SWC Sues Its Insurer, Calling for Business Interruption Coverage Amid Covid-19

April 29, 2020

Simon Wiesenthal Center files civil action against Chubb Insurance Company, joining a growing ‘Business Interruption Group’ coalition


LOS ANGELES – April 29, 2020 – The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC), a leading global Jewish human rights organization and home to the renowned Museum of Tolerance and the two-time Academy Award-winning Moriah Films – today announced it has filed a civil action against Chubb Insurance Company, joining the Business Interruption Group (BIG) coalition and retaining its co-founder and national insurance expert John Houghtaling. The group maintains that the business interruption it has undergone since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic is covered under its insurance policy. Denying these protections undermines the critical work of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and other nonprofit institutions.


Statement by Rabbi Hier, Founder, CEO and President of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance
“All Americans, our families and co-workers included, have been devastated by COVID-19. We have decided to join this effort because the core mission of the Simon Wiesenthal Center is to fight injustice and for those victimized. Our center is not asking for a handout. We made payments for 44 years, because we wanted to be responsible and to safeguard our important mission. What we sought to insure were not only buildings, but a commitment made to Holocaust Survivor Simon Wiesenthal that the institution bearing his name would dedicate itself to imparting the lessons of the Nazi Holocaust, to fight anti-Semitism, and to stand up for human dignity everywhere. We sought to insure a hallowed public space that brings together all segments of our society to build bridges of understanding and coalitions for a better America. By denying the protection we paid for, Chubb has halted and harmed our work. We are glad today to join John Houghtaling and his Business Interruption Group. Today, we join in this righteous mission not for us alone, but also for all the other non-profits, businesses, and employees grappling with the challenging realities of coronavirus.”


Statement by Rabbi Cooper, Associate Dean, Director Global Social Action Agenda of the Simon Wiesenthal Center
“For more than four decades, the center has invested into a safety net for our mission, to protect our people and our work by making payments to our insurance company. The policy we paid for has coverage for the civil authority shutdown of our operations. Our policy does not exclude viruses or pandemics, yet our insurance company has denied the protection by the false statement that the pandemic does not cause a dangerous property condition. The insurance industry solicits payments with common themes that if something goes wrong, that they will be like a good neighbor, that they are on our side. During this situation, our insurance company has been none of these things, and instead has misrepresented the danger. What they are doing is morally wrong. We urge them to correct their decision—it is the right and just thing to do. We stand up against these irresponsible and harmful decisions, not only for ourselves, but for all Americans and for policyholders around the world.” 


Statement by Jonathan Bass:
“There exist more than 1.56 million non-profit organizations in the world today. My Uncle, Roland Arnall, accompanied Rabbi Hier to Vienna to meet Simon Wiesenthal and get his permission to found the Simon Wiesenthal Center — an organization that has stood up for those victimized around the world. They relied upon their insurance company to be there in their hour of need. Chubb betrayed that trust and abandoned them in their time of need. This literally endangers their sacred mission. I’ve seen the insurers deny every sector of our economy -- from restaurants and hospitality, to real estate and manufacturing businesses like my own. The insurers are sitting on nearly 1 trillion dollars in reserves. By their own numbers, companies pay them over $600-700 billion each year for property business interruption coverage. If they abandon American businesses now, they will destroy the livelihood of millions of Americans. This is a turning point in the global trust in the very concept of insurance itself.”  


Statement by John Houghtaling, Esq.:
“It is a great honor to have Rabbi Hier, Rabbi Cooper, Jonathan Bass, and all those who make up the Wiesenthal Center join me and BIG, placing their sacred mission and trust in me. Today they bravely stand up to injustice, joining us to unmask the betrayal of trust of Chubb and the insurance industry as a whole. Instead of working like everyone else to rebuild America, greedy insurance companies refuse to release a single dollar of our $822 billion dollar cash reserve to pay claims. The insurance industry is legally, factually, and morally wrong. The Simon Wiesenthal Center should not have to engage lawyers. By betraying the trust of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Chubb has, quite literally, harmed the fight against hate crimes around the world. Insurers across America are uniformly misrepresenting that all policies have virus/pandemic exclusions. They do not. Time is running out for lawyers, lobbyists and their crisis managers to reverse course, tell the truth, and come to the aid of those they promised to protect.”


About the Simon Wiesenthal Center:
The Simon Wiesenthal Center is a Jewish human rights organization that confronts anti-Semitism, hate and terrorism, promotes human rights and dignity, stands with Israel, defends the safety of Jews worldwide, and teaches the lessons of the Holocaust for future generations. With a constituency of over 400,000 households in the United States, it is accredited as an NGO at international organizations including the United Nations, UNESCO, OSCE, Organization of American States (OAS), the Latin American Parliament (PARLATINO) and the Council of Europe. The SWC also researches the Holocaust and hate in historic and contemporary contexts.   


About John Houghtaling & the Business Interruption Group: 
John Houghtaling is a nationally known attorney and insurance expert who initiated the coronavirus litigation on March 16, 2020. He has since compiled a large coalition of stakeholders in the restaurant, hospitality and hotel industry under the Business Interruption Group (BIG). Houghtaling leads Gauthier Murphy & Houghtaling, the high-profile New Orleans law firm that filed the Castano litigation leading to a landmark $246 billion dollar tobacco settlement. His representation of more than 1,000 storm victims in Superstorm Sandy has also led to the uncovering of a national fraud scandal, resulting in the arrest of an insurance executive, federal fines against an insurer, and hundreds of millions of dollars being recovered by storm victims. 



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