The owner of a Southern California restaurant group is suing Farmers Group Inc., seeking to prevent the loss of insurance coverage needed to ensure the survival of his eateries during the coronavirus crisis.
The plaintiff is Phillip Frankland Lee of Scratch Restaurants Group, head chef of Scratch Bar & Kitchen and Sushi Bar, both in Encino, and Sushi Bar in Montecito.
Lee competed on Bravo’s “Top Chef” Season 13 and holds the Food Network’s record for most consecutive wins on “Chopped,” “Cutthroat Kitchen” and “Guy’s Grocery Games.”
The lawsuit seeks to stop the plaintiff from being left without essential coverage to pay for the substantial loss of business income and additional expenses incurred as a result of the pandemic, which has led authorities to issue a stay-at-home mandate and bar dine-in service at eateries statewide, according to Lee’s attorneys.
A Farmers representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the Los Angeles Superior Court suit filed Wednesday.
Lee said in a statement released through his lawyers that he and his wife and business partner, Margarita, have had to furlough dozens of employees and the decision was difficult “on an emotional level because we run our company like a family and I know that most of our team lives paycheck to paycheck and I’m concerned about how they are going to support themselves and their families during the times that we are not allowed to be open.”
Lead plaintiff’s attorney Brian S. Kabateck said COVID-19 “is having a devastating impact on small businesses, especially restaurants, bars and other industries that involve social gathering.”
A form of relief to the financial stress is business interruption coverage, which is generally intended to cover losses from interruptions to a company’s operations, including lost revenues, said lawyer Michael Childress, who also represents the plaintiff,
“Business interruption coverage is often available when the interruption is the result of an order by a ‘civil authority,”’ he said.