One of the challenges presented by COVID-19 is its impact on travelers, whose 2020 business travel and vacation plans (including ski trips) have been cancelled.
As COVID-19-related litigation continues for business interruption claims, consolidation of those lawsuits is an emerging legal trend.
Additionally, federal courts are considering whether lawsuits involving claims under travel insurance policies should also be consolidated.
What Is Consolidated Litigation?
When there are multiple cases on file that are similar enough in fact and/or in the legal issues presented, they can be grouped together (consolidated) and heard at the same time to conserve judicial resources and expedite claims for all parties involved.
Whether state or federal, a panel of judges will consider the potential risks and benefits to each party before granting or denying a motion to consolidate.
In federal court, when the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidates a group of cases, they can move forward in multi-district litigation (MDL).
Recent COVID-19-Related Consolidations
Recently, the JPML rejected a request to consolidate COVID-19 business interruption claims.
But in the same order, the JPML noted that consolidation may be appropriate for lawsuits against four of the insurers that face COVID-19 lawsuits because of denied COVID-19 claims:
- Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s of London;
- Cincinnati Insurance Co.;
- The Hartford insurers; and
- Society Insurance.
The JPML invited further briefing on that issue.
Consolidation of other insurance lawsuits related to COVID-19 is still an open question.
Event Cancellation Coverage
One type of case involves event cancellation coverage. One example of such a case involves StubHub.
StubHub is a concert and event ticket exchange and resale service for both buyers and sellers of tickets for sporting events, concerts, theater events, and other live entertainment.
The ticketing service recently found itself facing legal action when it was alleged StubHub unlawfully pulled back on its long-standing ‘FanProtect’ guarantee by refusing to issue refunds for tickets to events that were cancelled due to the pandemic.
A class action lawsuit alleges that as the pandemic began to spread in the U.S. in early March, StubHub sent its users an email notice insisting refunds were still available for events cancelled due to COVID-19 while also offering the option of a coupon worth 120 percent of a user’s original order to be used on an event ticket purchase within the next year.
However, later that same month, StubHub allegedly updated the terms of its ‘FanProtect’ guarantee to stipulate that “if the event is cancelled and not rescheduled, users will get a refund or credit for use on a future purchase, as determined in StubHub’s sole discretion (unless a refund is required by law).”
Apparently, this meant that customers would receive only a coupon worth 120 percent of an original order’s value valid for one year and not a full refund.
Travel Insurance Consolidations
Similar lawsuits are now also targeting travel insurance claims as well after many travelers have found their insurance claims are being wrongfully denied after travel plans were delayed or cancelled due to government mandated stay at home orders and quarantine measures.
Vrbo and CSA Travel Protection
In fact, travel rental service Vrbo has also found itself facing a similar consolidated lawsuit with regard to its travel insurance provider CSA Travel Protection. In April of this year, a motion was filed with the JPML seeking to consolidate a growing number of lawsuits against the company.
Vrbo users claim the online vacation rental company’s travel insurance provider unlawfully denied their claims for reimbursement of fees paid for reservations that were ultimately cancelled due to the pandemic.
The multiple lawsuits have alleged CSA Travel Protection refused to honor its policies and refund thousands of dollars resulting from properly cancelled bookings made via the Vrbo website.
These refund requests were necessary due to government-imposed travel restrictions put in place once the pandemic began its spread in March. These lawsuits are seeking class action status in order to fully represent each affected individual across the nation.
Assicurazioni Generali Group
Another recently filed motion for consolidation before the JPML involves the travel insurance offered by Assicurazioni Generali Group (“Generali”).
Plaintiffs have filed several class action lawsuits against Generali across the country, alleging it breached its insurance contract by failing or refusing to pay covered damages for covered trip cancellations.
As these consolidated cases begin to take shape, it’s clear that travel insurance lawsuits in relation to COVID-19 will continue to be filed if claims continue to be wrongfully denied.
Because of the complexities involved in COVID-19 related insurance disputes, it’s important to seek the insight of an experienced insurance claims attorney.
Houston Travel Insurance Claims Attorneys
As many continue to grapple with the long lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, business owners and travelers alike will likely continue to pursue litigation.
While government mandated stay-at-home orders and quarantines were put in place to protect the public from viral spread, cancelled travel and/or entertainment plans put in place prior to the pandemic should be properly reimbursed.
At Raizner Law, we’ve successfully handled disputes with some of the world’s leading insurance carriers and have obtained a reputation for delivering results for our clients.
If you or someone you know booked a vacation prior to the influx of COVID-19 and would like to learn more about the insurance options available to you, contact the attorneys at Raizner Law today.