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Fri 25th Feb 2022 - Corbin & King wins £4.36m High Court battle over business interruption insurance claim
Corbin & King wins £4.36m High Court battle over business interruption insurance claim: London-based restaurant operator Corbin & King has won its £4.36m High Court battle with Axa in a case that could have huge significance for the hospitality sector. Corbin & King co-founder Jeremy King told Propel he had been determined to fight for justice not just for his business “but the industry as a whole”. Corbin & King entered the High Court to sue AXA’s UK arm for refusing to cover its business interruption claim incurred for pandemic-linked losses. The two-day case explored the scope of “denial-of-access” coverage, which provides compensation for businesses whose venues were forced to close because of “local danger” and whether losses resulting from repeated pandemic lockdowns should be paid out. Jeffrey Gruder, the barrister representing Corbin & King, had told the court the “danger” stipulated in the policy cause was not exclusively restricted to a localised area and it would otherwise be “absurd” to think a disease can be contained within a one-mile radius. AXA had denied the claim, with barrister Aidan Christie arguing the policy clause only covers localised areas instead of a national – and even global – incident such as the pandemic. “The clause does not provide cover against the nationwide state of affairs that has prevailed throughout the country, with varying intensity, since early March 2020,” AXA said in a written document prepared for the hearing. Corbin & King had also argued the £250,000 covered should be payable for each of its nine premises whereas Axa had argued the £250,000 payable was in respect of all premises. In her judgment, Mrs Justice Cockerill said: “Overall the picture which emerges from a consideration of the wording and a consideration of the nature of the policy persuades me without difficulty that the correct answer is that this is a composite policy in respect of which each insured is entitled to claim £250,000 in respect of each claim. It follows the claim of the second, third, fifth, seventh, ninth and tenth claimants succeeds and they are entitled to the declarations which they seek, namely: i) that Axa is bound to indemnify each of those claimants in respect of each of their premises up to a maximum amount of £250,000 in respect of each of the March 2020 closure, the September 2020 restriction, and the November 2020 closure; ii) alternatively, that Axa is bound to pay damages in respect of its wrongful failure to indemnify each such claimant in respect of each of those claimants’ premises up to a maximum amount of £250,000 in respect of each of the March 2020 closure, the September 2020 restriction, and the November 2020 closure.” Corbin & King co-founder Jeremy King told Propel: “Naturally I am delighted with Mrs Justice Cockerill’s judgement. I am not a confrontational person, but I felt the hospitality business had been badly served by insurers during the pandemic and was determined to fight for justice – not only for Corbin & King but for our industry as a whole. I was fortunate to be aided in this by our QC, Jeffrey Gruder, solicitor, Roger Franklin, of Edwin Coe, and loss assessor, Jonathan Samuelson, of Harris Balcombe.” This was considered the first major legal battle concerning business interruption since the Supreme Court ruled that some insurance policies are, in fact, covered amid the pandemic. Since then, insurers have shelled out more than £1.3bn in compensation, according to the Financial Conduct Authority. However, not all policy wordings have been made clear in the ruling, so Corbin & King’s case could now set a legal precedent for other businesses with similar policies. In a similar circumstance, Stonegate Pub Company is also suing insurers MS Amlin, Liberty Mutual and Zurich for a total of £845m for the same reasons that concern its Slug and Lettuce and Walkabout chains.


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