December 19, 2019

Appeal Courts Triumph for Structural Defects Policyholders: Manchikalapati v Zurich

Leaseholders of flats in a development in Manchester have secured a major victory against Zurich Insurance under a standard form defects policy, in a case with significant implications for new build home owners affected by inadequate construction works. Following a long running Court battle over claims first notified in 2013, policyholders have been awarded approximately £11 million to rectify failures by the insolvent developer to comply with technical requirements and building regulations.

Residents moved into New Lawrence House from 2009 but were forced to leave following a prohibition notice issued shortly after the Grenfell Tower disaster in June 2017, in view of structural deficiencies including missing lifts and balconies, a collapsing roof deck and complete lack of fire stopping measures. The Court of Appeal judgment handed down last week essentially upheld the decision of HHJ Davies, requiring Zurich – through run-off insurers East West – to pay out under the Standard 10 New Home Structural Defects Insurance Policy (the Policy), aside from overturning the maximum liability cap of around £3.6 million applied below.

The development contains 104 flats and the Claimants between them own only 30, with many others left empty. The Policy limited Zurich’s liability for new homes forming part of a continuous structure by reference to “the purchase price declared to Us”, which had been construed as restricting the Claimants’ recovery to the combined sums paid for their own flats. The Court of Appeal disagreed and recalculated the cap based on the total purchase price of all flats in the block, since the Policy enabled a single leaseholder to recover the entire cost of rectifying a danger to the health and safety of occupants and the previous approach would prevent them from doing so. The Policy wording was ambiguous and should be construed “in a manner which is consistent with, not repugnant to, the purpose of the insurance contract”.

Zurich advanced a number of grounds of appeal relating to interpretation of the Policy, all of which were rejected. Lord Justice Coulson found that:

“what [Zurich] suggest as the proper interpretation of the words used in their own policy is, on analysis, nothing of the kind, and is instead a strained and artificial construction (often requiring the interpolation of words not present) with the result that it becomes impossible to see any circumstances in which [Zurich] would ever pay out under the terms of the policy.”

In particular, the Court of Appeal decided:

1. It is not necessary for the costs of rectification work to have been incurred before a claim can be made under the Policy – otherwise insurers could take advantage of leaseholders’ impecuniosity to avoid liability altogether;

2. The fact that funds recovered would in part be used to pay the Claimants’ lawyers and funders was irrelevant. An insured can apply the insurance proceeds as they wish and it would be unjust to hold otherwise, penalising the Claimants merely because they do not have pockets as deep as Zurich’s. The legal and funding costs would never have been incurred had Zurich acknowledged their proper liabilities at the outset;

3. The Policy does not require the insured to sue any third parties against whom the insured might have a possible claim before pursuing Zurich under the Policy;

4. The underground car park and balconies at the development fall within the scope of cover;

5. The condensation exclusion in the Policy does not apply where the condensation which causes damage is caused by a defect. The proximate cause of damage is the defect, not condensation.

6. The trial judge’s application of Policy excess provisions could not be challenged on appeal.

New build developments are usually constructed by single-purpose corporate entities with limited assets, and purchasers of defective properties have restricted rights of recourse against those responsible for the construction or building control approval process in the absence of contractual claims under collateral warranties (Murphy v Brentwood DC [1991] 1 A.C. 398, Herons Court v Heronslea Ltd [2019] EWCA Civ 1423). The decision in this case is an important step forward in protecting the interests of new build home owners, in light of wider concerns about regulatory oversight and industry standards under contractor-led procurement methods.

The Zurich Policy was a standard wording indirectly descended from the original NHBC scheme and widely used across the country at the relevant time, with the intention of providing peace of mind for the purchasers and mortgagees of new build properties. The policyholder-friendly interpretation upheld by the Court of Appeal serves as a welcome reminder of this commercial context, limiting the extent to which insurers can seek to rely upon unrealistic arguments to avoid liability or delay payment for outstanding claims. Home owners with the benefit of structural defects policies should notify potential claims as soon as possible, to maximise the prospects of effective recoveries.

Manchikalapati & others v Zurich Insurance plc & others [2019] EWCA Civ 2163

Amy Lacey is a partner at Fenchurch Law

November 27, 2019

Consumer Insurance – A reminder of your rights and why you should not “avoid” fighting back

Consumer insurance accounts for a large percentage of insurance purchased in the United Kingdom. It is therefore unsurprising that many insurance disputes involve consumers, and the implications for an individual who has a claim declined can be catastrophic.

A recurring issue is an insurer avoiding a policy for an alleged non-disclosure or misrepresentation. Our experience is that, in a worryingly large number of cases, insurers appear to rely on a consumer’s lack of knowledge and resources to properly challenge the avoidance. In other words, Insurers raise with a consumer what appears to be an unanswerable case and present a declinature/avoidance as a fait acompli. However, in reality, the matter is very rarely as clear cut as the Insurer seeks to present.

