Washington Frontier League Baseball LLC and several other entities related to the Wild Things minor league baseball team have gone to federal court over loss of business income related to the novel coronavirus pandemic shutdown.
Suing the Cincinnati Insurance Co., Cincinnati Casualty Co. and the Cincinnati Indemnity Co. for breach of contract are Sports/Facility LLC; Washington Frontier League Baseball LLC; WashCo Ballpark Management LLC; Washington County Family Entertainment LLC; and Home Plate Concessions LLC.
The insurance policy with Cincinnati does not exclude any virus from its coverage, the baseball entities allege.
In May, the policyholders submitted a property loss notice to Cincinnati, providing notice of their claim for interruption of business because of the pandemic.
According to media reports published last summer, baseball games were played at Falconi Field from mid-July through Aug. 9. On Aug. 10, there was an announcement that the season had ended.
But in September, Cincinnati refused to pay under the policy, notifying the baseball entities by letter on Sept. 17 that they had not sustained direct physical loss or damage.
The baseball entities object, saying in their filing with U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh that property covered by the insurance policy “has been rendered unusable for its intended purpose because of the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, particularly when people gather closely for extended periods of time.”
The suit cited a study in The New England Journal of Medicine that “COVID-19 is widely accepted as a cause of real physical loss and damage. It remains stable and transmittable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.”
It also cited a study from the Journal of Hospital Infection that the virus can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces at room temperature for up to nine days.
The complaint gives a short history of stay-at-home orders issued by Gov. Tom Wolf beginning in March, and notes that Washington County entered the yellow cautionary phase of reopening.
But semiprofessional sports teams and clubs within the entertainment category were required to remain shuttered.
On June 12, Washington County transitioned to the green phase, but a month later, Wolf and Secretary of Health Rachel Levine prohibited professional outdoor sporting events from having more than 250 attendees, including staff and employees.
The order was later amended to allow outdoor events with a maximum capacity of 2,001 to 10,00 people to operate at 20% of maximum capacity beginning Oct. 9.
Closure of non-life-sustaining businesses showed “an acute awareness on the part of both state and local governments that COVID-19 causes loss or damage to property” and “a heightened risk of the property becoming contaminated.... Because the COVID-19 virus can survive on surfaces for up to 14 days, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ultimately concluded that ‘any location.... where two or more people can congregate is within the disaster area.’”
Attorney Ryan James of Pittsburgh, on behalf of the baseball entities, this week demanded a jury trial; a declaration that the insurance policy covered the situation created by the pandemic; and damages, costs and attorney’s fees.