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Limited Immunity for Higher Education Institutions?

Jun 11, 2020

When and how are kids going back to school this fall? That is one of the biggest questions parents, students, teachers and administrators are facing as we head into summer. Although COVID-19 related health risks are present in all types of schools, colleges and universities naturally face more concerns due to the fact that students stay in dormitories, congregate in common spaces, eat at cafeterias, and attend classes and sporting events on campuses. Risk averse institutions (which many, if not most colleges and universities have to be in this situation) are turning to legislators to secure broader immunity from legal actions arising out of the health risks faced by students, teachers and administrators.

“The American Council on Education, a lobbying group, sent a letter…to the (Senate) committee (on health and education) seeking ‘temporary and targeted’ liability protections for schools.” Those opposing the limited immunity route believe that the health standards related to COVID-19 are already too wishy-washy and that limited immunity could invite lax and potentially harmful behavior on the part of colleges and universities.

Time is ticking…it is almost mid-June. We will keep you posted.

COVID-19 Related Property Losses Overseas: Any Guidance There?

It feels like overseas insurers, regulators and policy holders are moving more quickly to resolve disputes over the extent of pandemic related coverage that is available in property policies. Two items popped up on my newsfeed that are of interest.

The first involved Helvetia, a Swiss insurer. (No, I’d never heard of them either.) Helvetia pro-actively offered at least some of its property insureds the ability to settle their claims for 50% of the total losses they experienced during the pandemic (which, we have to remember, is not over!). According to the insurer, “…85% of the company’s restaurant customers in Switzerland have accepted the settlements, which translated into a ‘high double digit’ figure in the millions of Swiss francs.” The insurer has extended similar settlement offers to Austrian and German policyholders.

The insurer noted that “’(t)his pragmatic approach has enabled Helvetia to provide security for the affected businesses and, at the same time, reduce its own risks, resulting from legal action…’” In exchange for accepting policy proceeds, policyholders “will have to allow their existing policies to be amended to reflect a ‘shared understanding with the customer that claims resulting from a pandemic are excluded.’”

Also of note…last week in London, the Financial Conduct Authority announced that it had “..selected eight insurers to participate in a Hight Court test case scheduled for July that will determine whether business interruption insurance covers losses from the U.K.-wide lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.” The 8 insurers that were selected include Zurich, QBE UK, Hiscox, Arch Insurance UK, RSA, MS Amlin Underwriting, Ecclesiastical Insurance and Argenta Syndicate Management. The FCA is moving forward with these insurers “because the policy wordings were representative (of most policy wordings in dispute), (and, as a result) the findings of the test case (will) have wider implications beyond the insurers involved.”

Although the FCA’s decision will be legally binding on the 8 insurers involved, there are already worries over appeals and lengthy litigation. Additionally, there is concern about how other insurers outside of the 8 will respond. Earlier this week, The Association of British Insurers, an insurance trade organization, said that “its members ‘will abide by’ the ruling of (the) High Court test case on business interruption cover brought by the Financial Conduct Authority.”

Some Good News

Monthly unemployment numbers unexpectedly dropped in May “…as employers added 2.5 million jobs. It was the best month of job growth since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started tracking the data in 1939.” I’m simply taking that as good news. I’m not going to overanalyze it (trust me, I already have) or write more about it than this small blurb. Good news is hard to come by, so let’s enjoy this.

In Closing

I feel YUCKY about staying silent. I know that this is not my personal platform, and to be honest, anything I would personally say seems to ring hollow. Doing a lot of reading and listening and going to need to do a lot more. I close today’s post with Leslie Dwight’s poem, as it just seems to fit here, today.

What if 2020 isn’t cancelled?

What if 2020 is the year we’ve been waiting for?

A year so uncomfortable, so painful, so scary, so raw—that it finally forces us to grow.

A year that screams so loud, finally awakening us from our ignorant slumber.

A year we finally accept the need for change.

Declare change. Work for change. Become the change.

A year we finally band together, instead of pushing each other further apart.

2020 isn’t cancelled, but rather the most important year of them all.

-Leslie Dwight


Annalyn Kurtz, May’s unemployment numbers were shocking. Here’s how everyone got it so wrong,, June 5, 2020.

Jan Wolfe, U.S. senators, college leader spar over shielding schools from coronavirus lawsuits, Reuters, June 4, 2020.

Martin Croucher, Most Restaurants Taking Virus Payouts, Swiss Insurer Says, Law360, June 9, 2020.

Martin Croucher, FCA Picks 8 Insurers for Pandemic Coverage Test Case, Law360, June 1, 2020.

Martin Croucher, Insurers Await FCA Test Case for Clarity on Pandemic Cover, Law360, June 8, 2020.


Carrie O’Neil

Senior Vice President Legal & Claims


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