The decision concerns three of its members (Noel Anderson, the Chris Kelly Group and the Loyola Group) as well as Sean’s Bar, Athlone, in their case against FDB for Covid-19 business interruption cover.
“These publicans deserve enormous credit as their action will prove critical to pubs with similar policies right around Ireland,” said LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe, “It was grossly unfair that these family businesses had to go to the High Court against the might of a publicly-quoted insurer to have their claims validated.
“We are now calling on insurers to quickly review their business interruption policies in light of today’s decision and to promptly pay all valid claims.
“Given the disastrous impact of the pandemic on the pub trade, today’s judgement will provide hope to many publicans all across the country,” he concluded.
VFI welcome for decision
The High Court decision that the four pub owners are entitled to business interruption compensation from their insurer due to the Covid-19 pandemic was also warmly welcomed by the Vintners Federation of Ireland, the 1,100 publicans who are FBD customers and the wider pub sector.
“This High Court decision is the first good news the 1,100 publicans who are FBD customers have received since the crisis began last March,” said VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben, “Publicans took out business interruption cover with FBD in good faith and the decision by the insurance company to challenge that cover caused huge distress for our members at a time when they were at their most vulnerable.
“While the full detail of the court’s 214-page decision is still being analysed, we know that publicans with these policies will now be compensated for the losses incurred by the pandemic. A quantum hearing where the amount of compensation will be decided will be held in due course.
“It now follows that other insurance companies should review their business interruption claims and begin a process of working with publicans to ensure adequate compensation is provided for the interruption of their businesses.”
The High Court decision has vindicated 10 months of strain and uncertainty for publicans such as the LVA’s Vice Chairman and Managing Director of the Dublin pubs Lemon & Duke and The Bridge 1859 Noel Anderson, one of the plaintiffs in the case.
“The High Court’s decision represents vindication for Lemon & Duke and the other businesses dependent on the outcome of this action,” he said, “I would like to thank my family, friends, my business partners, fellow publicans and the wider public for their encouragement and support throughout this difficult period. We could not have achieved this outcome without the tremendous faith and understanding shown by our staff during these very testing times where they were understandably concerned about the implications for their livelihoods.
“It should never have come to this” – Noel Anderson
“It should never have come to this,” he continued, “I specifically had taken out a business interruption policy to protect us against Covid-19 and its potential impact on our business. As the court heard during the trial, this was acknowledged in writing by FBD.
“Yet in order to have our claim settled we were forced to go through 10 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.
“We would encourage FBD and other insurance providers to reflect on the outcome of this case and where valid business interruption policies exist we hope they will be forthcoming in making payments to the relevant pubs and other businesses impacted as they fight for their survival.”
Alliance for Insurance Reform
VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben is also a Director of the Alliance for Insurance Reform which has welcomed the outcome too.
He has called on all insurers underwriting in Ireland to move urgently now to settle all valid business interruption claims arising from Covid-19, to review all claims already declined and to inform all policyholders who have a valid claim that this is the case.
“To string any further clearly valid claims out by dragging cases into litigation or to the ombudsman would be unconscionable at this stage and must be subject to aggravated damages when resolved,” he concluded.
Peter Boland, Director of the Alliance, added, “Equally we call on the Central Bank to demonstrate that safeguarding consumers is a priority by publishing an update on the work they’ve carried out under their COVID-19 and Business Interruption Insurance Supervisory Framework. Keeping that work under wraps merely facilitates insurers determined to minimise their exposure to valid Covid19-related business interruption claims.”