EXCLUSIVE: As coronavirus cases surge across America again, United Talent Agency is going after Vigilant and Federal insurance in court for millions for leaving them unprotected during the pandemic.
“Instead of honoring its promises to UTA, Vigilant has wrongfully withheld the policy benefits that UTA is entitled to receive – and that it needs to weather the circumstances associated with the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and actions to ‘flatten the curve,’ rebound from their financial losses, and continue operating as productive members of California’s economy,” states the breach of contract complaint (read it here).
When UTA and their PASICH LLP lawyers say “financial losses,” what are they really talking about in the suit filed on November 13 in Los Angeles Superior Court?
Well, in an industry that has seen months and months of shutdowns, virtual workspaces, salary cuts, layoffs and furloughs, the agency and its attorneys are seeking declaratory relief and unspecified “damages according to proof at the time of trial, plus interest.” However, earlier in the complaint they lay out in much more explicit terms the toll the coronavirus crisis has taken: “UTA currently estimates that its financial losses, including lost profits, lost commissions, and lost business opportunities, approximate $150,000,000, and are continuing.”
Long lawsuit short – Vigilant and Federal, who are both members of the Chubb group of insurance companies, denied UTA payouts on the pandemic fallout on their long-held property policies because they say the circumstances are outside the scope of the coverage. Yet, on top of that, neither Vigilant or Federal ever included a “virus and bacteria” exclusion on those polices. That addition is actually something insurance companies have been able to do since 2006 in the Golden State to preemptively slither out of exactly situations like the one at issue here.
To that end, the jury trial-seeking complaint details the wide swath of destruction from the pandemic that resulted in mandated agency office closures, costly “cancelled television and motion picture production,” and the sobering reality that “least 13 UTA employees, five spouses and some of their dependents have tested positive for COVID-19.” With cameos of sorts by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gov. Gavin Newsom of California, the World Health Organization, widespread lockdowns and closure orders, and shuttered Guns ’n’ Roses and Toby Keith tours, among others, the three-claim filing makes it clear UTA believes that the Chubb companies are trying to pull an unorthodox fast one, to put it politely.
“There is no merit to Vigilant’s and Federal’s position that their policies do not insure losses that UTA has suffered and is suffering,” the 28-page filing from the uber-agency declares.
“In selling their broad, ‘all risk’ property policies to UTA, Vigilant and Federal promised to insure financial losses attributable to ‘direct physical loss or damage’ to property unless an exclusion conspicuously, plainly and clearly applies to bar coverage,” the suit adds. “By this lawsuit, UTA seeks damages to compensate it for Vigilant’s contractual breaches and bad faith conduct. It also seeks declaratory relief confirming that its losses are covered.”
Neither Vigilant nor Federal responded to Deadline’s requests for comment on the UTA lawsuit.
However, we do know that as COVID-19 records were broken day after day over the last week, the U.S. now has had more than 11.4 million confirmed cases and close to 252,000 deaths so far from the pandemic this year.