BY ERIQ GARDNER | HollywoodReporter.Com
Troy Warren for CNT
Producers sue Chubb National Insurance over the interruption caused by COVID-19.
When you have top notch stars like Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell in a show, you want to insure their presence on set. The production vehicle behind The Morning Show has $125 million in cast coverage, plus more for imminent peril to their shooting location. But the Apple+ series is now finding it difficult to get any of that money over COVID-19-related delays to the production of the second season. According to a new suit filed in California federal court, Chubb National Insurance Company won’t pay up.
In March 2020, The Morning Show had filmed 13 days of its follow-up season when it decided to suspend in the face of the developing pandemic.
Chubb has agreed to pay $1 million under the producer’s civil authority coverage (meaning, government orders that interfere with the use of facilities), but is taking a harder line with the bigger-ticket items. For example, the cast policy covers “death, injury, sickness, kidnap, or compulsion by physical force or threat of physical force,” and Chubb says nothing like that has happened.
Always Smiling Productions, the plaintiff, asserts that Chubb is taking this position to save hundreds of millions. The production vehicle calculates its own running tab at $44 million. The suit also stresses that the insurer had prior knowledge of the risk of a pandemic, and that the likely presence of COVID around shooting locations rendered those areas unsafe to enter.
The case could turn on Chubb’s own position, as outlined in the court papers, that while devastating and contagious, COVID doesn’t constitute “direct physical loss or damage” to persons or property.
Thus far, insurers have been wildly successful in court with such arguments. According to Penn Law’s COVID Coverage Litigation Tracker, there’s been almost 2,000 lawsuits against insurers since March 2020. And of the 371 cases in federal court that have heard fully briefed dismissal motions, a whopping 93 percent of them have been dismissed. Earlier this month, the 8th Circuit sided with insurers while the 9th Circuit (which covers California) is set to hear its own big case on August 11.
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