McDonald’s, Austin Mutual reach deal on COVID-19 lawsuit

(Reuters) – McDonald’s Corp and two of its Chicago franchisees have reached a tentative settlement with an insurer, which they said had improperly refused to cover the costs of litigating a proposed class action lawsuit accusing McDonald’s of not protecting workers from COVID-19.

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McDonald’s, the franchisees and Austin Mutual Insurance Co in a joint filing in Chicago federal court on Thursday said they had reached a settlement in principle that would end the 2020 lawsuit, but did not disclose the terms.

McDonald’s and the franchisees said in the lawsuit that Austin was required to cover the costs of defending against the workers’ lawsuit under insurance policies extending to cases alleging “bodily injury.”

At the time the lawsuit was filed, the companies said they had already incurred $1.6 million in costs related to the McDonald’s workers’ proposed class action.

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Illinois-based McDonald’s, represented by Neal Gerber & Eisenberg, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Nor did Austin Mutual’s parent, Florida-based Main Street America Group.

The plaintiffs in the underlying 2020 lawsuit in Illinois state court accused McDonald’s and the franchisees of failing to provide hand sanitizer, gloves and masks and said the companies had not notified staff when employees became infected with the coronavirus.

The plaintiffs last year agreed to dismissal of the case after McDonald’s, which denied wrongdoing, implemented various policies to protect workers.

Austin Mutual in the lawsuit against it claimed the insurance policies did not apply to the case because the workers had not alleged they were actually injured.

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U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras in Chicago last year disagreed and denied Austin’s motion to dismiss, saying the contraction of COVID-19 was “an indisputable bodily injury.”

McDonald’s, insurer reach deal on coverage for workers’ COVID lawsuit  Reuters

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