‘Awfully sorry, but no’

19 November 2020 | Business

Carolyn Cohn and Kirstin Ridley – Major insurance companies have told the UK Supreme Court that thousands of small companies battered by the coronavirus pandemic were not eligible for business interruption pay-outs and to suggest differently was "reverse engineering".

Opening a fast-tracked, four-day appeal hearing into what Britain's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has called the most important insurance decision of the last decade, a lawyer for insurance company QBE on Monday said a British lockdown to curb a virus was once unthinkable.

"A year ago, it was utterly inconceivable that the UK devolved governments closed down almost the entire national economy and consigned healthy citizens to their homes to prevent further transmission of a disease," Michael Crane told a live-streamed hearing.

But he added: "... it is a fallacy to assume from the fact that a particular risk might have been foreseen as a possibility at the time of [insurance] contract, that the parties agree ... to cover it without relevant limits."

Gavin Kealey, a lawyer for insurer MS Amlin, said that only business losses related to Covid-19 infections within a 25-mile radius of insured properties were covered.

"If these insureds wanted pandemic cover or epidemic cover on a national scale, then they didn't get it," he said "... You can't reverse engineer those cases ... No, FCA, insureds, we are awfully sorry, but no."

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