Outbreak!: Why Insurance Claims Professionals Need to Pay Attention to Monkey Pox – Insurance Laws & Products

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Monkeypox was declared a public health emergency by the US Department of Health and Human Services on August 4, 2022, only the fifth time it has occurred since 2009. As of September 20, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 24,203 confirmed cases nationwide, with California (4,753) and New York (3,799) leading the way. The immediate and potential long-term effects of Monkeypox on the commercial insurance industry remain unknown for a number of reasons.

Some studies show that monkeypox requires prolonged, close, face-to-face contact or direct skin-to-skin contact with rashes to spread. This reduced transmission threat minimizes the possibility of large-scale state shutdowns or stay-at-home orders, and attendant claimed property and business income losses, such as those seen in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While property coverages should not be affected by the Monkeypox outbreak, liability insurance policies may not be immune. For example, schools, day care centers, nursing homes, and other residential care facilities may face claims related to monkeypox exposure and contraction linked to allegedly inadequate safety protocols. As always, insurance professionals should be guided by the specific policy language.

However, such claims should be subject to communicable disease exclusions found in many general liability, errors and omissions or homeowner policies (or even auto policies). Specifically, in Lampi v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., 498 F. App’x 655 (8th Cir. 2013) (applying Missouri law), the Court considered the conduct of two consenting adults when one allegedly transmitted an STD to his partner. The insurer denied coverage under the homeowner’s policy because the policy’s definition of “bodily injury” excluded “any of the following that is contagious: disease, bacteria, vermin, virus, or other organism transmitted by any insured to any other person…” ID card. at 656. The Eighth Circuit held that the policy excluded the actual or perceived transmission of a communicable disease because infecting another with HIV clearly falls within the plain and ordinary meaning of the transmission of a communicable disease. ID card.? See also Plaza v. Gen. Sure. plus.244 AD2d 238, 239 (NY App. Div. 1997) (applying communicable disease exclusion to injuries caused by HIV transmission); Koegler v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 623 F.Supp. 2d 481, 484-85 (SDNY 2009) (communicable disease exclusion would exclude coverage for policyholder who transmitted HPV and herpes if timely disclaimer of coverage as exclusion was clear);

Places where workers may come into contact with affected individuals through their job duties, such as hospitals, physical rehabilitation clinics, health spas, chiropractors, massage therapists, and physical training facilities, may see an increase in third-party claims. Additionally, daycare centers and schools, where children may be in close physical contact for extended periods of time, may see some allegations to the extent that a student allegedly contracted monkeypox on the premises.

In the meantime, we track the numbers for Monkeypox cases and analyze the policy language that may be involved.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the topic. Expert advice should be sought regarding your particular circumstances.

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