ST. LOUIS — Michael Del Pietro says he's paid business interruption premiums at Sugo's, his Frontenac restaurant, for 11 years.
And he never filed a claim — until the COVID-19 pandemic hit, prompting governments to shut down dine-in service.
"It's supposed to cover the profit I would have done," Del Pietro said. "I would have assumed I'd be covered."
But his insurance company, Cincinnati Financial Corp., denied the claim, mirroring moves by insurers across the country.
The denial prompted Del Pietro last month to sue Cincinnati Financial on behalf of Sugo's and two other restaurants: Via Vino Enoteca, also in Frontenac, and Babbo's, in Chesterfield. The suit, filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court, argues that "the uncontrolled spread of the COVID-19 virus constitutes direct physical damage and physical loss" to the restaurants, and is covered under Del Pietro's policy.
Del Pietro's attorney, Rich Elias, said the policy does not contain language excluding coverage for viruses. Elias this month filed a similar lawsuit against Cincinnati Financial on behalf of Seoul Taco, the fast-casual eatery owned by David Choi. It has seven locations, including three in the St. Louis area. That lawsuit is in St. Louis Circuit Court.
"The law has been for many years that if there is ambiguity in the policy, those ambiguities are resolved in favor of the insured," Elias said.
The suits demand Cincinnati Financial pay lost business income and extra expenses incurred due to the virus.
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