Macmiles v. Erie Insurance Exchange
A judge for a Pennsylvania state court ruled recently that a downtown Pittsburgh tavern’s losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic were covered by a policy that afforded coverage for “direct” and “physical” loss. Judge Christine Ward found that the losses caused by the COVID-19 government mandated closures sustained by the Grant Street Tavern, located two blocks away from the Allegheny County Courthouse in which this case was decided, constituted a loss covered by the subject policy and that Erie had to pay. This decision is contrary to the vast majority of holdings in similar suits located in courts all around the country, which have almost uniformly ruled that losses due to the pandemic and associated closures did not constitute “direct” and “physical” loss, with very few exceptions. One such exception was actually handed down by Judge Ward earlier this year. Judge Ward made it clear that she would not decide the cases in front of her court based on national trends in similarly situated cases, as abiding by nonbinding decisions of other jurisdictions would be to abdicate the judicial role of the Pennsylvania state court.