Fiola Holdings from Fabio Trabocchi and RW Restaurant Group (RWRG) from Robert Wiedmaier both filed lawsuits on Friday, stating that The Charter Oak Fire Insurance Company wrongfully denied coverage for losses resulting from government-mandated public health shutdowns related to COVID-19.
Across the country, many restaurants that thought they were being responsible by securing and paying premiums for business interruption coverage are now facing mounting costs resulting from their insurance company’s failure to cover losses arising from COVID-19.
Both restauranteurs have been awarded a Michelin star for their restaurants: Trabocchi’s Fiola – DC and Wiedmaier’s Siren by RW each received the prestigious industry award. The complaints were filed on behalf of several of their restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area.
Trabocchi is a James Beard Award recipient and a Food & Wine Magazine Best New Chef (2002). The restaurants included in Fabio Trabocchi Restaurants provide customers with delicacies inspired by his family’s traditions from Italy and Spain. Fiola Holdings’ restaurants covered by The Charter Oak Fire Insurance Company and those consequently involved in the lawsuit are Fiola – DC, Fiola Mare, Del Mar and three Sfoglina locations.
The premium charged for this year’s policy alone is $163,934.
“After leading a restaurant group for more than ten years, your employees become family, and it was painful to tell members of the Fiola, Fiola Mare, Del Mar and Sfoglina families that our insurance company let us down during such a difficult time,” said Fabio Trabocchi, world-renowned, award-winning chef and restauranteur. “Unlike our insurance company, we lived up to our commitments during this crisis and quickly started a disaster relief fund to support our employees who were laid off. We feel fortunate that we have been able to hire back nearly half of our staff. But the financial losses continue to be grave and things could get much worse before this crisis is over. The livelihoods of so many in our family are still in the balance because The Charter Oak Fire Insurance Company isn’t living up to its commitments.”
RWRG’s restaurants pay homage to French and Belgian cuisine and are lauded throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. The lawsuit filed on behalf of RWRG covers eight of Robert Wiedmaier’s restaurants, including Marcel’s, winner of the “Formal Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year” by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington (RAMMY Awards, 2016). Brasserie Beck was also proclaimed by Esquire as one of the “Best New Restaurants in America” in 2007. The lawsuit does not include Michelin star awarded Siren by RW, which closed in February 2019 with the goal of reopening in 2020 in a new location. Due to COVID-19, it has not reopened.
The premium charged for this year’s policy alone is $123,936.
“I’m inspired by my incredibly loyal and talented staff to take on our insurance company and fight for all that we’ve worked so hard to achieve over the years at RW Restaurant Group,” said Robert Wiedmaier, internationally recognized and awarded chef and restauranteur. “Unfortunately, The Charter Oak Fire Insurance Company has put us in a dire situation like many of our peers in the restaurant community, who are struggling to stay afloat. Barely. That is why we are pushing back – to put an end to insurers’ greed and to their absolute indifference to destroying the restaurant industry nationwide.”
Both restaurant groups are represented by Washington, D.C.-based Cohen Milstein Sellers and Toll PLLC, and California-based Gibbs Law Group. The firms joined forces to create the COVID-19 Business Interruption Insurance Coverage Task Force and are actively reviewing potential claims on behalf of restaurants and small business owners across the country who have been affected by insurance companies’ refusal to pay.
“Fabio Trabocchi and Robert Wiedmaier are two perfect examples of responsible restaurant owners purchasing comprehensive business interruption insurance to protect themselves against these exact types of disasters,” said Geoffrey Graber, a Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll partner, and head of the firm’s COVID-19 Business Interruption Insurance Coverage Task Force. “We are seeing widespread attempts by the insurance industry to skirt their responsibility to fulfill their obligations, which leaves restaurants, bars and other retailers holding the bag. We will continue to fight for struggling businesses who need these payments to survive.”
“Restaurants, bars and other retailers are being run out of business by coverage denials by insurers,” said Andre Mura, a partner at Gibbs Law Group, and member of the firm’s COVID-19 Business Interruption Insurance Coverage Task Force. “This is a critical economic issue that is impacting thousands of working people across the country, and insurance companies must provide the coverage that they have promised.”
Fiola Holdings’ complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia; RWRG’s complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland Southern Division.
Restaurants and other small business owners who believe they were wrongfully denied insurance coverage for losses related to COVID-19 may contact the Cohen Milstein and Gibbs Law Group COVID-19 Business Interruption Insurance Coverage Task Force at 800-924-7107.