Insurance firms facing barrage of Covid claims following court ruling

by Sylvia Pownall

A number of insurance companies are facing claims from hundreds restaurants and bars that sell food following last week’s FBD Insurance court ruling.

As many as 12 insurers have been put on notice that they face claims from upwards of 400 businesses after the landmark High Court judgement.

The Restaurants Association of Ireland said the insurance companies have been told they have seven days to make interim payments to 423 businesses or face High Court action.

Its spokesman Adrian Cummins said that the RAI legal team will be analysing a further 140 cases this week to establish if they too could make a claim.

He said the Association’s legal advice was that the 423 cases had a “bona fide business interruption claim”.

Last week’s High Court action was taken by three Dublin bars – Sinnotts, The Leopardstown Inn and Lemon and Duke – as well as Sean’s Bar in Athlone.

Their lawyers claimed that under their insurance policies they were entitled to have their losses caused by the pandemic covered.

Mr Justice Denis McDonald said cover was not lost where the closure was caused by nationwide outbreaks of disease, provided there was an outbreak within the 25 mile radius and that that outbreak was one of the causes of the closure.

Lemon & Duke MD Noel Anderson said the High Court decision represents vindication for the pub and the other businesses dependent on the outcome of this action.

“It should never have come to this. I specifically had taken out a business interruption policy to protect us against Covid-19 and its potential impact on our business,” Mr Anderson said.

“Yet in order to have our claim settled we were forced to go through ten months of deep financial uncertainty, significant additional risk in taking this action as well as extensive stress and strain to arrive at an outcome which should have been clear from the outset.”

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Leo Varadkar described the decision as a “very significant judgment in a major test case”.

Sinn Féin’s Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty criticised the Government and the Central Bank. He said: “Small businesses should not have been abandoned and left to fend for themselves.”

The Central Bank said it welcomed the judgment of the High Court and would be closely examining its potential impact for customers.

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