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Law firm wins Covid business interruption case against insurers

A North-West law firm has won a test case against insurers on behalf of businesses that suffered losses due to the pandemic.

Barings Law, which is leading the charge for companies negatively impacted during Covid-19, welcomed the landmark ruling at the high court on Friday.

The law firm said the decision is a “crucial step towards securing justice” for businesses adversely affected by the pandemic.

The test case included six claimants namely Kaizen Cuisine Limited, My Time Fine Fair, Umberto’s Restaurant Limited, Hairlab Limited, Muscleworks Limited, and Bodylines Fitness Limited.

The Manchester firm added that the ruling, given by Judge Richard Jacobs, has shed light on the legal interpretation of at the premises (“ATP”) disease cover amidst the unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Barings Law head of business interruption Iryna O’Reilly said: “After facing numerous challenges in the interpretation of policy clauses pertaining to Covid-19 cases ‘at the premises’, Barings Law, in collaboration with Essex Court Chambers Counsel, Mr. Jeffrey Grudder KC, and Mr. Mubarak Waseem, has achieved a momentous victory.

“This remarkable triumph, being the second test-case following the FCA test case in the Supreme Court, sets a precedent that will impact thousands of policyholders and small and medium-sized enterprise owners.”

The judgment was delivered subsequent to a preliminary-issue trial that took place from 24 April to 4 May 2023.

It addresses various preliminary matters concerning policy interpretation. The judgment provides clarity on the triggering of policies and outlines how the ‘at the premises’ cases can meet the evidential burden of proof.

Experts have cited the cases, officially known as The London International Exhibition Centre & others v Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance & others, as a significant milestone in legal history.

Iryna added: “Small businesses encounter numerous challenges when pursuing claims against insurers due to the devastating impact of Covid-19. These businesses have either closed down or faced stringent government restrictions, preventing them from fully recovering from the pandemic.

“Barings Law is proud to have played a significant role in this test case, advocating tirelessly for our clients and countless other businesses impacted by the pandemic. We commend the court’s thorough analysis of the complex policy wordings and its commitment to establishing a precedent that will have far-reaching implications for the wider business community.

“This ruling potentially paves the way for businesses, including our clients, to finally receive the compensation they are rightfully entitled to.

“The ruling in the COVID-19 business interruption test case marks a turning point in the pursuit of fair treatment for businesses grappling with the profound impact of the pandemic.”

The landmark ruling against insurers followed a similar test case at the high court brought by the Financial Conduct Authority on behalf of thousands of small businesses with business interruption (BI)policies.

In October, the Financial Conduct Authority criticised insurance firms over their handling of business interruption Covid-related claims.

Specifically, it raised concerns over insurers’ handling of vulnerable customers claims, record-keeping of policy wordings and identifying where customers experienced unnecessary delays.

The full judgement can be found here.