Pandemic-related delays on Ben Affleck’s latest film Hypnotic have sparked a lawsuit against an insurance company that’s refusing to extend the term of coverage without a COVID-19 exception even though the original policy didn’t have one.
Hoosegow Productions is suing Chubb National Insurance Company for breach of contract and fraud, among other claims, and is asking a California federal judge for a declaration that Hoosegow is entitled to have the policy’s expiration date extended “in accord with Chubb National’s custom and practice and Chubb National’s express and implied representations” and that the insurer’s assertion it has no obligation to extend the coverage and can instead offer a renewal policy containing a COVID-19 exclusion is incorrect.
The film was set to begin principal photography in April, but like countless other Hollywood productions, it was postponed because of the pandemic. Hoosegow reached out to Chubb about an extension and claims it was ignored for two months before the company said the “global Chubb position” was to deny the extension request.
The production company purchased a Film Producers Risk policy for Hypnotic and argues the insurer’s long-established policy is that if a production is delayed or disrupted the policy period is extended until the production is completed. But, when Hypnotic was delayed because of the pandemic Hoosegow says Chubb refused to extend the policy and instead offered to “renew” it with more limited coverage.
“Specifically, Chubb National said that the policy would be ‘renewed’ only with the addition of an exclusion applicable to losses relating to COVID-19, thereby depriving Hoosegow of coverage that it had purchased and that was promised under the existing policy,” states the complaint, which is posted in full below.
The policy includes $58 million of production media coverage per occurrence, $58 million of media perils coverage per occurrence and $58 million of declared person coverage per occurrence, according to the complaint. It also provides that Chubb will pay for actual production losses incurred because of the “inability of an essential element or other declared person” to complete their duties, in this case, Affleck and director Robert Rodriguez. According to Hoosegow, the policy term is Oct. 28, 2019, through Oct. 28, 2020, but the end date is merely a formality and the parties understood that coverage would be extended if filming went beyond that date.
“The Policy does not include a virus exclusion, pandemic exclusion, COVID-19 exclusion, or any other similar exclusion,” states the complaint. Hoosegow argues that it’s custom and practice to extend the expiration date “without any material change or reduction in coverage” and that it was explicitly assured of such in writing by the company’s underwriter.
Hoosegow alleges that Chubb is engaging in a “coordinated scheme to wrongfully withhold policy benefits” from its customers across the entertainment industry in an effort to save itself millions of dollars.
A Chubb spokesperson on Thursday sent The Hollywood Reporter this statement: “As a matter of policy Chubb does not comment on pending legal matters.”