The Financial Ombudsman Service (which is available to all consumers) has recently increased the size of the awards it can make from £150,000 to £350,000. It is, therefore, now even more important for consumers to be familiar with their obligations and rights in relation to their insurance policies given the wider scope of cost-free redress.

The Law

The Consumer Insurance (Disclosure and Representation) Act 2012 (CIDRA) came into force on 6 April 2013, and applies to all insurance policies which began or were renewed after that date. CIDRA applies to all types of insurance where the policyholder is acting in a personal (as opposed to commercial) capacity.

CIDRA governs the duties of consumers prior to inception of an insurance policy. It was introduced to address the vulnerability of consumers based on outdated law which imposed an unfair disclosure burden on them.

While CIDRA has been in force for a number of years, the more recent Insurance Act 2015 (“the Insurance Act”) has increased awareness both within and outside of the insurance market of the obligations of policyholders before entering into an insurance policy. As a result, CIDRA and the Insurance Act are often confused (by both policyholders and insurers). While there are similarities between them, particularly in relation to the remedies available to an insurer for non-disclosure disclosure, it is important for consumers to have an understanding of CIDRA because it is even more favourable to them than the Insurance Act.

CIDRA: Duty of Disclosure

Prior to CIDRA, if a consumer had either given incorrect information or failed to disclose something important to an insurer when applying for insurance, the insurer could “avoid” the policy (effectively cancelling the policy and treating it as if it had never existed). A heavy burden rested on the consumer (who had a duty of “utmost good faith” towards the Insurer) to disclose to an insurer all material facts. This duty was particularly onerous for unadvised individuals who purchased insurance directly from an insurer or through, for example, price comparison websites without the assistance of a broker.

CIDRA replaced this onerous burden with a new “duty to take reasonable care not to make a misrepresentation”. The effect was that a consumer was no longer obliged to volunteer information to an insurer, but rather to take care not to answer any of the insurer’s questions incorrectly.
The bottom line for individuals who have had a claim declined is that it is not enough for an insurer to establish that an incorrect answer was given to it when the policy was simplywritten – under CIDRA, that is only the first hurdle the insurer needs to overcome.

The insurer must also prove that the consumer failed to take “reasonable care” when making the misrepresentation and that, if the correct information had been given, the insurer would either not have written the policy on any terms at all, or would have written it on different terms or with a different premium. A misrepresentation which would have caused the insurer to act differently is referred to in CIDRA as a “qualifying misrepresentation”.
Alternatively, In order to avoid the policy and retain the premium, the insurer will need to show that the consumer acted deliberately or dishonestly in making a misrepresentation.

If the insurer cannot show that, but can show that there was a qualifying misrepresentation, the insurer will be entitled to a proportionate remedy. If it can show that it would not have written the policy at all, it can avoid the policy but must return the premium. If it would have written the policy on different terms, the policy may be amended to reflect those terms. If it would have charged a higher premium, the insurer is entitled to proportionately reduce the amount it pays on a claim by reference to any such hypothetical premium.

The bottom line for consumers

The overarching point for consumers to remember is that the burden is on the insurer to prove:

1. The consumer failed to take “reasonable care” not to make a misrepresentation;

2. If he/she did, that the misrepresentation is a “qualifying misrepresentation”; and

3. That the Insurer is entitled to the appropriate remedy.

Given the heavy burden on the insurer under CIDRA, consumers faced with the avoidance of their policies should not avoid fighting back, particularly now that the Financial Ombudsman Service has a much wider remit to consider larger disputes. In fighting back, and availing themselves of the Ombudsman’s enlarged jurisdiction, consumers may find that an insurer’s confidence in its position is, when properly scrutinised, rather misplaced.

Daniel Robin is an associate at Fenchurch Law

November 11, 2019

Government to fund replacement of Grenfell-style cladding

Almost 2 years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the government has stepped in to speed up the removal and replacement of unsafe aluminium composite material cladding (“ACM cladding”) on privately owned, high-rise buildings. What are the implications for building owners?

On 9 May, the government announced its intention to make around £200m available to remove and replace ACM cladding from approximately 170 privately owned, high-rise buildings. The decision was driven by the slow pace by building owners to replace ACM cladding on their buildings, and the government’s view that ACM cladding represents an unparalleled fire risk.

Guidance on the Fund was published on 18 July. There are three eligibility criteria:

1. The Fund is available for the benefit of leaseholders in residential buildings over 18m in height;
2. Applicants will need to confirm that they are replacing cladding with materials of limited combustibility.
3. The government expects owners to actively pursue “all reasonable claims” against those involved in the original cladding installations, and to pursue warranty claims “where possible”.

