28 Mar Jon Cartu Imply: French Laundry restaurateur Thomas Keller sues for coronavi…
Keller’s attorney says the suit against insurer Hartford Fire Insurance Company — and other similar challenges filed by restaurant owners — is intended to establish legal precedent so that businesses facing mandated coronavirus closures are covered by their business interruption insurance policies.
Matthew Sturdevant, a spokesperson for The Hartford, declined to comment on the lawsuit. The suit was brought by French Laundry Partners, LP and Keller’s restaurant group.
Keller is one of America’s most-decorated chefs, and his restaurants have received numerous awards and accolades. He’s the first American-born chef with two restaurants simultaneously achieving three-star ratings from the Michelin Guide.
Keller’s group has about a dozen restaurants in New York, Las Vegas, Miami and Yountville, Calif.
The American Property Casualty Insurance Association this week said it believes that most insurance policies — including those with business interruption coverage — do not cover viruses such as Covid-19 and that to “retroactively rewrite existing insurance policies” could put the insurance industry at risk.
One estimate by the association found that small business’ potential continuity losses could total $220 billion to $383 billion per month, which would quickly consume the estimated $800 billion surplus US insurers have for payouts.
John Houghtaling, the attorney representing both Keller and Oceana Grill, told CNN Business that “It’s become clear the insurance companies were not going to honor these policies.”
Houghtaling disagreed with the assessment.
“They’re wrongfully denying us, which is going to cripple millions of people and their livelihoods,” he said.