Three Dublin pubs that brought Covid-19 business interruption test cases against insurer FBD are entitled to be indemnified for losses suffered since August 2020 as a consequence of early closing requirements imposed by the Government, the High Court has ruled.
A fourth pub, Sean’s Bar in Athlone, a wet pub, is also entitled to be indemnified for closures between March 15th ,2020 and October 7th that year, the court held
Mr Justice Denis McDonald made that and other findings in a judgment today. The ruling has implications for the amount of compensation to be paid by FBD to hundreds of pubs and restaurants across the State affected by the closures and restrictions imposed.
The judge found that closure from August 10th, 2020 fell within the policy in a similar way to the original closure of March 15th 2020.
He also held the bar counters of the three pubs were subject to a Government imposed closure for the duration of the relevant periods. This meant they are entitled to be indemnified for the losses suffered by them as a consequence of the early closing requirements put in place from time to time since August 10th 2020, he found.
The losses suffered can be assessed in line with a methodology outlined in his judgment, he said.
The claims of two of the bars – Sinnotts and the Leopardstown Inn – will be reduced to a certain extent as provided for in his judgment
The judge also said he would consider any workable suggestions from the sides to supplement the methodology suggested by him. It may be possible, for example, to make adjustments to the methodology to cater for occasions when the proportion of drink spend at the bar counter, as defined in the judgment, was likely to be higher or lower than the proportion attributable to the bar counter at the time of maximum occupancy of the pub, he outlined.
In other findings, he partly upheld claims by Sinnotts, Lemon & Duke and of a fourth plaintiff, Leinster Overview Concepts Ltd, trading as Seán’s bar in Athlone, with regard to claims for staff wages and salaries.
However, he said he was unable to find, on the evidence before the court, that any part of the Leopardstown Inn claim in that regard should succeed.
However, he said, the parties should liaise to see if any agreement could be reached regarding any staff who were retained on the payroll when it was necessary to do so, he said.
In other findings, he held FBD is not entitled to pursue any issue in relation to underinsurance and is also not entitled to reverse its admission that Sean’s Bar is subject to two indemnity periods. That finding was relevant only to Sean’s Bar and not to wet pubs generally, he said.
He urged the parties to make “every effort” to seek to resolve the outstanding issues between them without the need for further court hearings and returned the matter for mention to February 17th to enable the parties consider his 200-page judgment and the next steps required.
An estimated 1,000 pubs and restaurants are potentially affected by the findings.
The compensation hearing ran for a total two weeks after the judge’s earlier decision of February 2021 that the businesses were entitled to be compensated under their policies for the disruption caused by Covid-19 restrictions.
In its half-year results last August, FBD said it expected the cost of claims arising from the case to be €183 million, €33 million higher than its previous estimate. The insurer attributed the increase mainly to higher legal costs and a reassessment of the estimated amounts to be paid.
Once the High Court judgment on quantum is delivered, FBD said it will make claims settlements as speedily as possible. Interim settlements of €20 million had already been paid, it added at the time.