The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) had several questions on Thursday for attorneys representing policyholders and insurance carriers over whether COVID-19 business interruption claims currently pending in federal courts across the country should be centralized or resolved case by case.
During the hearing, held on Zoom, the JPML heard arguments from 15 attorneys representing two groups of policyholders, one group wanting to centralize the business interruption cases in the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago and the other wanting them to be centralized in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
While policyholders’ views are varied, insurance carriers have strongly opposed the formation of any kind of MDL.
Arguing on behalf of Westchester Surplus Lines Insurance Co. and more than 30 other insurers, Richard Goetz of O’Melveny & Myers LLP said the details among the various disputes outweigh any commonalities. Goetz emphasized that all the organizations that filed amicus briefs with the JPML, including both insurance industry trade groups and the prominent policyholder advocacy group United Policyholders, oppose centralization.
“The fact issues are overwhelmingly centered on individual plaintiffs,” he said. “What is their business? Did they close? When and why would they have had any business if they had remained open? Did they claim that the virus was or was not there? Was there a stay-at-home order, and what did it say?”
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