Germany: Landlord receives over €1 million COVID-19 compensation

Christian Vogler, the operator and tenant of the Augustinerkeller in Munich, one of the best beer-selling catering facilities in Germany, has to be compensated by an insurance with more than one million euros for the closure of his restaurant during the COVID-19 crisis. The Munich Regional Court ruled today that the Bayerische Versicherungskammer (Bavarian Insurance Chamber) must pay the plaintiff an insured sum of EUR 1.014 million (USD 1.195m). Numerous restaurant owners in Germany have filed similar lawsuits and hope now also for a compensation.

80 lawsuits alone are still pending at the Munich regional court, where three civil chambers are processing the cases. Even if the judgment is not yet final and the insurance has already indicated in an initial statement that it wants to appeal - Vogler's success is giving hope to an entire industry that has been hard hit by the pandemic.

On March 4, in view of the impending COVID-19 pandemic, Vogler took out business failure insurance with Bayerische Versicherungskammer, an independent public-law institution and with a portfolio of over 14 million contracts and around 6,500 employees, Germany's largest public insurer. The policy was covered by the German Infection Protection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz). Nevertheless, the insurance did not want to pay because, in the company's opinion, the protection only applied to diseases and pathogens that are expressly mentioned in the contract - Covid-19 was not one of them.

The regional court had a different view on the contract and ruled on Thursday that closures according to the Infection Protection Act are covered by the clauses contained in the contract. "We are of the opinion that one cannot expect from a policyholder that he is familiar with the Infection Protection Act," argued the presiding judge, Susanne Laufenberg. Whether or not Covid-19 is specifically mentioned does not matter.

The Bavarian State Ministry for Health and Care closed the plaintiff's business due to the corona virus from March 21, 2020. Contrary to the opinion of the defendant insurance company, the legal form and the legality of the order are not important, according to the ruling.

The plaintiff did not have to take action against the orders in the view of the judge. In addition, it is not necessary for the coronavirus to occur in the plaintiff's business, because according to the General Insurance Conditions (AVB) it is only important that the plaintiff's business has been closed due to the Infection Protection Act.

The victorious landlord Christian Vogler sees the decision as a signal for all restaurant-owner across Germany which are threatened in existence by the pandemic. Many landlords don't have the money to afford a lawsuit. "We have now done preparatory work for them."

The Augustinerkeller in Munich's Arnulfstrasse was opened in the first half of the 19th century and has one of the largest beer gardens in Germany with up to 5,000 seats. In addition, there are seats for up to 600 people in various rooms and halls. It belongs to the oldest brewery in Munich, the Augustiner Brewery, and around 14,000 hl of beer are served on-site every year. In April 2010, Christian and his wife Petra Vogler took over the Augustinerkeller as tenants.

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