Applications to the Fund can only be made by the “responsible entity”. This will usually be the building owner, head leaseholder, or Management Company with responsibility for the repair of the property. If a responsible entity does not apply or refuses to apply to the Fund, the Guidance states that local authorities and fire and rescue services are likely to take enforcement action under the Housing Act 2004.

What is a warranty claim?

Warranty claims refer to claims made under latent defect insurance policies. Those policies provide cover for newly built properties in the event of an inherent defect which was not capable of being discovered through inspection before completion.

Typically, latent defect policies are triggered in the event of (a) a non-compliance with the relevant Building Regulations which applied at the time of construction/conversion; and (b) which causes a present or imminent danger.

Unsafe ACM cladding which has been installed in high-rise residential blocks will meet those requirements.

What other claims might be available against those involved with the original cladding installations?

Those involved with the original cladding installations are likely to include Main Contractors, Architects, and specialist cladding subcontractors. The type of claims that can be brought against them will differ in each case, and will depend upon the nature of the relationships between the parties, and the specific work which was undertaken.

One route to making a recovery against those involved with the original cladding installation is under the Defective Premises Act 1972.

The Defective Premises Act imposes a duty on builders and any other professionals who take on work in connection with the provision of a dwelling. It requires the work to be done in a professional or workmanlike manner, with proper materials, and that the dwelling is for habitation when completed. The duty is owed to every person who acquires a legal or equitable interest in the dwelling.


The message from the government is clear. Responsible entities that are eligible to apply to the Fund must do so at the earliest possible juncture, and must pursue claims available under latent defect insurance policies as a pre-requisite to any funding.

The Guidance does not explain what a “reasonable claim” against those involved with a building’s original construction/conversion would look like, and this is likely to be assessed on a case by case basis.

Our recommendation is that building owners investigate the roles played by those parties, and the availability of any claims against them. Even where a party is no longer in business, there may be insurance cover that would still respond.

Alex Rosenfield is an associate at Fenchurch law

October 11, 2019

Fenchurch Law launches “The Associate Series”

Fenchurch Law’s new initiative, The Associate Series, is being launched with a view to sharing our knowledge and experience of coverage disputes with junior-mid level brokers. In doing so, we hope to enhance brokers’ ability to add value to their portfolios.

Fenchurch Law are specialists in coverage disputes. We act exclusively for policyholders and work shoulder-to-shoulder with (and never against) brokers.

The associates, whose specialisms span across a number of classes of insurance, are now sharing their expertise to assist junior-mid level brokers and claims handlers in their own careers. The associates are well-placed to do so as coverage specialists with prior experience as either brokers or insurer-side lawyers.

The Associate Series will enable us to share our knowledge and encourage you to cultivate relationships. Talks are being delivered to brokers across the UK between now and Christmas, with more seminars being planned for 2020.

The (free!) talks will be no more than 30 minutes each and focus on practical issues affecting the junior-mid tier. The fact that the talks are being delivered by your peers will, it is hoped, allow for relaxed interactive sessions.

The menu of talks will be regularly updated to reflect market developments but retain some core topics. The current menu is:

  • Notification
  • Coverage Disputes 101
  • Damages for late payment
  • A claims handler, broker and lawyer’s perspective
  • Property Risks
  • Third Party Rights against Insurers
  • D&O
  • Combustible cladding
  • Contractors and traps for their brokers

Some of these talks will also be the subject of webinars, and there will be regular blogs looking at issues and trends in the market. Keep an eye out for our events and material!

If you have any queries about The Associate Series please contact James Breese on 020 3058 3075 or via

September 19, 2019

Fenchurch Law adds Goodship to Construction Risks team

Fenchurch Law, the leading UK firm working exclusively for policyholders and brokers on complex insurance disputes, has appointed Rob Goodship as an associate further expanding its coverage dispute team capabilities.

Rob specialises in insurance disputes and has considerable experience in property damage, construction and professional indemnity coverage issues. He joins Fenchurch Law from Kennedys where he was an associate in their property, energy and construction team.

He has acted for several leading insurers in relation to coverage disputes across a broad range of first party and liability claims, as well as defending claims against professionals. He has also acted jointly for insurers and their insureds in a number of large subrogated recovery actions.

Managing Partner of Fenchurch Law, David Pryce said: “Rob is an experienced insurance litigator and his background in advising both insurers and insureds in coverage disputes in some of our core business areas, makes him an important addition to what is the UK’s largest team of policyholder–focused insurance disputes solicitors”.

Rob Goodship is an associate at Fenchurch Law

September 9, 2019

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: 100 cases every policyholder needs to know. #7 (The Good). Woodford and Hillman -v- AIG

Welcome to the latest in the series of blogs from Fenchurch Law: 100 cases every policyholder needs to know. An opinionated and practical guide to the most important insurance decisions relating to the London / English insurance markets, all looked at from a pro-policyholder perspective.

