Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio businesses have suffered greatly as a result of government shutdowns, declining patronage, and increased expenses. Consequently, insurers and courts have had to grapple with whether these circumstances involve “direct physical loss or damage” for insurance coverage purposes. Back in January, we reported that Judge Benita Y. Pearson of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Ohio:
“Does the general presence in the community, or on surfaces at a premises, of the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, constitute direct physical loss or damage to property; or does the presence on a premises of a person infected with COVID-19 constitute direct physical loss or damage to property at that premises?”
On April 14, 2021, in a 4-3 decision, the Supreme Court of Ohio agreed to answer that important question, which is sure to have ramifications for coverage cases throughout the entire state.
The case is Neuro-Communication Services Inc. v. The Cincinnati Insurance Company, et al., Case No. 2021-0130. Briefing on the merits has been ordered, and the initial brief of Cincinnati Insurance Company is expected by June 14, 2021. We will keep you updated as this important case proceeds. Please contact us with any questions.