When Raymond Blanc’s insurers Hiscox denied to pay out to his company following a claim related to coronavirus, the chef enlisted the services of his lawyers.
The coronavirus crisis has devastated the UK’s hospitality industry and as pandemic coverage was prohibitively expensive, most restaurants are depending on the government for help.
Blanc’s company, which employs 1400 people, however, was able to make a claim based on the ‘contagious disease’ clause in his policy.
Blanc took out business interruption insurance with Hiscox, which, according to The Sunday Times, covers damage caused by “an occurrence of any human infection or [...] contagious disease”, provided a local authority has been notified.
"We are eager to reopen - we have a good, solid business that we have grown over 20 years."
Hiscox said in response that its policies are not “designed or priced to cover the extraordinary circumstances” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
While many, if not all insurance companies are refusing to pay out for business interruption claims, citing ‘force majeure’, the All England Lawn Tennis Club, which runs Wimbledon, was able to claim on the cancellation of this year’s tournament. As the Grand Slam tournament had taken out a huge comprehensive insurance policy due to the real threat of the tournament being cancelled due to weather events or being rained off. It was therefore not very expensive to add pandemic coverage also.
While it would be virtually impossible for companies to claim loss of earning from their insurers when there is no contagious disease claim, Blanc looks like he has a strong case. It is the insurer’s own predicament if they failed to design their products to cover an event such as the coronavirus crisis. They are the insurers and that’s what they get paid to do.
The battle against insurance companies has become the frontline for chefs trying to save the hospitality industry. Some of the industry’s biggest names, including Thomas Keller in the US have united to form the Business Interruption Group, (BIG), to lobby for support for the insurance industry with the proviso that the insurers will then help small business. They also threaten the insurance industry with legal action in every state should they continue to cite force majeure and not pay out.