Some cases are correctly decided and positive for policyholders. We celebrate those cases as The Good.

Some cases are, in our view, bad for policyholders, wrongly decided, and in need of being overturned. We highlight those decisions as The Bad.

Other cases are bad for policyholders but seem (even to our policyholder-tinted eyes) to be correctly decided. Those cases can trip up even the most honest policyholder with the most genuine claim. We put the hazard lights on those cases as The Ugly.

At Fenchurch Law we love the insurance market. But we love policyholders just a little bit more.

#7 (The Good)

Woodford and Hillman -v- AIG [2018] EWHC 358

There are few cases dealing with coverage issues under D&O policies. This isn’t necessarily because D&O policies are rarely the subject of dispute. It is more likely a reflection of the fact that if directors have to fund hefty legal costs in defending complex civil, criminal or regulatory actions because insurers are being difficult about costs or refusing outright to pay them, their personal finances are depleted to the point where suing the insurer is out of the question (and the Financial Ombudsman’s service is no help because that avenue of remedy is closed off to company directors). The consequence is that insurers’ obligations to fund defence costs are rarely scrutinised in court.

Occasionally, though, directors will take D&O insurers on, notwithstanding the power imbalance and the personal financial risk.  Two such directors were Mr Woodford and Mr Hillman. They had been directors of the Olympus Corporation. They left in 2011 when Mr Woodford blew the whistle on a financial scandal.

In 2015 Olympus launched proceedings against them in the High Court in London for £50m, claiming that their involvement in an Executive Pension Scheme while at Olympus breached their duties as directors.

Olympus had D&O cover which covered past directors.  Woodford and Hillman notified the claim to the D&O insurers, AIG, seeking an indemnity.

AIG’s resistance to Defence Costs

AIG refused to fund Woodford and Hillman’s defence costs (£4m and counting) claiming they were not reasonable. The policy was governed by German law but disputes fell to be determined in England.

The D&O policy made AIG liable for legal defence costs “provided these are reasonable with regard to the complexity and significance of the case”.

AIG argued that their liability for costs should be determined by a costs assessment. This is an assessment by a costs judge, normally undertaken when litigation ends, to determine how much of the winning party’s costs the loser should pay. The costs judge very critically examines the costs being claimed.  The party whose costs are being assessed should expect to take a hair-cut on their recovery. A discount of 30% is not unusual and full recovery is very unlikely. On any view, therefore, a referral to costs assessment, as insisted on by AIG, would have involved Woodford and Hillman being left significantly out of pocket.

The Judge held that a costs assessment was not the right way to determine AIG’s liability for defence costs. Such an assessment was appropriate at the end of litigation as part of the court’s general discretion in relation to costs. An indemnity for defence costs under a D&O policy was “very different”. The Judge said that an insurance policy is intended to indemnify the directors for defence costs. Indemnity was a contractual right which meant that the court had no inherent discretion in relation to such costs. This meant that the (discretionary) costs assessment process had no application.

Instead, the court should assess the right to defence costs in the same way it would assess any issue of quantum. The criteria set out in the policy was that the costs were payable if “reasonable with regard to the complexity and significance of the case”.

The basis for the assessment of the “complexity and significance” of the case faced by the insureds was that it:

  • would involve a three-week High Court trial;
  • dealt with complex issues in a specialist area of law (pensions);
  • was for a significant sum (£50m);
  • had reputational significance for insureds because of the seriousness of the allegations.

AIG’s particular objection was to the charge-out rates of the insureds’ city lawyers:  £508 for partners and senior lawyers; £389 for mid–level lawyers and £275 for junior lawyers. The Judge held that the complexity and significance of the matter meant it was reasonable to use a City firm at the rates charged. The Judge rejected AIG’s suggestion that the Guideline Hourly rates published by the Court Service for use in a costs assessment (rates significantly lower than City lawyers charge) had no application.

AIG’s determined resistance to paying the fees did not stop there. They complained of duplicated work, excessive billing, failure to delegate appropriately, churning of costs (an allegation that AIG dropped) and engagement of two QC’s. The Judge found that the QC appointments were reasonable in the context, the fees were reasonable and AIG’s other complaints were unsubstantiated.

Woodford and Hillman were awarded all their defence costs: they had been incurred reasonably in view of the complexity and significance of the case against them.


It is standard for a D&O insurer’s liability for costs to be qualified on grounds of reasonableness. It is now clear that an insurer’s attempts to call in aid the cost assessment process with a view to chipping away ultra-critically at the defence costs claimed by insureds should not work and there are better prospects of the directors’ outlay on defence costs being matched by insurance cover.  Insureds now have a case to use when firing back at insurers’ attempts to lowball them, giving them some hope of prising the insurer’s purse open that little bit wider.

