SEATTLE — Ethan Stowell’s Tavolàta in Belltown is just the latest of his ventures to reopen during the pandemic. People can eat outside on the patio and they can order for take-out.
After being forced to close his 13 restaurants in March because of COVID-19, Stowell has been slowly getting more of them back online. While the industry is still up in the air, his struggles now include a legal fight against Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, which refuses to pay up for Stowell’s business losses.
“It’s another battle and another fight we just don’t need right now,” said Stowell.
According to a lawsuit filed at the beginning of the month, “The revenue generated from takeout is approximately 20% of ESR’s former revenue, which was $2.2 million per month.” To date, his company has lost at least $1.5 million.
“I think people should be outraged,” said Tristan Swanson.
Swanson is Stowell’s attorney. He is a partner at Miller Nash Graham & Dunn LLP and he represents other well- known restaurants in Seattle. He alleges insurance companies, like Fireman’s Fund, are issuing blanket denials on pre-printed forms to businesses in the COVID-era.
“Ethan’s group is one of thousands of restaurants that have had their business income claim denied. The insurance industry basically just said, ‘We don’t want to pay these claims. It’s going to cost us too much.’And they’re denying them without investigating them. They’re denying them regardless of what’s in their policy,” Swanson explained. “I know with 99% certainty this claim was denied on a pre-printed denial because they got Ethan Stowell’s restaurant name incorrectly on at least two occasions. And that’s because the adjuster did a poor copy-and-paste job when it came to Ethan Stowell’s denial.”
In Stowell's case, he says Fireman's Fund is citing a disease exclusion which he says is not in Stowell's policy.
Stowell says he just wants the company to do the right thing.
“I’ll tell you right now—the hardest thing about this is we are just struggling to survive right now. We want to bring as many people back to work as we possibly can. The insurance claim that we feel like is owed will help us do that,” said Stowell. “In this fight we are the small guy. But I think it’s important for everyone to know you have a voice, you have your rights.”
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