Metallica Can’t Force Insurer To Pay for Tour Canceled by COVID-19 Pandemic, Judge Rules
In the latest legal clash over pandemic insurance coverage for the live music business, Metallica takes a loss.
A California judge says Metallica’s insurance company doesn’t need to pay for six South American concerts that were canceled when COVID-19 struck, thanks to an exclusion in the policy for “communicable diseases.”
The band sued a unit of Lloyd’s of London last year after it refused to cover their losses stemming from a South American tour, which had been set to kick off on April 15, 2020, but was postponed when the governments of Argentina, Chile and Brazil imposed strict restrictions amid the worsening pandemic.
Though Metallica’s insurance policy expressly excluded any coverage for events canceled by “communicable diseases,” Metallica’s lawyers argued that COVID-19 itself wasn’t clearly the most direct cause of the tour cancellation.
But in a decision on Nov. 30 obtained by Billboard, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Holly J. Fujie said she didn’t buy it.
“The travel restrictions which caused the concert cancellations were a direct response to the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic,” the judge wrote. “The evidence … demonstrates that the COVID-19 pandemic spurred the travel restrictions to South America and restrictions on public gatherings. The COVID-19 pandemic was therefore the efficient proximate cause of the concerts’ cancellations.”
Metallica’s lawyers had also argued that the “diseases” exclusion didn’t apply at all, since the exact wording of the policy said Lloyd’s wouldn’t pay coverage stemming from a disease “or fear or threat thereof.” Citing that language, the band said “none of its bandmembers felt threatened or fearful.”
But Judge Fujie was similarly unswayed, ruling that the Metallica policy’s language “does not require that the policyholders [themselves] feel fearful or threatened.”
The ruling granted Lloyd’s so-called summary judgment, meaning the case is dismissed. Metallica’s attorney did not immediately return a request for comment on the decision. The ruling was first reported by Law360.
Metallica’s case is one of many that have been filed by music venues, bars and other businesses seeking insurance coverage for harm caused by COVID-19. Like Metallica’s case, the majority of those lawsuits have thus far been won by insurers. Many policies include express carveouts for problems caused by diseases, like the one in the band’s contract; other policies for brick-and-mortar businesses often require “physical damage” that’s tricky to show with a pandemic shutdown.
The biggest such case in the music industry is a sweeping lawsuit filed by Live Nation, seeking coverage from Factory Mutual Insurance Co. for more than 10,000 shows (encompassing a whopping 15 million tickets) that were canceled or postponed during the pandemic.
Factory Mutual tried to end the case by arguing that virus shutdowns are not the kind of “physical loss or damage” that would be covered under the wording of Live Nation’s policy, but a federal judge ruled in February that Live Nation might have a valid case: “The complaint sufficiently alleges that infectious respiratory droplets, which transmit COVID-19, are physical objects that may alter the property on which they land and remain.”
The lawsuit remains pending.
Read the entire decision against Metallica here: