Oceana Grill, a popular seafood restaurant in New Orleans, has achieved a first-of-its-kind victory in its long-running legal battle to receive payouts from insurer Lloyd’s of London for loss of revenues during its COVID-19 shutdown beginning on March 20, 2020.
On June 15, a Louisiana state court reversed an earlier decision and ruled in favor of the claim for damages brought by the company owning Oceana Grill, Cajun Conti LLC.
Cajun Conti initiated legal action on that same day that the shutdown went into effect in March 2020, seeking damages under its insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London. But the action was not initially successful. In the first trial of its kind, underwriters for the insurer in February 2021 received a favorable judgment from a state court, denying the plaintiff’s petition for declaratory relief.
The June 15 decision is highly significant for businesses that seek compensation for often massive and crippling losses of revenues suffered when they were forced to curtail their operations or cease altogether as COVID-19 swept the country in the early months of 2020.
But the June 15 ruling does not mean that all such businesses will now be able to pursue claims that insurers and courts had previously refused to entertain. Rather, it is likely to benefit the minority of businesses whose insurance policies do not contain exclusions for the contamination of buildings and food, said John Houghtaling, a name partner of the Metairie, Louisiana-based law firm Gauthier Murphy & Houghtaling, which represented Cajun Conti in the litigation.
“I’m not surprised at all by the ruling. The evidence presented at the trial was very compelling,” Houghtaling said.
So far, Cajun Conti’s legal action is the only case of its kind to go to trial, he noted. What sets this case apart from other potential litigation over COVID-related damages is that the counsel for the plaintiff was able to present evidence that the underwriters seeking to defend Lloyd’s of London against the claim were lying, he said.