Chef Thomas Keller sues insurer over coronavirus business interruption claims

Chef's attorney says the suit looks to establish a legal precedent

Chef Thomas Keller sues insurer over coronavirus business interruption claims


By Lyle Adriano

Chef Thomas Keller, whose restaurants collectively hold a total of seven Michelin stars, has filed a suit against his insurer over business interruption claims related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The suit, filed by attorney John Houghtaling against insurer Hartford Fire Insurance Company, requests that the court make a legally-binding decision on whether Keller’s policy allows him to recover business losses sustained in connection to the outbreak.

Restaurant Hospitality reported that the lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of California County of Napa.

In a release, Houghtaling explained that Keller’s business interruption claim was turned down because Hartford said that there were no “dangerous conditions” at the restaurants.

“To avoid payments for a civil authority shut down the insurance industry is pushing out deceptive propaganda that the virus does not cause a dangerous condition to property,” the attorney said. “This is a lie, it’s untrue factually and legally. The insurance industry is pushing this out to governments and to their agents to deceive policyholders about the coverage they owe.”

Houghtaling also said that the suit is intended to create a legal precedent – so that other businesses mandated to close shop due to the coronavirus can claim on their business interruption coverage.

CNN Business reached out to The Hartford – the parent company of Hartford Fire Insurance Company – for a statement, but the company’s representative declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Business interruption insurance typically does not include coverage for communicable diseases such as the current coronavirus outbreak, but legislators recently signed a bipartisan letter requesting insurers to recognize financial losses resulting from the pandemic for purposes of the coverage.

Other legislators are taking a more direct approach to making insurers pay for business interruption claims related to the viral epidemic. The state of New Jersey is drafting a bill that, once passed, would require insurers to indemnify their insureds for business losses incurred following the coronavirus-driven state of emergency declaration.

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