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Boston-based online retailer claims Covid-19 damaged property in its offices, wants insurer to pay up

Rue Gilt Groupe, in Fort Point's Channel Center, today sued the Zurich American Insurance Co. for refusing to pay a claim based on the physical damage Rue Gilt says the coronavirus caused not only to the desks and other "non-porous" surfaces - and also the very air itself - in its headquarters, but to similar surfaces and air or five miles around.

Rue Gilt's suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, is the latest in a second-generation wave of complaints against insurers over Covid-19 losses, in which companies claim the virus did more than just force changes in the way companies work, it altered their physical property. A Newton hotel investment firm filed a similar suit, also in Suffolk Superior Court, last month, charging that the changes the virus made are covered under its "all risks" policy.

In contrast, companies, such as Legal Seafood, which filed such suits early in the pandemic, tended to lose on claims related to their "all risks" policies because those required proof of physical damage and judges said that simply being ordered to close a workplace by the government did not by itself involve result in any damage to chairs, desks or anything else physical.

In its complaint, Rue Gilt charges that even aside from the fact that it lost access to much of its property and had to install separators and extensively use sanitizers, science now teaches us that "SARS-CoV-2 in the air as shed by COVID-infected persons can cause substantial property damage to the shared air within a property and to the physical property itself." And air infused with the virus inevitably leads to physical damage to non-air property, in particular, non-porous surfaces, the company says, adding it has a lot of non-porous surfaces in its Boston headquarters, its offices in New York and Kentucky, and its warehouse in Kentucky.

The current evidence shows that infectious SARS-CoV-2 can remain in the air and on surfaces and pose a significant exposure risk on damaged property even if infected individuals are no longer present. Further, the air and the surfaces of indoor work environments, including floors, doors, doorhandles, elevator buttons, handrails, machinery, equipment, computers, keyboards, computer mouses and accessories, documents, and other physical items and surfaces, can be damaged by the presence of people with COVID-19.

It points to a 2021 study that shows that, like the stuff Lysol always warns us about, coronavirus persists on these surfaces for some period of time and charges that "COVID-19 discharges alters physical surfaces and can remain viable on common surfaces such as glass, stainless steel, and money for a month" and that even though Zurich should reimburse it for all the extra separators and sanitizers it had to buy and use, no mitigation efforts will ever be successful because disease-laden individuals will just walk through the place, reinfecting everything.

Rue Gilt says it filed its first Covid-19 claim in April, 2020, and that Zurich rejected it in November of that year, saying that there was no physical property damage and that, in any case, a virus is a "contaminant" not covered by the policy.

Rue Gilt, however, says the "contaminant" clause of its policy does not mention viruses.

The company does not specify just how much in damages it is seeking. However, it says it had purchased a policy to cover up to $125 million in losses.

PDF icon Complete complaint156.54 KB

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As a corporeal being who has extensive experience with physical surfaces of many kinds, I am very curious about just what physical damage the company believes the virus did to their surfaces.

Voting closed 37

Another aspect they don't address is that being exposed to Coronavirus is not enough, you need to be exposed to large quantities to be able to get it. So even though it lives on surfaces, we now know that you can't get enough virus from surfaces alone. You also need to get at least some if not most from the air.

Voting closed 12

These high end upscale restaurants should cover their own losses , with all the millions they make through out the decades . ( what happen PPE money is not enough)
What?? They ( the restaurant owners) don’t have millions of dollars in the bank already to cover their own losses. Lol
Everyone thinks Filing an insurance claim on anything that goes wrong on with business or building they will receive high payouts, that’s not the case anymore.. insurance companies are as scummy than their own lawyers.

Voting closed 19

Or a scam?

My vote is a scam.

Voting closed 33

I think they're going to have a rough time with that contaminant exclusion clause, which explicitly says "irritant" but then goes on to include fungal spores. It seems very likely that a judge will construe that to include other biological hazards.

(That said, I didn't follow up on everything they were saying in that section about "anti-concurrent causation" and whatnot.)

Voting closed 17

...computer mouses ...

I hate those meeses to pieces.

Voting closed 20

If they can permeate hard surfaces then I'm doubling up on my cootie shots tonight.

Voting closed 23

Love their mission statement.

"Our Mission
To be the most engaging online, off-price style destinations, connecting world-class brands to the next-generation shopper."

Yeah, fuck this crew and the overpriced horse they rode in on.

Voting closed 21

Made me sympathetic to the insurance company.

Voting closed 39

This feels like someone trying to place an insurance claim on the grounds that there's more carbon dioxide in the building now than there was thirty years ago, because there's more in the outside air.

The damage isn't to the building, or to the furniture or office equipment. "Non-porous surfaces": this sounds like they're suing because they now have to buy and use more disinfectants than in 2019, or pay the cleaning crew to come in more than once a week.

Voting closed 25

may accelerate rust, so everyone in the region who owns anything made of metal should be filing suit against their insurer. It is typically compounded by increased humidity resulting from climate change, and solar wind, which relentlessly bombards our planet. Let's face it, everything we own is in a constant state of decay, and someone should pay, damn it.

Voting closed 16

Acidification of the water? Is this a thing?

Voting closed 12

It's a thing. As is rust resulting from it, apparently. What that has to do with COVID is unclear.

Voting closed 13

which is why I mentioned acidification. I guess my "is this a thing" was ambiguous. :-) Interesting that it can cause corrosion directly.

Voting closed 14


Then they have no claim here.

Pandemic insurance is like wildfire insurance, flood insurance, earthquake insurance, etc.

You only get coverage if you specifically ask and pay for it.

Voting closed 17