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Who Is Responsible When Protestors Cause Damage To Commercial Real Estate?

Who is Responsible When Protestors Cause Damage to Commercial Real Estate?

On behalf of , P.C. posted in Commercial Real Estate on Thursday, September 24, 2020.

In many ways, 2020 has been a tumultuous year. In recent months, there have been protests throughout the country. While the majority of civil demonstrations have been peaceful, there are exceptions. Some protests turned destructive. It is not only an issue in the nation’s largest cities—in August, there was even scuffle between groups of protestors in Novato, California.

For businesses, dealing with the fallout of a destructive protest can be challenging. You may want to know: Who will pay for protest-related property damage? The answer is more complicated than you might think. Here, our California real estate attorney explains the most important things businesses and commercial property owners need to know about protest/riot damages.

Individuals Can Be Held Responsible for Property Damage—But Very Difficult to Recover

As a starting point, it is important to clarify that individuals bear responsibility for their own actions. Under California law, a person can be held legally liable for causing property damage. That they were participating in a civil demonstration—even if for a righteous cause—is not a defense. That being said, it is difficult to recover financial compensation from an individual protestor.

The first problem is that it is rarely easy to identify the responsible parties. You may not be able to determine who exactly caused the damage. Beyond that, many of the people who are most aggressive in protests/riots lack the personal assets to recover. Even if you could hold them liable for a commercial property damage, you may not actually receive much if any payment.

Protest-Related Property Damage and Insurance: An Overview

In most cases, businesses and commercial property owners look to insurance to get compensation for their protest-related losses. Whether any specific protest/riot damage will be covered depends on the terms and language of your policy. There are several different types of insurance coverage that might be implicated, including:

  • Vandalism, Malicious Mischief: Most commercial property insurance policies provide basic coverage physical damage related to vandalism, looting, or riots. In some cases, businesses or property owners may have supplemental civil commotion coverage to provide additional financial protection.
  • Business Interruption/Civil Authority: Protest-related property damage may temporarily make it impossible for a company to operate. Business interruption insurance provides some protection. As explained by the Insurance Information Institute (III), business interruption covers income lost while a company is forced to close. Another type of insurance called civil authority coverage may be implicated if government officials require you to close your business during a demonstration or riot.
  • Glass Coverage: Broken glass is perhaps the most common type of protest-related property damage. However, not all standard commercial insurance policies in California cover glass breakage. Some insurers require policyholders to obtain a specific rider to get protection for glass.


Insurance coverage is fundamentally a case-by-case issue. The extent to which a commercial property owner is covered depends on the terms of their insurance policy. Unfortunately, some businesses and property owners struggle to get insurance companies to cooperate. If your claim was wrongly denied, a commercial law attorney can help.

Contact Our California Commercial Real Estate Attorneys for Immediate Assistance

At the Law Office of David C. Winton, our California real estate lawyers provide reliable, solutions-driven advocacy to our clients. If you have any questions about protest-related commercial property damage, we are available to help. For a strictly private, no obligation review of your case, please contact us today. From our office locations in Novato, Auburn, and Nevada City, we offer commercial real estate services in the Bay Area and throughout all of Northern California.

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