October 1, 2020, 11:35 am
After a nationwide wave of Corona lawsuits against insurers unwilling to pay, the Munich district court awarded a complainant innkeeper the required amount of millions for the first time. The insurers want to revise the terms and conditions in the contracts by the end of the year and now make them more understandable.
According to the judgment, the defendant insurance chamber has to pay the costs of 30 days of corona-related business closure to the tenant of the Munich Augustinerkeller – exactly 1.014 million euros. Hundreds of similar lawsuits against several insurance companies are pending in the courts across Germany, including the market leader Allianz.
According to the victorious landlord, the result of the Munich decision could be a second wave of complaints: Many landlords did not have the money to afford a lawsuit, said Christian Vogler, the leaseholder of the Augustinerkeller, which is known beyond the Munich city limits. “We have now done preparatory work for them.” Many restaurateurs are threatened in their existence. “Now finally there is a judge who says: It is wrong what you are doing.”
Insurer does not want to admit defeat
However, the decision is not final, the losing insurance chamber does not want to admit defeat: “After the written reasons for the judgment are available, we will carefully deal with them and use the possibilities of appeal,” said the company.
The judgment concerns a policy in which the closure of the company is expressly covered on the basis of the Infection Protection Act. The boss of the Augustinerkeller had only signed the contract on March 5th because he wanted to protect himself against a corona-related closure.
However, the insurance chamber does not want to pay because, in the company’s opinion, the protection only applies to diseases and pathogens that are expressly mentioned in the contract – Covid-19 is not one of them.
The court sees it very differently: closings according to the Infection Protection Act are secured in the contract, said the presiding judge Susanne Laufenberg. According to the judgment, whether or not Covid-19 is explicitly mentioned does not matter. The responsibility for generally understandable contracts therefore lies with the insurer: “We are of the opinion that one cannot expect a policyholder to be familiar with the Infection Protection Act,” said the judge.
The victorious landlord then accused the boardrooms of the insurers of putting their own financial interests above those of the customers: “It really is a mess, I think that you push these people (the landlords) against the wall in order to get higher bonuses”, said Vogler. Allianz boss Oliver Bäte and some other top managers in the industry, however, argue that they can only pay for explicitly insured damage, as otherwise the business would lead to financial risks that are no longer calculable.
Defeat for the alliance too
Allianz also has to fear defeat in Munich, as their insurance conditions are formulated similarly: closures under the Infection Protection Act are insured, but the Covid-19 pathogen is not expressly mentioned. In several oral hearings, the chamber criticized the insurance conditions of both companies as being “non-transparent”.
However, the success of the prominent Munich host in no way means that all the sued insurance companies have to be defeated in court, neither in Munich nor anywhere else. The only thing that is clear is that both the Insurance Chamber and Allianz in their home town of Munich have bad chances with all the same business closure policies. The general association of the insurance industry GDV emphasized accordingly: “In individual cases it depends on the exact wording of the insurance conditions.”
Even if it could take years before there are legally binding judgments, the processes are already having consequences: insurers want to formulate their policies in a more understandable way. “We have to communicate more clearly from the start what is insured and what is not,” said a GDV spokeswoman. “A group of experts is working on this task and is pursuing the goal of completing the work by the end of the year.” (dpa-AFX)