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Chef Thomas Keller files suit against his insurer in business interruption dispute

Keller, the famed French Laundry proprietor, is seeking to recoup business lost due to the coronavirus shutdown.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Chef Thomas Keller filed a lawsuit against his insurance company this week, seeking to recover business lost due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit asks the Superior Court of California County of Napa to decide whether Keller’s business interruption insurance allows him to claim damages suffered after the state shut down dine-in operations to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Keller is the famed chef-owner of Per Se, The French Laundry, Bouchon and more. He is one of many restaurant operators who have seen their business interruption claims denied by insurers who say disruption caused by viruses is exempt.

“We need insurance companies to do the right thing and save millions of jobs,” Keller said in a press release.

Keller’s insurer, Hartford Fire Insurance Company, did not immediately respond to a Restaurant Business request to comment on the case.

Keller’s attorney, John Houghtaling, filed for a declaratory judgment on Keller’s behalf.

“To avoid payments for a civil authority shut down, the insurance industry is pushing out deceptive propaganda that the virus does not cause a dangerous condition to property,” Houghtaling said in a press release. “This is a lie, it’s untrue factually and legally. The insurance industry is pushing this out to governments and to their agents to deceive policyholders about the coverage they owe.”

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