Enterprise Act Angle

Woodford and Hillman had to fund their defence costs from their pension funds because the D&O insurer was not responding.  They incurred significant tax consequences as a result.  Had the policy been governed by English law (and had it been taken out after May 2017) they may also have had a claim against AIG for damages for breach of the obligation to pay claims within a reasonable time (an obligation introduced by the Enterprise Act 2016) equal to the tax charge they suffered as a result of accessing their pension funds. Application of the Enterprise Act might have had an impact on the insurer’s approach to the case.

John Curran is a partner at Fenchurch Law

July 1, 2019

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: 100 cases every policyholder needs to know. #6 (The Bad). Orient-Express Hotels v Generali

Welcome to the latest in the series of blogs from Fenchurch Law: 100 cases every policyholder needs to know. An opinionated and practical guide to the most important insurance decisions relating to the London / English insurance markets, all looked at from a pro-policyholder perspective.

Some cases are correctly decided and positive for policyholders. We celebrate those cases as The Good.

Some cases are, in our view, bad for policyholders, wrongly decided, and in need of being overturned. We highlight those decisions as The Bad.

Other cases are bad for policyholders but seem (even to our policyholder-tinted eyes) to be correctly decided. Those cases can trip up even the most honest policyholder with the most genuine claim. We put the hazard lights on those cases as The Ugly.

At Fenchurch Law we love the insurance market. But we love policyholders just a little bit more.

#6 (The Bad)

Orient-Express Hotels v Generali

Business interruption (BI) policies in the UK ordinarily provide for recovery of loss caused by physical damage to property at the insured premises, subject to adjustment to reflect other factors that would have affected the business in any event.

In Orient Express Hotels Ltd v Assicurazioni Generali SPA t/a Generali Global Risk [2010] EWHC 1186 (Comm), the Commercial Court held that the ‘but for’ causation test applies under standard BI policy wordings where there are two concurrent independent causes of loss, and there could be no indemnity for financial loss concurrently caused by: (1) damage to the insured premises – a luxury hotel in New Orleans, and (2) evacuation of the city as a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Orient Express Hotels Ltd (OEH) was owner of the Windsor Court Hotel (the Hotel), which suffered significant hurricane damage in August and September 2005 leading to its closure for a period of two months. The surrounding area was also devastated by the storms, with the entire city shut down for several weeks following the declaration of a state of emergency, and the imposition of a curfew and mandatory evacuation order.

A dispute arose concerning the interpretation of OEH’s BI policy (subject to English law and an arbitration provision), which provided cover for BI loss “directly arising from Damage”, defined as “direct physical loss destruction or damage to the Hotel”. The trends clause provided for variations or special circumstances that would have affected the business had the Damage not occurred to be taken into account, “so that the figures thus adjusted shall represent as nearly as may be reasonably practicable the results which but for the Damage would have been obtained during [the indemnity period]”.

The arbitral Tribunal held that OEH could only recover in respect of loss which would not have arisen had the damage to the Hotel not occurred, and this meant that OEH was to be put in the position of an owner of an undamaged hotel in an otherwise damaged city. Since New Orleans itself was effectively closed for several weeks due to widespread flooding, with no-one able to visit the area or stay at the Hotel even if it had (theoretically) been undamaged, OEH could not recover under the primary insuring provisions for BI loss suffered during this period. A limited award of damages was made under separate Loss of Attraction and Prevention of Access extensions to the policy.

OEH appealed to the Commercial Court, arguing that the Tribunal’s approach was inappropriate given the wide area damage to the Hotel and the vicinity caused by the same hurricanes. OEH sought to rely upon principles established in: Miss Jay Jay [1987] and IF P&C Insurance v Silversea Cruises [2004], that, where there are two proximate causes of a loss, the insured can recover if one of the causes is insured, provided the other cause is not excluded; and Kuwait Airways Corpn. v Iraqi Airways Co. [2002], that, where a loss has been caused by two or more tortfeasors and the claimant is unable to prove which caused the loss, the Courts will occasionally relax the ‘but for’ test and conclude that both tortfeasors caused the damage, to avoid an over-exclusionary approach.

Mr Justice Hamblen dismissed the appeal, concluding that no error of law had been established in relation to the Tribunal’s application of a ‘but for’ causation test under the policy on the facts as found at the arbitration hearing, whilst recognising “as a matter of principle there is considerable force in much of OEH’s argument”. The insurance authorities mentioned above were distinguished as involving interdependent concurrent causes, in which case the ‘but for’ test would be satisfied. The Court did appear to accept that there may be insurance cases where principles of fairness and reasonableness meant that the ‘but for’ causation test is not applicable, but OEH was unable to establish an error of law by the Tribunal where this argument had not been raised at the arbitration hearing. Given these evidential constraints on an appeal limited to questions of law, OEH was unsuccessful in the Commercial Court.

