As shuttered restaurants reach out to their insurance companies, they may be denied claims for loss of business due to coronavirus, according to one recently filed South Florida lawsuit.
IT! Italy Ristorante Café & Bar at 500 East Las Olas Boulevard in downtown Fort Lauderdale alleges Chubb Limited, the largest commercial property insurer in the country, failed to honor its agreement to pay its business insurance claim tied to losses stemming from the pandemic.
The lawsuit seeks class action status and could have significant implications for other real estate-related businesses that file claims against insurers.
Steven Marks at Podhurst Orseck and Steve Zack of Boies Schiller Flexner are representing the restaurant in the suit filed in South Florida federal court this week. The lawyers argue that if tenants cannot secure money from insurers, they will face financial strains from landlords and lenders.
“When an insurance company fails to pay, when they are taking a premium, they are affecting millions of people,” Marks said.
A spokesperson for Chubb declined comment, citing pending litigation.
According to the complaint, the restaurant’s owner purchased an ‘all-risk’ property insurance policy from Chubb and its subsidiary in 2019. The policy was supposed to pay for “loss of business income” when operations became suspended, and it had no exclusion that would have allowed Chubb to refuse coverage, the suit alleges.
IT! Italy Ristorante Café & Bar is owned by Café International Holding Company LLC, which is led by Jorge Federico Llauro of Miami and Hugo Bianchi of Hallandale Beach, corporate records show.
The restaurant is now struggling to get by after Broward County ordered restaurants to cease on-premise food service last month, according to the attorneys. Earlier this month, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also issued an executive order requiring people to stay at home, except for essential businesses.
The suit alleges breach of contract and is asking the court to force the insurer to pay for its business losses. The lawyers are seeking to represent other companies insured by Chubb and its subsidiaries whose business interruption claims were refused.