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Ex-Leinster star sues FBD for refusal to pay out over pub closures

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Eoin O’Malley is one of the owners of The Loyola Group

Eoin O’Malley is one of the owners of The Loyola Group

Eoin O’Malley is one of the owners of The Loyola Group

A group of high-profile pubs co-owned by a former Leinster rugby star have taken High Court action against insurer FBD over its refusal to pay out for business interruption claims during the Covid crisis.

Pressure is mounting on insurance companies from businesses in the hospitality sector as they look to recover losses suffered due to coronavirus.

The Loyola Group - which includes well-known Dublin bars the Bath, the Landmark, the Leopardstown Inn, the Jar and Bakers Corner - is the latest to initiate proceedings against FBD.

The group is owned and run by former Leinster star Eoin O'Malley, along with his brother Brian and group director Stephen Cooney.

Hyper Trust Ltd, trading as the Leopardstown Inn, initiated proceedings.

Blanket

However, it is understood they have been taken on behalf of the entire group against FBD over its blanket refusal to pay out on business interruption claims.

Kelly's Aberken Ltd, which trades as Sinnotts Bar, a sports bar near St Stephen's Green, has also launched proceedings against FBD.

The pub is run by well-known Dublin publican Chris Kelly, who owns a number of pubs across the city including the Black Lion in Inchicore and the Gate Bar in Crumlin.

Last week Lemon & Duke, which is co-owned by managing director Noel Anderson and Ireland rugby stars Jamie Heaslip, Sean O'Brien and Rob and Dave Kearney, also took action against FBD.

The basis of the claim is that FBD allegedly did a U-turn on a written email which guaranteed the pub would be covered for business interruption caused by the coronavirus.

In an email to Mr Anderson in March, FBD said Lemon & Duke's policy would cover coronavirus, but is now refusing to pay out for losses incurred by Covid-19.

The Alliance for Insurance Reform said the action by insurers will "undermine the recovery of the Irish economy and the reputation of the insurance industry".

"All we have encountered is delaying tactics and a blanket rejection of business interruption claims by insurers, not just FBD," said alliance director Peter Boland.

"It appears at this stage that insurers are happy to drag claims out over years of arbitration and court cases rather than pay up on valid claims.

"We call on the Central Bank, the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman, the CCPC and the Minister for Finance to get stuck in and force a resolution of this issue before those with valid claims are forced to close."

A number of businesses in the restaurant sector are also considering taking action against insurers after obtaining legal advice.

Restaurants Association of Ireland chief executive Adrian Cummins said one-third of its 2,500 members "have a strong case".

"Based on what we have worked on with our legal team, let's just say we are going to park the tanks on the front lawn of the insurance companies," he said.

Arguing

Some insurers are arguing that businesses are closed only because of social-distancing restrictions and not due to coronavirus.

However, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe told the Dail that there should be no ambiguity.

"My message to the insurance sector is there is no difference at all between advice that the Government gave for companies to consider trading for public health grounds and a mandate for them to close," he said.

"We were very clear that the guidance was the same."

Pub and restaurant owners have also been submitting complaints to the financial ombudsman over the actions of insurers.