Lindenwood loses insurance lawsuit

Lindenwoods+Spellmann+Center+on+a+sunny+day+in+Dec.%2C+2021.+Spellmanns++dining+center+is+open+Monday+through+Thursday+from+7+a.m.+to+8%3A30+p.m.%2C+Friday+from+7+a.m.+to+7%3A30+p.m.%2C+and+Saturday+from+11+a.m.+to+6%3A30+p.m.

Photo by Dominic Hoscher

Lindenwood’s Spellmann Center on a sunny day in Dec., 2021. Spellmann’s dining center is open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Friday from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Alexis Montgomery, Reporter

A Missouri federal judge tossed Lindenwood’s class action lawsuit that was seeking millions of dollars from an insurance company due to losses during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the judge’s decision filed on Nov. 1, 2021, the case was dismissed due to Lindenwood not being able to prove an “actual physical loss.” 

“Under the plain meaning of the policy language and evaluating the policy as a whole, Plaintiff’s decision to modify its classes to virtual classes and send students off campus did not constitute a ‘direct physical loss of’ its property,” the suit read. 

The suit stated nothing physical happened to the property, but rather a change in circumstances due to COVID-19 and therefore did not amount to a loss of properties. 

Lindenwood also requested coverage under the insurance policy’s “virus” section as a covered cause of loss. However, since Lindenwood could not prove a direct physical loss of property, it was not entitled coverage under the policy. 

Lindenwood filed the class action lawsuit against Zurich American Insurance company in the United States District Court Eastern District of Missouri on Oct. 16, 2020. 

The lawsuit stated that Lindenwood suffered losses during the pandemic, including an excess of $5 million to students related to room and board refunds. 

The university purchased an all-risk commercial property insurance policy from Zurich American Insurance Company, an Illinois corporation in Schaumburg, Illinois. The policy provides $100 million in coverage for losses, including loss of use of property, business interruption, and property damage, according to the lawsuit. 

According to the lawsuit, Lindenwood made a claim for coverage under the policy, but the claim for coverage was denied due to Zurich American stating COVID-19 cannot cause physical loss of or damage to property within the meaning of the policy. The policy also contains a “contamination” exclusion that applies and defeats any COVID-19 related coverage claim.

The university paid the premiums of the insurance policy before the coverage claim was denied.

Zurich filed a motion to dismiss the case in the United States District Court Eastern District of Missouri on Jan. 14, 2021, claiming that Lindenwood did not provide evidence of physical loss or damage to property due to COVID-19. The policy precludes coverage for “loss of use” or pure financial losses.

According to Missouri law, commercial property coverage requires a policyholder to identify a physical or material loss or destruction of property to allege damage or loss.

Zurich also faced proposed class action lawsuits from other midwestern colleges such as Rockhurst University, Maryville University and Benedictine College.

University officials said they could not comment on the litigation. Requests for comment from attorneys for Lindenwood were left through email.