The COVID-19 pandemic has caused most businesses to temporarily close and, as a result, sustain significant losses. Various states are contemplating the passage of legislation to require carriers to cover claims arising from COVID-19, but case law regarding the constitutionality of such legislation is conflicting. Depending on the facts surrounding retroactive legislation, states may be able to pass an enforceable law leading to coverage.
Pennsylvania’s Proposed Legislation for Business Interruption Losses
Pennsylvania is one of many states that has proposed legislation to override language in business interruption policies and require coverage from insurance carriers. Pennsylvania House Bill 2372 proposes that any insurance policy that covers loss or property damage, including loss of use and business interruption, must cover the policyholder’s losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.1 It applies to insureds with fewer than 100 employees.2 To enhance its chances to pass constitutional challenges, the House Bill also provides for potential relief and reimbursement through the state’s commissioner.3 Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1127 is broader than House Bill 2372 and most bills proposed in other states and would require indemnification for nearly all insureds.4 The Senate Bill makes important legislative findings and notes that insurance is a regulated industry.5 It essentially provides that an insurance policy insuring against a loss relating to property damage, including business interruption, shall be construed to cover loss or property damage due to COVID-19 or due to a civil authority order resulting from COVID-19.1 The proposed bill redefines “property damage” to include: (1) the presence of a person positively identified as having been infected with COVID-19; (2) the presence of at least one person positively identified as having been infected with COVID-19 in the same municipality where the property is located; or (3) the presence of COVID-19 having otherwise been detected in Pennsylvania.