Salon suing insurance company over denied claim related to COVID-19 revenue losses

Harrisburg

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — A midstate hair and nail salon is suing its insurance company over losses sustained because of the COVID-19 shutdown.

The owner of Fringe Hair and Nail Salon said her building can’t be used, and that qualifies as a loss under her policy.

Scott Cooper, attorney for owner Ashley Kissel, said Millers Mutual denied her claim and refused to acknowledge coverage for her losses. 

The insurance company meanwhile said in a denial letter that no physical damage exists, and just because she was shut down, that doesn’t mean they’re liable.

“The policy promises that [she’s] going to receive coverage for physical loss of use of the premises, or damage,” said Cooper, partner at Schmidt Kramer.

He said Kissel has lost the physical use of her salon, which was deemed — along with others — a so-called non-essential business.

Their issue is with the policy’s use of the word “or.”

“Physical loss is ‘physical loss of use of the property or damage’…so it could be either-or,” he said.

The salon isn’t damaged, but has been closed since March 16th; Cooper sad, that’s physical loss.

‘This is coverage that’s been paid for, and the insurance companies are actually in a position where they could pay the money immediately,” Cooper said.

Millers Mutual didn’t respond to our request for comment. The company said in its denial letter that it covers “direct physical loss of or damage to [the] covered property,” adding it does not cover “any virus, bacterium or other microorganism that induces or is capable of inducing physical distress.”

Cooper feels the denial, is part of an industry-wide problem.

“They promised to pay, and then they can’t say ‘however, if there’s this huge pandemic…we’re gonna just deny it point-blank,'” he said.

He believes insurance companies should update policies for pandemics moving forward but stand now by their insured customers.

“You don’t punish these people because you wrote a product, and you promised to pay and it’s covered under this, and then say ‘well it just wouldn’t be right,” Cooper said.

The lawsuit will be filed Friday; essentially all it’s asking for right now is for the insurance company to rescind that denial and admit there is indeed a claim to be had.

A court will decide if the insurance company must accept the claim; any compensatory discussions will be had after the court weighs in.

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