Legal actions against insurers on the increase as pandemic eases

Insurance

8 June 2020

Pub owners say policies taken out with FBD included a clause indemnifying them if their premises were closed by a government or local authority order if there were “outbreaks of contagious or infectious diseases on the premises or within 25 miles”.

Press Up Entertainment, one of the country’s largest leisure and hospitality groups, has initiated several cases against insurers and brokers in disputes over the non-payment of business interruption claims arising from the coronavirus crisis.

The litigation includes an action involving the Clarence Hotel, which is part-owned by Bono and the Edge of U2 but operated by Press Up.

The group, controlled by Paddy McKillen Jr and Matt Ryan, has expanded quickly in recent years and now runs hotels, bars, restaurants, nightclubs and cinemas across Dublin.

Four lawsuits were initiated by businesses in the group between Thursday and yesterday, the Irish Independent has learned.

At least two of the cases are expected to be dealt with in the big-money commercial wing of the High Court, which only deals with disputes involving sums in excess of €1m.

Pressure has been mounting on insurers for several weeks over the processing of claims for business interruption as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

A number of cases had already been filed by well-known pubs, but Press Up has now become the largest player to go down the legal route.

Its businesses are being represented in the legal actions by Dublin law firm Eames Solicitors.

All of the proceedings issued list Arachas Corporate Brokers Ltd as a defendant, but different insurance firms are being sued in each case.

On Thursday, Premier Dale Ltd, which trades as the Devlin Hotel, initiated proceedings against RSA Insurance and Arachas.

Three further cases were initiated yesterday.

Brushfield Ltd, trading as the Clarence Hotel, initiated proceedings against Axa Insurance and Arachas.

The Workman’s Club Ltd, trading as Mary’s Bar, Wowburger and the Vintage Cocktail Club, began an action against FBD and Arachas.

Holtend Ltd, trading as the Dean Hotel, initiated proceedings against Aviva and Arachas.

A spokeswoman for Press Up declined to comment when contacted by the Irish Independent.

Prior to the filing of the Press Up cases, legal actions over refusals to pay out on business interruption claims had focused on FBD, which provides cover for approximately 1,300 publicans.

Among businesses to take action against the insurer were Sean’s Bar, in Athlone, Co Westmeath. Dublin bar Lemon & Duke, which is co-owned by rugby stars Seán O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip and Rob and Dave Kearney, also initiated legal proceedings against FBD.

Also suing are the Loyola Group and the Chris Kelly Group, which comprise more than 15 pubs between them.

Pub owners say policies taken out with FBD included a clause indemnifying them if their premises were closed by a government or local authority order if there were “outbreaks of contagious or infectious diseases on the premises or within 25 miles”.

But that interpretation has been disputed by FBD, which informed pub owners a pandemic does not fall within the scope of the clause.

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