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In a sweeping lawsuit, 42 Chicago businesses seek insurance coverage for COVID-related business losses

Customer Jennifer Gutilla orders food during lunch on the patio at Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse on June 24, 2020 in Chicago. The Gibsons restaurant group is one of the plaintiffs suing insurance companies, seeking coverage of their coronavirus-related losses under business interruption policies.
Customer Jennifer Gutilla orders food during lunch on the patio at Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse on June 24, 2020 in Chicago. The Gibsons restaurant group is one of the plaintiffs suing insurance companies, seeking coverage of their coronavirus-related losses under business interruption policies. (Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune)

In a sweeping lawsuit, prominent Chicago restaurant groups including Lettuce Entertain You and Gibsons are fighting their insurance carriers over denial of coverage for lost income related to COVID-19.

The suit, filed Thursday in Cook County Circuit Court, is one of hundreds businesses have filed against insurers over the last several months as the health crisis, and shutdowns mandated by the government, slashed revenues. It is notable for its breadth: There are 42 plaintiffs, mostly Chicago restaurants, and 18 insurers listed as defendants.

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The suit alleges shutdown orders caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses that should be covered by the policyholders’ business interruption insurance. Normally such policies cover income losses when property is damaged from a fire or other physical events.

The plaintiffs, represented by law firm Jenner & Block, include a diverse roster of restaurants, from the chain Roti Mediterranean Grill to neighborhood businesses such as Wicker Park’s Bangers & Lace and the South Loop mainstay Manny’s Deli. The DuSable Museum of African American History and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum also are listed as plaintiffs in the suit.

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The suit alleges the businesses had their claims denied even though they “incurred direct physical loss and damage” and have been “rendered physically nonfunctional” as a result of the mandated closures and restrictions.

The defendants include Schaumburg-based Zurich American Insurance, Rock Island-based Illinois Casualty Co. and Employers Insurance Company of Wausau, an affiliate of Liberty Mutual.

Liberty Mutual said it does not comment on pending litigation. The others did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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