Last Updated on June 21, 2022
A popular New Orleans seafood restaurant will be awarded damages for revenue lost during mandated COVID-19 lockdowns. Oceana Grill has won the country’s first of its kind legal battle in appellate court over shutdown related damages.
Oceana Grill is a massive, partially outdoor seafood restaurant located in the city’s historic French Quarter. According to Eater New Orleans, the establishment is very popular with tourists and “always has a line.”
Cajun Conti, the parent company of Oceana Grill, sued Lloyd’s of London on March 20, 2020, the same day the restaurant shut down. The lawsuit sought coverage for losses incurred while Louisiana restaurants were shuttered during the pandemic.
The restaurant’s lawyers have argued that its premium payment of $91,000 a year for an “all risks commercial insurance policy” entitled it to payments that would make it whole for the business interruptions suffered during the government-mandated restrictions, according to NOLA.com.
A split Louisiana court agreed with the plaintiffs, finding that the policy’s definition of “direct physical loss or damage” was ambiguous. The court ultimately ruled in favor of the restaurant on Wednesday, June 15.
A lower court previously ruled against Cajun Conti’s claims, but this week’s decision has reversed that ruling and will require Lloyd’s of London to pay damages. The court found that Lloyd’s was liable under its insurance policy.
The New Orleans restaurant was among the first to file such a claim and is certainly the first to be successful. A number of other establishments across the country filed similar legal claims, many of which are still playing out in court.
The general consensus has been that the pandemic wouldn’t qualify for business interruption assistance, with a handful of decisions likening lockdown revenue losses to natural disasters.
The latest court ruling went in a different direction, however, finding that Lloyd’s of London’s ambiguous policy was open to interpretation. The court interpreted that physical damage did not have to be “obvious and observable.”
According to Law360, one of the policyholder attorneys involved said the “dam has broken” with the latest ruling. Other appellate courts could agree with the ruling and mandate insurers to compensate for lost revenue.