The Chicks are demanding a more than $6.6 million insurance payout after canceling the tour that they’d planned in support of 2020’s Gaslighter, their first studio album in 14 years.
The Chicks – who were known as The Dixie Chicks until June of 2020 – levied the multimillion-dollar demand in a firmly worded lawsuit, which was just recently submitted to a California federal court. Tunashoe Tours, the three-piece act’s touring company, is listed as the sole plaintiff, with “Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London, underwriting as W.R. Berkley Syndicate 1967” named as defendants.
London-headquartered Lloyd’s, a centuries-old insurance market, encompasses a professional community of “more than 50 leading insurance companies, over 200 registered Lloyd’s brokers and a global network of over 4,000 local coverholders,” according to its website. These members then form “syndicates” to reduce risk when jointly subscribing to insurance policies. Greenwich, Connecticut’s W.R. Berkley was founded in 1967 and is traded as WRB on the NYSE.
The Dallas-based Chicks inked an “exclusive” contract with Live Nation, according to their relatively straightforward complaint, to promote a 48-stop North American tour, which was to kick off in Las Vegas on June 6th of last year. Tunashoe also “purchased insurance, including the policies at issue here, to cover losses in the event that the Tour could not go forward as planned,” per the legal text.
W.R. Berkley subscribed to four of The Chicks’ insurance-policy layers – consisting in total of one primary layer and five excess layers, which were in effect between January 20th and September 18th.
These layers’ “‘Covered Perils’” include “‘death,’ ‘accident and illness,’ ‘unavoidable travel delay,’ ‘venue damage,’ ‘adverse weather,’ ‘national mourning,’ and ‘other perils,’” the suit states, so long as said peril(s) arrived during the insurance period and was “beyond the control” of the insured parties.
However, the underwriters allegedly amended the policies during “the underwriting process” to indicate that The Chicks had “an obligation where commercially and reasonably possible to rearrange Cancelled or Abandoned Insured Performance(s) or Event(s) to another time in order to avoid or diminish a loss herein insured.”
Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated lockdown measures prompted The Chicks to put this nearly 50-show leg of their concert series on ice. And as the total insurance payout sought by The Chicks from W.R. Berkley has come in at a substantial $6,618,513.84, factoring for all layers, the core disagreement (and lack of payment thus far) appears to have stemmed from the “rearrange” component of the contract.
Tunashoe “timely provided notice” of the tour-related losses in late April of 2020, and the underwriters in June responded, requesting that the tour be rescheduled for 2021.
But the policyholders stated that it was “not commercially possible or reasonably possible to rearrange the” concert series, in part because “the financial terms would not be able to be replicated for a 2021 tour” and “the Tour was designed to coincide with The Chicks’ first new studio album in 14 years called Gaslighter.”
Seven similar conversations occurred across the following months, into February of 2021 (though the “lead syndicate” appeared to accede to the payout request relatively early on), and WRB in each dialog inquired about the possibility of rescheduling the tour, according to the filing.
Interestingly, The Chicks and their legal team maintain that “it appears highly unlikely that the spread of SARS-CoV-2 will sufficiently subside and herd immunity will be established to allow concerts and other live events to resume in 2021” – though more than a few promoters and artists (including Live Nation) are banking on a 2021 comeback.
“WRB has refused to acknowledge that it is obligated to pay its share of the loss, let alone actually pay its share of the loss. WRB has failed to pay its share even though it knows that it stands alone among Underwriters in taking this position,” continues the document.
At the time of this piece’s publishing, The Chicks hadn’t taken to social media to publicly address the action. Separately, Live Nation is embroiled in a lawsuit with Rhode Island-based insurance company Factory Mutual, which allegedly failed to provide policy-related compensation “for property damages and business interruption losses” incurred amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Ticketmaster parent’s filing.