airplanes and hospitals
— Personal injury involving occurrences such as wrongful eviction or imprisonment
— Constitutional claims involving the quarantine or restriction of infected or exposed persons
— Negligence or other liability suits against a company or organization that fails to implement a pandemic contingency plan.

Errors & Omissions (E&O) Insurance may also see the effects. There is an adage that the most likely place to get sick is in a hospital. Medical care and managed care providers purchase errors and omissions (E&O) insurance that provides coverage for bodily injury arising out of their providing or failing to provide medical care. While such policies generally preclude coverage for bodily injury to employees during the course of their employment (i.e., an employee being exposed to an infectious or contagious disease), such policies may respond to claims that a health care professional acted or failed to act in a manner that led to a patient (non-employee) contracting a coronavirus bodily injury.

And even Directors & Officers (D&O) Insurance may become involved. The coronavirus has roiled stock markets worldwide, resulting in ups and downs depending on whether the market perceives that the crisis is being managed appropriately and whether global supply chains will be impacted. Ultimately, how a company responds to the coronavirus may subject its directors and officers to the scrutiny of the company’s shareholders. Shareholder suits have become commonplace when market valuations are purported to have unreasonably dipped. In response to a coronavirus-based loss in value, shareholders may argue that the directors and officers committed acts or omissions responsible for the loss in valuation and, in turn, the loss befalling the individual shareholder.