FBD exec accepts it was unfair to offer and then withdraw Covid-19 cover to publican

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A senior executive with FBD has accepted it was “somewhat unfair” of the insurer to tell a publican his business was covered for losses caused by Covid 19 only to subsequently withdraw that cover some weeks later.

FBD’s Chief of Underwriting Kate Tobin was asked by Michael Cush SC for the owners of the Dublin bar/restaurant the Lemon and Duke was it unfair of the insurer to tell Noel Anderson that FBD business disruption policy for pubs in early March covered the pandemic.

Mr Anderson, whose partners in the business include Irish rugby players Sean O’Brien, brothers Dave and Rob Kearney, and Jamie Heaslip, said he had specifically switched to FBD believing its policies covered coronavirus.Mr Anderson said he was outraged after being informed by FBD after businesses shut down last March the policy did not cover losses caused by the pandemic.

Under cross-examination by Mr Cush for the pub she accepted the withdrawal of the cover, despite the previous assurance made to Mr Anderson, was “somewhat unfair”.

Ms Tobin, who gave evidence by video link, added she could understand why the decision could be seen to be unfair and “not a great thing to have done”.

Justified reaction

Mr Cush had asked Ms Tobin if the withdrawal of cover in relation to Mr Anderson’s business was “unconscionable thing to do”, and if his reaction to FBD’s stance was “justified.”

In her witness statement Ms Tobin said she was aware that Mr Anderson was sent an email in early March stating that FBD would cover Covid 19. She said her view of that email was that it was very “vague”.

Had it been brought to her attention when it was sent, she said she would have advised that it needed to be made clearer that business interruption cover would not extend to a general quarantine or the government mandated national lockdown.

In her evidence she said FBD’s senior management looked at ways of supporting its customers, particularly after the lockdown. A lot of the pubs she said were long term customers, but she was of the view that business interruption cover caused by a general nationwide lockdown was not something publicans had contemplated when taking out cover under the insurer’s Public House Policy.

ex gratia payments

From the end of the second week of March support measures, other than providing cover, were considered. On March 18th she said FBD decided not to intervene in the normal processes by doing things such as making ex gratia payments to customers.

Ms Tobin was giving evidence before Mr Justice Denis McDonald in the second week of tests cases brought by four pubs arising out of FBD’s refusal to indemnify them for the disruption to their businesses due to Covid-19.

Evidence in the case has concluded and the court will now hear submissions from the parties, which is expected to take several days. The action is expected to conclude next week.

Source: Business News