Lloyd’s of London underwriters won a state court ruling to avoid covering a New Orleans restaurant’s pandemic-linked financial losses, ending a first-of-its kind trial to determine insurers’ obligation to business policyholders.
Cajun Conti LLC’s high-profile lawsuit, filed in March 2020, was the first business interruption insurance case tied to Covid-19 and state and local orders restricting travel and dine-in eating. It’s also the first of these disputes to head to trial in the U.S., making it a test case for the roughly 1,500 lawsuits policyholders have since filed against their insurers.
At issue is whether shutdown orders meant to mitigate the virus’s spread trigger payouts for lost income and other expenses of businesses that were forced to close or curtail services during the pandemic’s initial wave. Many business interruption cases have resulted in pre-trial rulings, the bulk of which have favored insurers.
In a notice of judgment issued Feb. 10, Judge Paulette R. Irons of the Civil District Court for the Parish of New Orleans denied Cajun Conti’s petition for declaratory relief without offering a written opinion or explanation. Post-trial memos were submitted by both parties and weighed into the judgment, according to the notice.
The non-jury trial got underway in mid-December.
Cajun Conti, which owns the 500-seat Oceana Grill in New Orleans’ French Quarter, sought a ruling that a handful of Lloyd’s underwriters must honor insurance claims under the restaurant’s “all risks” property policy.
“Following a full trial on the merits, the court ruled correctly,” Ginger Dodd, a Phelps Dunbar LLP attorney representing the Lloyd’s underwriters, told Bloomberg Law in an emailed statement.
Attorneys for Gauthier Murphy & Houghtaling LLC, which represents Cajun Conti, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case is Cajun Conti LLC v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London, La. Civ. Dist. Ct. Parish of Orleans, No. 2020-02558, 2/10/21.