JEMB Realty claims virus is “pollutant” in Midtown insurance battle

Landlord sues insurer to recover $3M in losses at 1293 Broadway

Herald Center at 1293 Broadway (Google Maps; iStock)
Herald Center at 1293 Broadway (Google Maps; iStock)

Is the coronavirus a pollutant?

JEMB Realty thinks so, based on a lawsuit filed against its insurer.

The landlord’s suit, filed in the Southern District of New York, claims that Greenwich Insurance Company should have covered JEMB’s losses at a Midtown South commercial building during the pandemic.

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The insurance policy at JEMB’s Herald Center, 1293 Broadway, defines pollutants as “any solid, liquid, gaseous or thermal pollutant, irritant or contaminant.” The coronavirus qualifies, given that it spreads through the air or via surfaces, JEMB claims. The firm is seeking $3 million in remediation.

Herald Center is a 10-story, 250,000-square-foot building with retail and office space across from Macy’s Herald Square. JEMB suffered losses from both the state’s shutdown of workplaces and rent abatements provided to its tenants H&M and ASA College.

Neither the landlord nor the insurer responded to requests for comment.

Retailers and property owners have been scrambling to find clauses in their insurance policies that cover a pandemic. Although a few have succeeded, many have not. Most cases are still making their way through the courts.