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Interruption insurance claims set to be processed without further delay

Hundreds of vulnerable businesses who hold interruption insurance policies and have been pushed to the brink of collapse by the COVID-19 pandemic could see their claims processed without further delay.

This follows the decision by six insurers not to appeal against a London High Court ruling that they were wrong to reject claims from holders of three businesses who hold interruption insurance policies. Businesses across the world have been locked in disputes with insurance companies over pandemic-related pay-outs, and the decision in London not to appeal has significant ramifications.

Insurers say they are paying valid claims but that many policies exclude pandemics, require physical damage to premises or do not apply to widespread lockdowns, and paying out all claims could be catastrophic for the industry.

RSA Insurance Group PLC, QBE Insurance Group Ltd, Hiscox Ltd, MS Amlin PLC, Argenta Holdings Ltd and Arch Insurance Group Inc were expected to challenge the judgment to pay affected customers holding five types of policies in a fast-tracked Supreme Court case to be heard by end-2020. But the appeals linked to the Resilience, Eaton Gate Retail, and Eaton Gate Pubs & Restaurants policies have now been dropped according to legal documents.

“It is of course a huge win for large portions of the UK’s business community, which for so many months has been told by insurers that insurance policies do not cover losses relating to the COVID-19 pandemic; that is plainly wrong,” said Sonia Campbell, Partner at Mishcon de Reya, on behalf of the Hospitality Insurance Group Action. The Hospitality Insurance Group Action (HIGA) was launched on behalf of hospitality sector businesses against insurers who continue to refuse to pay losses flowing from the Government's lockdown and COVID-19.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) brought a case against a total of eight insurers in June to clarify whether 21 policy wordings, affecting potentially 700 types of policies, 60 insurers, 370,000 policyholders and billions in insurance claims, covered disruption and government-ordered closures to curb the virus. “Coronavirus is causing substantial loss and distress to businesses and many are under immense financial strain to stay afloat,” said Christopher Woolard, Interim Chief Executive of the FCA.

The High Court in London last month ruled that many business interruption policies did in fact provide such cover. Two of the eight insurers, Zurich Insurance Group Ltd and Ecclesiastical Insurance Group PLC, said they had no need to appeal since the judgment already found in their favour.

It is expected insurers will continue to appeal the court’s findings in respect to the Cottagesure and the Eaton Gate Commercial Combined policies.

Simon Thew, Managing Director, is the W Denis point of contact for all enquiries. Contact him at Simon.Thew@wdenis.co.uk or on 0113 2437206.

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