Permission to appeal was granted, indicating that the Court considered OEH’s grounds for further challenge had a real prospect of success. Settlement on commercial terms was agreed between the parties prior to the Court of Appeal hearing.

The decision in this case has been criticised by commentators as unfair, giving rise to the surprising result that the more widespread the impact of a natural peril, the less cover is afforded under the policy. Leading textbooks (including Riley on Business Interruption Insurance and Hickmott’s Interruption Insurance: Proximate Loss Issues) express concern at this unsatisfactory outcome, noting that the ‘windfall loss’ applied by Generali under the trends clause during the period when OEH itself was affected by its own damage did not reflect the approach adopted by insurers following, for example, the earlier London bombings, or severe flooding in Cumbria in 2009. We consider that that the true intention of the London market was that, in the event of wide area damage, claims would be met up to the level that would have applied had the damage been restricted solely to the insured’s own property at the premises.

In our view, the approach taken by the Tribunal and upheld by the Commercial Court in this case is wrong in principle. It is hoped that an opportunity will arise for the English Courts to revisit this issue and adopt a fairer approach to indemnity under standard UK wordings, to remedy the potential injustice for policyholders. In the meantime, those taking out BI policies should seek amendment of the trends clause to provide for the policyholder to be put in the position they would have been “but for the event(s) causing the damage” (instead of “but for the damage to insured premises”), and to agree sufficient limits of indemnity under extensions for Loss of Attraction and Prevention of Access.

May 17, 2019

Young v Royal and Sun Alliance PLC

The Court of Session found that an insurer had not waived disclosure under the Insurance Act 2015 (“the Act”). The case is the first to be decided under the Act.


A fire occurred at Mr Young’s property (“the Property”) causing extensive damage. Mr Young then claimed an indemnity from his insurers, Royal and Sun Alliance PLC (“RSA”).

RSA declined Mr Young’s claim on the basis that he had failed to disclose material information pursuant to section 3(1) of the Act.  Mr Young denied making a material non-disclosure, and, in any event, argued that RSA had waived disclosure of that information, pursuant to section 3(5)(e) of the Act.

The Market Presentation

Mr Young’s insurance was arranged by his broker by way of a 20-page Market Presentation (“the Presentation”). The Presentation was completed using the broker’s software, and identified the insured as Mr Young and Kaim Park Investments Ltd (“Kaim”).

The “Details” section of the Presentation contained the following passage, which the judge referred to as the “Moral Hazard Declaration”:

“Select any of the following that apply to any proposer, director or partner of the Trade or Business or its Subsidiary Companies if they have ever, either personally or in any business capacity:”

The Moral Hazard Declaration required the proposer to select from seven options in a drop-down menu. The answer selected was “None”.

RSA emailed the broker on 24 April 2017 in response to the Presentation (“the Email”). The Email contained a heading titled “Subjectivity”, and stated as follows:

          “Insured has never

          Been declared bankrupt or insolvent

          Had a liquidator appointed


The Parties’ positions

RSA asserted that Mr Young failed to disclose that he had been a director of four insolvent companies (“the Insolvency Information”), and, had he done so, it would not have entered into the insurance “on any terms”.

Mr Young, in response, argued that the Presentation contained no misrepresentation, as neither he, Kaim, nor any director of Kaim had ever been insolvent. Further, by referring to “the insured” in the Email, Mr Young said that RSA had waived any entitlement to disclosure of prior insolvencies or bankruptcies experienced by anyone other than the insured themselves.

RSA denied that it had waived disclosure of the Insolvency Information, as the Email did not set out any questions for Mr Young to respond to. As a result, Mr Young’s failure to disclose the Insolvency Information was unconnected to the Email. Further, RSA said that it had no knowledge of Mr Young’s prior breach of the duty of fair presentation, and, since there must be knowledge of the right before it can be waived, there had been no waiver here.

The decision – was there a waiver?

The Judge firstly referred to the pre-Act case law, which established that an assured seeking to establish waiver would need to show a “clear case” (Doheny v New India Assurance Co Ltd [2005] Lloyd’s Rep I.R. 251). This could be done in one of two ways: (1) where an insured submitted information which contained something which would prompt a reasonably careful insurer to make further enquiries, but the insurer fails to do so; and (2) where an insurer asks a “limited” question such that a reasonable person would be justified in thinking that the insurer had no interest in knowing information falling outside the scope of the question. This case concerned the latter.

In considering the issue, the Judge noted that the term “any business capacity” was capable of including other entities with which the insured was involved. The difficulty for RSA, however, was that the Moral Hazard Declaration was incomplete; although RSA had seen the answer of “None”, it did not know what the “None” referred to.

