Insurance Coverage Disputes: 2021

Go Back 23.12.21 INSIGHTS

Unquestionably it has been an action-packed year for insurance coverage lawyers from both sides of the market. There were at least 15 insurance cases of note throughout 2021 to read alongside the day job. We thought it would be useful to pull them all together in one place and we have attached a link to each reported case in the comments for those that want to dive into the detail.

My favourite quote from the year came in Rockliffe Hall Limited -v- Travellers Insurance Company Limited (2021) EWHC 412 (Comm). Giving short shrift to the claimant’s attempts to use the word “plague” in an infectious diseases extension as a gateway to coverage for business interruption cover, Mrs Justice Cockerhill, when talking about the principles of legal construction, said:

…In the case of an insurance policy of the present kind, sold principally to SMEs, the person to whom the document should be taken to be addressed is not a pedantic lawyer who will subject the entire policy wording to a minute textual analysis (cf Jumbo King Ltd v Faithful Properties Ltd (1999) 2 HKCFAR 279, para 59). It is an ordinary policyholder who, on entering into the contract, is taken to have read through the policy conscientiously in order to understand what cover they were getting.”

As a coverage lawyer acting for policyholders that has the task of reading policies carefully when unusual events or circumstances arise, the observation about pedantic lawyers reading the entire wording with minute textual analysis did make me chuckle. I didn’t take it personally. A good reminder none the less, to me at least, of the importance of forming a view that is based on common sense consistent with established principles of construction. First impressions are important. 

Watch this space: we will provide our commentary of these cases in the new year along with our predictions for the year ahead. That’s all for 2021. Merry Christmas to all our clients, consultants and fellow coverage lawyers in the market.

The Financial Conduct Authority -v- Arch Insurance (UK) Ltd and others

Rockliffe Hall Limited -v- Travellers Insurance Company Limited  

ABN Amro Bank NV v Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Plc & Ors – Jacobs J

Burnett (or Grant) -v- International Insurance Co of Hanover Ltd

Zurich Insurance plc v Niramax Group Ltd

Jones -v- Zurich Insurance Plc

Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance plc -v- Textainer Group Holdings .

Various Policyholders -v- China Taiping Insurance (UK) Co Ltd

Arch Insurance v Philip McCullough

Aspen Insurance UK Ltd & Ors v Pectel Ltd

Ristorante Limited (t/a Bar Massimo) v Zurich Insurance Plc

Buttar Construction Ltd v Arshdeep

Berkshire Assets (West London) Ltd v AXA Insurance UK Plc

Komives & Varhelyi -v- Hick Lane Bedding Limited (in administration) & AmTrust Europe Limited

ABN Amro Bank NV -v- Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Plc and others

Dan Brooks is a Partner and coverage lawyer specialising in difficult or unusual coverage disputes for policyholders.

This post is intended to provide guidance of a practical nature but does not contain legal advice or advice as to what action you should or should not take specific to your insurance needs or those of your business, or with regard to any particular situation.