COVID Ruined Ski Trip


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Plaintiffs lost the days they planned to ski at Vail in 2020. They are members of a certified class who purchased ski-pass insurance from Defendant United Specialty Insurance Company (“USIC”) for their 2019/2020 season ski passes to Vail Resorts. Vail Resorts shut down all of its resorts on March 15, 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and did not reopen for the rest of the season.

In re: United Specialty Insurance Company Ski Pass Insurance Litigation, Ann C. Hoak; et al. v. United Specialty Insurance Company, and American Claims Management; Beecher Carlson Insurance, LLC, No. 21-16986, United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit (November 22, 2022)

Plaintiffs attempted to recover for their lost ski days, relying on the “quarantine” provision of their insurance policy, but USIC denied their claims. The district court dismissed the complaint without leave to amend holding that Plaintiffs’ allegations did not support that they had been “quarantined” within the meaning of the insurance policy.

The Ninth Circuit, believing it found a better reason to rule in favor of USIC reviewed the “effective date of coverage” provision of the insurance policy. Plaintiffs’ insurance coverage terminated on March 15, 2020, the “effective date of coverage” provision made clear that coverage terminated on “the date upon which ski operations are ceased due to an unforeseen event” if that date is earlier than the scheduled end of the season, April 15, 2020.

Since ski operations ceased for the 2019-2020 season on March 15 when Vail Resorts closed all of its resorts and never reopened for that season. Operations ceased due to the spread of COVID-19, which was clearly an “unforeseen event” under the “ordinary and popular sense” of the term. The “effective date of coverage” provision thus makes plain that Plaintiffs cannot recover for any losses on or after March 15, 2020. Since the loss – the inability to ski at Vail – happened after March 15, 2020, there was no loss when the policy was in effect.

Contrary to Plaintiffs’ contentions, the separate “termination” provision, which automatically terminates coverage on the last day of the season, does not suggest that coverage could not end earlier under the “effective date of coverage” provision.

The Plaintiffs claimed that the policy’s “natural disaster” provision was rendered a nullity; it would allow for coverage in instances when all the resorts in a state closed indefinitely for a natural disaster but reopened one month later thus not ceasing ski operations altogether for the season which is not what eliminated the Plaintiffs desire to ski.

The trial court’s decision was affirmed.


The Ninth Circuit, unlike the Plaintiffs, the lawyers for the Plaintiffs, and the District Court, read the full policy and found that it did not matter whether the Plaintiffs were quarantined because their loss happened after the policy, by its terms, had expired.

(c) 2022 Barry Zalma & ClaimSchool, Inc.

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Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders. He practiced law in California for more than 44 years as an insurance coverage and claims handling lawyer and more than 54 years in the insurance business. He is available at and

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About Barry Zalma

An insurance coverage and claims handling author, consultant and expert witness with more than 48 years of practical and court room experience.
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