Legal Roundup: Ben Affleck’s Movie in an Insurance Bind, Pro Wrestling Worries Over Head Injuries and More

The latest court filings and cases that will have an impact on the risk management and insurance industry.
By: | September 18, 2020

Producers of Ben Affleck Film Sue Insurer Over COVID Shutdown

The Case: Producers of the Ben Affleck-Robert Rodriguez film Hypnotic sued insurer Chubb National.

Variety explains that the producers purchased a cast insurance policy to “be paid out in the event that Affleck or Rodriguez became ill or died and was thus unavailable during production.”

Producers hoped to extend the policy past the expiration date of Oct. 28, 2020, but Chubb apparently refused.

“The expiration date is significant because the policy, which was issued last October, did not carry a COVID-19 exclusion, meaning that Chubb would be forced to pay out if Affleck or Rodriguez came down with the disease.”

They even contend that Chubb promised to extend the coverage as needed. A Chubb spokesperson told the Hollywood Reporter that it does not comment on legal matters.

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed and has not yet come to a resolution.

Takeaway: Variety said the case is one of the first “to test whether film insurers will be forced to accommodate delays caused by COVID-19. The suit contends that the insurer’s refusal could kill off the project.”

It speaks to the larger trend of insurers across every industry looking for ways to protect themselves from significant unanticipated COVID-related losses. But refusal to pay has trickle-down effects on the financial health and stability of insureds. What the courts decide will undoubtedly shape the way underwriters craft exclusions going froward.

Pro Wrestling Head Injury Lawsuit Dismissed

The Case: A group of 50 former pro wrestling stars, including King Kong Bundy, Paul “Mr. Wonderful” Orndorff, and Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, sued World Wrestling Entertainment.

They claimed the organization did not properly warn them of potential head injuries when they wrestled in the 1980s and 1990s.

Snuka and others showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after they died.

The Associated Press reports that “unlike football and hockey, in which players have suffered similar injuries, WWE matches involve moves scripted and choreographed by the WWE, thus making the company directly responsible for wrestlers’ injuries, the lawsuit said.”

Attorneys for the WWE clearly disagreed and contended that the cases were past the statute of limitations anyway.

Scorecard: The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City dismissed the case, agreeing with a federal judge in Connecticut, which did the same.

Takeaway: The WWE, it appears, will not face the same head injury penalties as traditional sports leagues.

According to the AP, “The National Football League and National Hockey League were also sued by former players who suffered concussions and other head injuries. The NFL settled for $1 billion, while the NHL settled for $18.9 million.”

TD Insurance Faces Class Action Over COVID Trip Cancellations

The Case: Kevin Lyons was excited for March 8. That was the day he and his family were set to embark on a cruise from Italy.

Because of COVID-19, the vacation was cancelled — and Lyons suddenly found himself out more than $6,000.

The Financial Post reports: “When Lyons put a trip cancellation claim through his insurer, TD Insurance, he was reimbursed only $78.97 — for a non-refundable portion of an Airbnb reservation — out of his $6,673.36 claim.”

TD Insurance offered credits and vouchers instead. Now Lyons is the lead plaintiff in a potential class action suit against the insurer.

A spokesperson for the insurer said its cancellation coverage is consistent with industry standards.

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed and has not yet come to a resolution.

Takeaway: COVID disrupted plenty — from family vacations to day-to-day business. Expect lawsuits of all types as people try to rectify those situations. It will come to the way courts interpret policy language.

EPA Sued Over Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Agreement

The Case: Three states and Washington, D.C. have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over pollution in the Chesapeake Bay.

They say the “EPA has not required Pennsylvania or New York to develop or implement plans that fully meet the pollution reduction goals” laid out in the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Agreement, according to The Hill.

That agreement “requires states in the bay’s watershed to reduce their nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, as well as sediment by 2025.”

The EPA said it’s fully committed to meeting the 2025 goal and has taken actions to make the water cleaner.

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed and has not yet come to a resolution.

Takeaway: With so many rivers and streams feeding into it, keeping the Chesapeake Bay clean is not an easy task. Working together could reduce pollution risks in the future. &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected].

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