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Monkeypox was declared a national public health emergency by the US Department of Health and Human Services on August 4, 2022, only the fifth time this has occurred since 2009. As of September 20, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 24,203 confirmed cases. Nationally, with California (4,753) and New York (3,799) on top. The immediate effects and potential long-term consequences of monkeypox on the commercial insurance industry remain unknown for several reasons.
Some studies suggest that monkeypox requires prolonged, close, face-to-face contact or direct skin-to-skin contact with the rash lesions to spread. This reduced threat of transmission reduces the likelihood of large-scale government shutdowns or stay-at-home orders, and attendant losses to property and business income, of the types seen in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While property coverage should not be implicated by an outbreak of monkeypox, liability insurance policies may not be immune. For example, schools, day care centers, nursing homes, and other residential care facilities may face claims for exposure and contraction to monkeypox associated with allegedly inadequate safety protocols. As always, insurance industry professionals should be guided by private policy language.
However, these claims must be subject to the infectious disease exclusions found in many general liability, errors and omissions policies, or homeowner policies (or even automobile policies). In particular, in Lambi vs AM. death family. additional. a company, 498 F. App’x 655 (8th Cir. 2013) (Missouri law enforcement), the court considered the conduct of two consenting adults in which one allegedly transmitted a sexually transmitted disease to his partner. The insurer denied coverage under the homeowner policy because the policy definition of “bodily injury” excludes “any of the following as contagious: a disease, bacteria, parasite, virus, or other living organism transmitted by any insured person to any other person….” ID. at 656. The Eighth Circuit decided that the policy excludes actual or alleged transmission of an infectious disease because infecting another person with HIV clearly falls within the simple and ordinary meaning of transmission of an infectious disease. ID. ; see also Plaza vs. The general. Certain. Share.244 AD2d 238, 239 (NY App. Div. 1997) (Applying Infectious Disease Exclusion to HIV Transmission Infections); Quigler vs. Liberty Mott. additional. a company, 623 F. Supplement. 2d 481, 484-85 (SDNY 2009) (Exclusion of infectious diseases would have precluded coverage of a policy holder who transmitted HPV and herpes had there been timely evacuation from coverage, as the exclusion would have been unambiguous).
Places where workers may come into contact with affected individuals because of their job duties, such as hospitals, physical rehabilitation clinics, spas, orthopedic aides, massage therapists, and physical training facilities, may see an increase in third-party claims. Additionally, daycares and schools, where children may be in close physical contact for extended periods of time, may see some allegations to the extent that monkeypox is allegedly on the premises.
In the meantime, we’re monitoring monkeypox case numbers and analyzing policy language that may be involved.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the topic. It is recommended to take the advice of specialists in such circumstances.
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