Simon Wiesenthal Center Sues Insurer Ahead of Debut of Netflix Film

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Moriah Films have filed a lawsuit alleging that Chubb Group must provide insurance coverage.

The plaintiffs say they are readying the Netflix release of Never Stop Dreaming: The Life and Legacy of Shimon Peres, featuring interviews with Barack Obama, George Bush, Tony Blair and Barbara Streisand. The film is the group's latest look at modern Jewish history.

But the COVID-19 epidemic is interfering with its business.

Specifically, the Simon Wiesenthal Center says that as a result of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's restrictions to prevent public gatherings, it had to cancel a tribute dinner honoring George and Amal Clooney. Additionally, the plaintiffs say they couldn't screen Never Stop Dreaming, have had to postpone fundraisers and have also had to furlough and lay off staff.

The plaintiffs point to comments from Chubb CEO Evan Greenberg on an April 22 shareholders call to fight business interruption claims "tooth and nail" by contesting the virus caused direct physical loss to property.

That's a subject being explored in other suits already, but Chubb is a particularly prominent insurer in the entertainment industry.

"The word ‘physical’ has been defined by California courts as ‘having material existence’ or ‘perceptible through the sense and subject to the laws of nature,'" states the complaint. "The coronavirus, like a bacterium, clearly has a material existence and is something that exists in nature that physically damages tangible property by rendering it unusable as it adheres to surfaces creating a dangerous property condition."

The Simon Wiesenthal Center and Moriah Films also say they are entitled to coverage from Chubb for another reason.

"At the time Defendant produced the Policy, Defendant knew that they could have clearly and unambiguously included exclusions for pandemics or virus, although Plaintiffs contest that even a generic ‘virus’ exclusion (as opposed to pandemic) would have clearly and unambiguously excluded coverage for physical loss or damage due to a global pandemic," states the complaint. "On information and belief, Defendant chose not to include a specific exclusion for pandemic or virus, it was not an accident or the result of negligent drafting, because they knew a policyholder would not equate a virus or pandemic to a pollutant. Defendant would then be able to expand the exclusionary provision beyond the reasonable non-profit human rights insureds’ expectations in the event of extreme losses such as a global pandemic, all while collecting premiums."