The Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation (“JPML”) decided last week to centralize more than 30 lawsuits seeking business interruption coverage from Society Insurance Company in the Northern District of Illinois.
In July, the JPML had considered requests to centralize all federal litigation nationwide involving business interruption coverage claims arising out of the coronavirus pandemic. The JPML denied the requests in August, reasoning that there were too many differences among the various insurers. The Panel nonetheless stated that it would consider the creation of insurer-specific Multi-District Litigations (“MDLs”) and sought briefing with respect to five insurers: Lloyd’s, London; Cincinnati Insurance Company; Hartford Insurance Company, Society Insurance Company, and Travelers Insurance Company.
In a series of opinions, the JPML decided last week to centralize only the business interruption lawsuits against Society Insurance Company. The Panel reasoned that the limited geographical scope of the cases against Society, a regional insurance carrier in the Midwest, meant that centralization of the cases would lead to a quick resolution. Only six states’ insurance laws were implicated by the lawsuits against Society, and an MDL judge would be able to organize the cases quickly and efficiently. In contrast, the JPML stated that it would take too long for an MDL judge to organize and resolve the central policy questions in the lawsuits against the other insurance carriers.
The JPML also separately decided to centralize other insurance-related disputes arising out of insurance claims under policies purchased alongside seasonal or multi-day ski passes. The passes covered skiing at resorts that were closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Panel decided to create two insurer-specific MDLs: one with cases brought against Arch Insurance Company in the Western District of Missouri, and the other with cases against United Specialty Insurance Company in the Northern District of California.