Edmonton

Edmonton Oilers sue insurers for $174M over 'massive' pandemic losses

The Edmonton Oilers group of companies allege in a statement of claim filed in Court of Queen's Bench to have lost more than $174 million over two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far all insurance claims have been denied

The lawsuit notes Rogers Place Arena is in a high density location and that numerous individuals carried the COVID-19 virus in and onto the property. (David Bajer/CBC)

The Edmonton Oilers and its associated companies are suing four insurance firms for what's described in a statement of claim filed with the Court of Queen's Bench as "massive business losses" over a two-year period during the pandemic. 

On March 12, 2020, the NHL halted its season. Shortly after, mandatory government orders kept fans, clients and customers from entering or using Rogers Place arena. 

The lawsuit, filed March 16, 2022, says the COVID-19 virus physically altered the interior air, surfaces and interior of Rogers Place, "making them unfit for their intended use." 

The insurers, say the plaintiffs, have decided "viruses do not cause physical loss or damage."

The statement of claim suggests that if the Oilers organization had allowed fans back into the building in 2020 and 2021, "it is a certainty that COVID-19 and the COVID-19 virus would have been reintroduced in large quantities into those insured locations and additional and substantial physical loss and damage would have continued." 

According to the court document, the prevalence COVID-19 in the province reached "materially dangerous levels" that were understated early in the pandemic due to limited testing and contract tracing. 

"The presence of COVID-19 and the COVID-19 virus in the plaintiffs' facilities made the normal use of those facilities impossible for almost two years," the court document states, adding that the facility is in a high-density location and adjacent to an LRT station, resulting in "numerous infectious individuals" carrying the virus in and onto their properties by "breathing, talking, coughing, shouting and touching."

All risks policy purchased

The Oilers group of companies purchased what's referred to as an all risks policy, which it thought was supposed to protect them from business interruption, including any interruption caused by a pandemic, the lawsuit states. 

"The plaintiffs have suffered massive business losses covered under the all risks policy. The defendants have refused to honour the terms of the all risks policy and have denied coverage … on the basis that the business interruption did not result from direct physical loss or damage to property," the court document states.

(CBC)

The Edmonton Arena Corporation, which leases Rogers Place Arena from the city, claims a loss of $15,318,909.00.  The Oilers hockey team calculated the biggest loss at $85,260,677.00, while the Oil Kings say they have lost $4,736,456 over the same two-year period. 

Another $36,294,162.00 is the calculated loss by the Oilers Entertainment Group, the operators of Rogers Place and the OEG Gaming entity responsible for raffles and gaming claims to have lost $32,526,927.00. 

The statement of claim names AIG Insurance Company of Canada, Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Company of Canada, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company and The Sovereign General Insurance Company as the defendants. 

According to the lawsuit, the reason Rogers Place could recently reopen to the public was thanks to the wide availability of vaccines and boosters along with "the significant repairs and preventive measures undertaken." 

An Oilers spokesperson declined comment on the lawsuit. 

A separate lawsuit filed by the same Calgary law firm on behalf of the owner of the JW Marriott Edmonton Ice District hotel echoes the same allegations against its four insurers. That statement of claim calculates insured losses at $15,025,000.00. 

A lawsuit filed on behalf of JW Marriott Edmonton Ice District is alleging $15M in pandemic-related losses. (JW Marriott Edmonton Ice District/Facebook)

No statements of defence have been filed and the allegations contained in the statements of claim have not been proven in court. 

Last June, 20 NHL teams including five Canadian clubs — Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks — sued their insurance providers for more than $1 billion for pandemic-related losses, according to a TSN report in January.

Earlier this month, the Calgary Flames launched a $125-million lawsuit against its insurers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janice Johnston

Court and crime reporter

Janice Johnston is an investigative journalist with CBC Edmonton who has covered Alberta courts and crime for more than three decades. She won a national Radio Television Digital News Association award in 2016 for her coverage of the trial of a 13-year-old Alberta boy who was acquitted of killing his abusive father. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca.

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