Australia: Arrival of Ebola virus prompts policyholders to assess insurance coverage

Last Updated: 23 October 2014
Article by Thomas M. Reiter and Lucas J. Tanglen

With news of the Ebola virus arriving in the United States, many companies are moving quickly to protect the health and safety of their employees and customers. At the same time, some insurance providers have already cautioned policyholders that, in their view, many standard policies will not respond to Ebola-related events, while encouraging businesses to purchase new, Ebola-specific coverages. In light of such comments, it is particularly important that companies with significant Ebola-related risks—including, but not limited to, hospitals and other medical-related operations—take time to consider whether they have appropriate insurance coverage in place. For companies that have already been affected by Ebola, it is especially important that they act promptly to preserve their ability to pursue claims under their insurance policies.

With the situation still unfolding across the international stage and a lack of caselaw applying policy language to Ebola-related claims, it is impossible to predict with certainty how insurance coverage might be implicated and which policy language might be disputed. However, some potential insurance coverage scenarios are not difficult to envision. For example, a medical care provider might be sued in connection with its treatment of an Ebola patient or its handling of Ebola-contaminated materials. The provider might look to its general liability policies, errors and omissions ("E&O") policies, or, potentially, in some circumstances, directors and officers liability ("D&O") policies to respond to such claims. Will an insurer argue that various exclusions or other policy language—either general provisions already in place or Ebola-specific language that an insurer might attempt to introduce in a policy renewal—bar coverage?

As another example, a medical facility that has treated a patient with Ebola might be placed under a regulatory quarantine, forcing the suspension of its regular operations. Does the facility's contamination with Ebola constitute property damage under a business interruption insurance policy, such that coverage might be available with respect to lost income resulting from the quarantine?

These are just a few of the types of issues a policyholder might take into consideration in reviewing their insurance coverage programs for readiness with respect to Ebola-related risks. The following lists suggest practical steps a company might take in, first, analyzing the availability of coverage for potential Ebola-related claims and, second, responding to such a claim. In both cases, prompt action is likely to benefit the policyholder's insurance position.

Assessing Coverage for Ebola-Related Risks:

  • Review terms of potentially applicable policies. Such policies might include general liability policies; property insurance policies, including all risk policies and "business interruption" and related coverages; E&O/professional services policies; and D&O policies, among others. The policyholder should attempt to identify any language, including exclusions, that an insurer might argue bars coverage for Ebola-related claims as well as language that may afford coverage, particularly broadly defined E&O/professional services policies.
  • Strategy on policy renewals. Even if existing policy language appears to provide coverage for Ebola-related claims, an insurer might seek to introduce an exclusion or other restrictive policy language when a policy is to be renewed. In such a case, the policyholder might seek to negotiate for a renewal without the restrictive language, seek coverage through an alternative provider who does not insist on the restrictive terms, or seek, to the extent practicable, to "lock-in" coverage under expiring terms of coverage affording more favorable terms. In addition, questions raised by insurers in the renewal process regarding Ebola can, if answered inaccurately in the insurers' view, give rise to potential insurer coverage defenses based on "misrepresentation" or similar principles.
  • Consider specialty Ebola policies. Depending on the terms of a company's existing policies and the nature and extent of its particular Ebola-related risks, it might be appropriate to obtain specialty Ebola coverage, which is already being offered through some brokers. The business should closely review the terms of any such policy to understand the types of claims it will and will not cover. In addition, care should be taken in pursuing such coverage to avoid allowing for a negative (and quite possibly inappropriate) inference that the existing policies do not cover Ebola-related claims or losses.
  • Ensure appropriate policy limits and retentions. A company with elevated risks related to Ebola should consider whether, in light of national and global developments, its current policy limits are sufficient for its operations, as well as whether the self-insurance features of the programs (e.g., deductibles, self-insured retentions, and retrospective premiums) are appropriate.

Responding to Ebola-Related Claims:

  • Identify any potentially applicable policies. As noted above, a variety of policy types might respond to a particular Ebola-related claim. The policyholder should pay particular attention to the "triggering" language of policies. Many current policies are written on a "claims-made" or similar basis, meaning they are triggered by the assertion of a "claim" or similar event, rather than by the occurrence of an injury or act giving rise to an injury. Accordingly, an Ebola-related "event" taking place in 2014 might be covered by a 2015 policy, if that is when a claim based on the event is first asserted against the policyholder. That said, the happening of the "event" may provide an opportunity for a policyholder to "lock-in" coverage in certain circumstances.
  • Closely review insurance policies. This review should focus not only on substantive policy terms, including exclusions, but also on any timing requirements that might result in a waiver of the policyholder's claim.
  • Promptly notify insurers. A policyholder may risk waiving coverage if it fails to timely notify its insurers of a claim, or even a potential claim, pursuant to the terms of the policy. Determining which policies to notify is not, however, in all instances a straightforward exercise, and, accordingly, attention to policy wording is warranted.
  • Cooperate with insurers. Insurers typically contend that policyholders have an obligation to cooperate with insurers in the investigation, settlement, and defense of claims. While an Ebola-related claim might implicate certain sensitive or confidential information relating to the policyholder or third parties, a policyholder will wish to consider its cooperation duties require providing access to such information.
  • An integrated strategy. Ebola may present challenges on multiple levels going beyond insurance – legal, regulatory, disclosure-related, business vulnerability, and the positions and interests of the company may at times vary among these different challenges. A prudent policyholder may wish to consider the insurance-related implications with respect to its positions, particularly its public positions, in formulating its overall strategic approach.


As the Ebola situation develops, businesses should act promptly to assess their insurance positions and take any actions that might be warranted. K&L Gates maintains one of the world's largest insurance coverage practice groups, and its attorneys have represented a wide variety of policyholders under uncertain circumstances like those presented by the Ebola virus.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

K&L Gates has been awarded a 2012 EOWA Employer of Choice for Women citation acknowledging our commitment to workplace diversity.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions