Apr. 20--Two local restaurant owners are suing their insurance provider, claiming the company has refused to honor claims for damages to their businesses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Joseph Tambellini and HTR Restaurants Inc. filed separate lawsuits Friday in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas against Erie Insurance Exchange.
Both of the local restaurants have experienced significant losses covered by their paid-up insurance policies since March when Gov. Wolf issued a statewide stay-at-home order for residents, according to the lawsuits. They contend that Erie has wrongfully denied the claims.
"This is exactly what they paid for," said Harrisburg attorney Scott Cooper, who represents the restaurants. "In all of the cases people paid for business interruption coverage and civil authority coverage and now the companies are denying claims because they have a lot of them, which is not the fault of the policy holders."
Tambellini owns Joseph Tambellini Restaurant in Highland Park and HTR owns Sieb's Pub in Ross. Tambellini's remains open for takeout orders, according to its Facebook page. Sieb's is closed, according to its website.
Erie spokesman Mathew Cummings declined to comment specifically about the lawsuits, but said business interruption coverage is not designed to include pandemics.
"Business interruption insurance covers financial losses when a business cannot function because of physical damage to a commercial property," he said. "Erie is considering all claims submitted on a case-by-case basis and decisions are based on the facts and circumstances as well as policy provisions and individual coverages."
Cooper, one of four lawyers representing the restaurant owners, said the lawsuits are the first filed in a county court over coronavirus insurance coverage. Downtown attorney John P. Goodrich is the local lawyer representing the restaurants, Cooper said.
Cooper said insurance companies across Pennsylvania have denied similar claims filed by restaurant owners.
The HTR complaint was filed as a class-action lawsuit and Cooper said he represents at least four other restaurants in different parts of Pennsylvania that have filed suit against various insurance companies.
"Erie's denied every claim that anyone has made in any of these cases throughout the state without even actually doing any kind of investigation," Cooper said. "It's kind of a rubber stamp."
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-564-3080, [email protected] or via Twitter .
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