The Judge held that the Email was aimed at clarifying Mr Young’s answer to the Moral Hazard Declaration, which it achieved by stipulating the specific moral hazards that needed to be addressed. Further, the judge held that the reference to “the insured” in the Email was not limited to Mr Young and Kaim, but also covered the longer formulation contained in the Moral Hazard Declaration. So, read in this context, the judge was satisfied that no reasonable reader would have understood the Email as waiving the part of the Moral Hazard Declaration relating to “any business capacity” in which Mr Young might have acted. Accordingly, the judge held that there was no waiver.


A number of themes arise in the judgment which are of relevance to policyholders and brokers.

Firstly, the judgment illustrates the potential drawbacks of using bespoke software to place insurance. Here, it was to Mr Young’s detriment that RSA were not using the same software as the broker, the result being that RSA were unable to determine the full extent of what was being disclosed, absent further information being provided.

The judgment also demonstrates that formulations such as “any business capacity”, may, in some circumstances, be broad enough to extend to any company with which an individual insured was involved. However, it is unclear whether that same analysis would apply where insurance is taken out by a business only.

Finally, although the judgment sheds light on what is required to establish waiver, it did not consider issues of materiality or inducement, and so the question of whether RSA can make good their assertion that it would not have written the risk “on any terms” remains to be decided.

Alex Rosenfield is a senior associate at Fenchurch Law.

Court of Appeal plunges into notification issues

In a Judgment handed down yesterday, the Court of Appeal considered for the first time in over ten years issues regarding the effect of a notification of a “circumstance” to a professional indemnity policy: Euro Pools plc v RSA [2019] EWCA Civ 808 [1].


The commercial background to the dispute was unusual. Typically, a policyholder will argue that its notification was wide in scope, so that in due course its notification will “catch” any ensuing claims. By contrast, the insurer to whom the notification was made will typically argue that the scope of the notification was narrow (or, sometimes, wholly ineffective), so that it is in a position to resist indemnifying the policyholder for the later claim(s).

Here the position was reversed. The insurer (RSA) argued that the notification in question was sufficiently wide to catch the later claims; and the policyholder argued that its original notification was very narrow, so that accordingly the claims in question could be said to arise from the (unquestionably wider) notification which it had made to its successive policy.

The reason for this apparent role reversal was the simple fact that the indemnity limit under the original policy (which was on an aggregate basis, not “per claim”) was exhausted, so that the policyholder needed to establish that the later policy (also written, as it happens, by RSA) would respond.

The facts

Euro Pools plc (“Euro Pools”) designed and installed swimming pools. One particular feature which it offered was the inclusion of vertical “booms”, which could be raised and lowered in order to compartmentalise the pool.

Initially, the booms were powered by an air drive system, whereby air would be pumped into and out of stainless steel tanks housed within the booms.

In February 2007, Euro Pools notified its 2006/07 policy (“the First Policy”) that the booms weren’t working. This was, it said, because of a perceived problem with the stainless-steel tanks. Euro Pools proposed an inexpensive solution whereby inflatable bags would be used instead of the steel tanks.

In June 2007, just before expiry of the First Policy, Euro Pools supplemented its original notification by informing RSA that, while it was continuing to replace the tanks with inflatable bags, the cost of which it expected would fall within its excess, it nevertheless wished “to ensure the matter [was] logged on a precautionary basis should there be any future problems”. [2]

Thereafter, during the course of its 2007/08 policy (“the Second Policy”, also written, as I have said, by RSA), it became apparent to Euro Pools that the inflatable bags were no more successful than the stainless steels tanks had been, and that the air drive system would need to be replaced with a hydraulic system – which would be far more expensive. Indeed, it appears that, with a view to preventing its customers from making claims against it, ultimately Euro Pools spent about £2m replacing the air drive system with a hydraulic system.

By this time, the limit under the First Policy was exhausted. The issue was therefore whether the £2m of mitigation costs had been spent in avoiding putative claims which, had they been made, would have arisen out of the circumstance(s) notified to the First Policy.

The Court of Appeal’s Judgment

Euro Pools argued that its notifications in February and June 2007 to the First Policy had been confined to a problem with the stainless-steel tanks. Relying on the principle that one cannot notify a circumstance of which one is not aware, Euro Pools submitted that when notifying the First Policy it had not been aware of a possible problem with the inflatable bags, let alone with any inherent defect in the air drive system generally, and thus could not have been notifying either of those as a “circumstance”.

