Independence restaurant suing after insurance company denies COVID-19 loss claims

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — An Independence restaurant is hoping to lead the way for other businesses after suing their insurance provider.

V’s Italiano Ristorante is suing their insurance company, Cincinnati Insurance Co., after being denied insurance claims for COVID-19-related losses and damages amid the pandemic.

“Within the policy written by our carrier, the word pandemic or the word virus was never used as an exclusion, other carriers have used those words, ours did not,” V’s owner Greg Hunsucker said.

In similar lawsuits, judges have ruled in favor of insurance companies; however, a federal judge agreed the business could proceed with legal action and the case has merit.

Hunsucker hopes his lawsuit will open the window for thousands of businesses whose insurers turned down their COVID-19 claims.

“Stand up and fight for what you believe in and what you believe is right,” Hunsucker said. “We’ve carried this type of coverage forever, and that’s the reason we carry it, for things outside of our control. If something happens within my control, I understand I’m responsible. This is outside of my control. I was forced by the government to shut down my dining room.”

Grand Street; Trezo Mare Restaurant & Lounge; and Studio 417, a salon in Springfield, Missouri; are also included in the lawsuit.

“This case is being watched around the country. We are the only case we know of thus far allowed to move forward,” Hunsucker said.

V’s is a family-owned restaurant that opened in 1963. Even with decades of experience, the owner said they were not prepared for 2020. The popular Italian eatery is still trying to survive on 50% capacity.

Most data suggests a capacity of 76% and higher is needed for restaurants to make a profit and run smoothly.

“People mainly do ‘to-go’ orders now, not that many tables in here anyway,” Queen Taco employee Aaron Carreno said. “This place used to get packed. Every night we would be filled. We’re hoping things will get better.”

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners report revenue lost due to viral outbreaks or pandemics are generally excluded because they are unrelated to property damage.

In addition, these occur so rarely and without any warning that it is difficult to predict frequency, risk, geographic locations, etc., unlike other types of occurrences such as flooding or tornadoes.

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