Entrance to the Jamul Casino at night. Courtesy of the casino

The Jamul Indian Village of California announced Thursday that it has filed a lawsuit against an insurance company that the tribe alleges wrongfully denied the Jamul Casino coverage for losses incurred when it temporarily closed down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawsuit against Lexington Insurance Company alleges the company required the casino to incur physical damage or destruction of property to receive coverage under the “Interruption by Civil Authority” provision of its insurance policy, despite the word “physical” being absent from the provision.

The tribe also alleges the insurance company has cited a “pollution exclusion” to deny coverage, though the tribe says that exclusion does not preclude coverage of losses stemming from contagious diseases.

The tribe says it had three “all risk” policies with Lexington at the time the casino closed.

Lexington Insurance Company did not immediately respond for comment.

The suit was filed earlier this month in the Intertribal Court of Southern California, which oversees legal disputes brought by a collection of local tribes.

“Jamul believes that Lexington didn’t interpret our policy correctly and has wrongly denied coverage,” said Erica M. Pinto, chairwoman of the Jamul Indian Village Development Corporation Board of Directors. “We have an ‘all risk’ policy, which was intended to cover any and all risks. We believe that includes losses related to the pandemic.”

The casino shut down March 20 and remained closed for about two months. The tribe is seeking payment for COVID-19-related losses, including business interruption damages, cleaning and disinfection expenses, and attorney’s fees and costs.

Pinto said,  “There are no virus or other remotely related exclusions in our policy. In fact, Lexington added language when our policy renewed this July for ‘communicable diseases,’ so, clearly, they know they are wrong but still don’t want to compensate us for our losses. It’s not fair or right, so we will hold them accountable to live up to the terms of our policy. We look forward to a quick resolution and payment of our claim so we can continue to help our people recover from this difficult situation.”

–City News Service

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