Law360 recently wrote about five Pennsylvania court cases it considers to be the most significant of last year, including a case brought by Schmidt Kramer partner Scott Cooper.
Cooper represented Joseph Tambellini Inc. in a lawsuit against Erie Insurance Exchange. Pittsburg restaurant owner Joseph Tambellini was seeking compensation from his business interruption insurance because of losses related to the COVID-19 shutdown.
Below, learn more about this case and the four others that helped shaped 2020. If your business was shut down because of the pandemic and you are seeking business interruption coverage, we may be able to help. Call the Harrisburg COVID business loss lawyers at Schmidt Kramer for a free consultation.
Scott Cooper is currently representing numerous other businesses seeking compensation from business interruption insurance.
Joseph Tambellini v. Erie Insurance Exchange
Unfortunately, the court in this case did not establish whether pandemic-related business losses are physical losses, which is what these policies usually cover.
The case was filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. In April 2020, the plaintiff asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to take the case using the “King’s Bench” power. The plaintiff wanted the court to determine whether closure orders or the pandemic could cause physical loss to businesses.
The state supreme court declined to hear the case. Insurance companies successfully argued each businesses’ case and insurance contract were too individualized. They said a statewide ruling would not be appropriate.
Tambellini’s case was then grouped together with others against Erie Insurance. The goal of consolidating these cases was to secure a consolidated pretrial ruling to define physical loss. However, Erie Insurance was able to put the cases on hold by appealing to the Superior Court.
Since there are no broad precedents or top court rulings on this issue, Pennsylvania’s federal courts have made piecemeal and contradictory rulings. Some judges have said COVID-19 did not cause physical damage while others want to see more rulings to help them interpret insurance coverage for physical loss.
Other Significant Court Cases in Pennsylvania Last Year
While business shutdowns led many to seek insurance compensation, there were also efforts to challenge the authority of the governor to order business closures.
Below, learn more about the other four cases highlighted by Law360.
Friends of Danny DeVito v. Wolf
A political candidate worked with two businesses to sue the governor, arguing the governor’s order shutting down non-essential businesses violated their rights. However, the case was decided 4-3 in favor of the governor. Justices said the pandemic fell under the “other catastrophe” provision.
County of Butler v. Wolf
In this case, a district judge ruled against one of the governor’s orders, claiming the governor did not have the power to impose the kinds of limitations he did. Pennsylvania appealed to the Third Circuit. The case is still pending, but if a ruling is made, it could set a precedent allowing federal courts to overrule emergency orders.
Pletcher v. Giant Eagle
This lawsuit was about enforcement of mask orders. A company called Giant Eagle created and enforced a mandatory mask policy for shoppers with no exceptions. A customer tried to get an injunction barring enforcement. However, Giant Eagle countered that it did not need to make individual assessments about safety because this could put staff members and customers at risk of contracting the virus.
The Crack’d Egg v. Allegheny County
In this case, a restaurant challenged the statewide mask order and the authority of the state to enforce it. Allegheny County sued the restaurant, but the restaurant filed bankruptcy to stay the suit. This allowed the restaurant to stay open without requiring customers to wear masks.
The bankruptcy judge eventually lifted the stay, and the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas rules mask orders were allowed to help limit the spread of the disease. This resulted in the restaurant shutting down pending an appeal to the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.
Need Legal Help with a Business Loss Claim?
Schmidt Kramer offer a free legal consultation to discuss the situation. You may be owed compensation to help your business stay afloat because of pandemic-related shutdowns.
Schmidt Kramer. Millions Recovered. Call (717) 888-8888.