That argument was accepted at first instance by Moulder J, who thus held, to RSA’s disappointment, that the Second Policy did respond. However, some commentators had criticised this decision on the basis that the Judge had confused the ability to notify a problem (here, that that the booms were not working) with the cause of that problem. As earlier cases such as Kidsons [3] and Kajima had had held, it is open to a policyholder to make a “hornets’ nest” notification – ie, a general notification of a problem, even where the cause of the problem and/or its potential consequences are not yet known.

The Court of Appeal (Hamblen LJ, Males LJ, and Dame Elizabeth Gloster) largely echoed those criticisms, and held that the notification to the First Policy had not been confined to the failure of the steel tanks and the consequential need to replace them with inflatable bags. Instead, the Court of Appeal agreed with RSA that the circumstances notified in February 2007 were that “multiple failures had taken place in relation to the [booms] and….[Euro Pools] was not sure what was causing the failures” and that the circumstances notified in June 2007 were that “in the face of continuing boom failures, Euro Pools had developed a potential solution involving the use of inflatable bags, but that it nevertheless wished to make a notification in case of ‘any future problems’ giving rise to possible third party Claims”. 

“In other words,” said the Court of Appeal, “Euro Pools appreciated that it might not have got to the bottom of the problem in the sense of understanding what the root cause of the booms’ failure was. Thus, although Euro Pools hoped that it could make the boom design work by using bags in place of tanks, and that solution would fall within the deductible, it nonetheless wanted to make a general precautionary notification.”


In allowing the appeal, the Court of Appeal has re-stated the orthodox approach, as set out in previous cases such as KidsonsKajima and McManus [5]. Although the Court of Appeal’s decision was undoubtedly disappointing to this particular policyholder, in the long run its approach is likely to be beneficial to policyholders since it will assist them when, as is often the case, they wish to make a precautionary notification of a problem when the cause of that problem and/or its potential consequences are as yet unknown.


[1] The full Judgement is here:

[2] This request seems to have been prompted by a realisation on the part of Euro Pools’ broker that, owing to an administrative error, RSA had not opened a claims file following the original notification in February 2007.

[3] HLB Kidsons (a firm) v Lloyd’s Underwriters [2008] Lloyd’s Rep IR 237.

[4] Kajima UK Engineering Limited v The Underwriter Insurance Company Limited[2008] EWHC 83.

[5] McManus v European Risk Insurance Co [2013] Lloyd’s Rep IR 533.

Jonathan Corman is a partner at Fenchurch Law.

March 11, 2019

Zagora Management Limited & Others – v – Zurich Insurance PLC and others

In this recent decision, the Technology and Construction Court allowed claims brought by the leaseholders under “Standard 10 Year New Home Structural Defects Insurance Policies” (“the Policies”), but rejected all the claims against the Approved Inspector.

The case concerned a development of two blocks of flats in Hulme, Manchester (“the Property”). The claimants were the freeholder, Zagora Management Ltd (“Zagora”), and 26 long leaseholders, who between them owned 30 flats. The defendants were (1) Zurich Insurance plc (“ZIP”), which had issued the Policies to the leaseholders; and (2) Zurich Building Control Services Ltd (“ZBC”), which had undertaken the role of building inspector and issued final certificates under the Building Regulations (“the Certificates”).

As against ZIP, the Claimants sought to recover under the Policies the cost of remedying a number of serious defects at the Property, pleaded at £10.9m. Zagora also sued ZIP based under what was referred to as an “agreement to rectify”.

As against ZBC, thirteen of the Claimants, including Zagora, claimed damages representing the diminution in their respective interests as the Property, on the basis that ZBC knew that the statements made in the Certificates were untrue, or was reckless as to their truth.

The claims against ZIP

(i) Zagora’s claim under the Policies

Zagora claimed that it was entitled to sue ZIP under the Policies because it had a freehold interest in the Property as a whole. By contrast, ZIP argued that Zagora was not, and never had been, insured under the Policy.

It was common ground that Zagora had never been issued with a certificate identifying it as the buyer; however, Zagora claimed that did not matter, as it became a co-insured in relation to each flat when it acquired the freehold of the Property in 2013.

Although acknowledging the ingenuity of Zagora’s argument, the Judge (HHJ Stephen Davies) had no difficulty in concluding that it was wrong. Each insurance certificate identified the buyer by name; the only situation provided for in the Policy where the buyer’s identity could change was in the event of an onward sale of the flat in question. That did not apply in this case, as Zagora’s predecessor was never issued with an insurance certificate. Further, the Policies did not allow for there to be more than one insured with separate interests in the same flat. In the circumstances, the Judge held that Zagora was not an insured under the Policy.

(ii) The leaseholders’ claims under the Policies

The Judge found that the Property was seriously defective and that the leaseholders were entitled to recover the reasonable cost of repairs. Before coming to that conclusion, however, the Judge addressed a number of issues of policy construction; in particular, ZIP’s contentions that (a) the claims were subject to a maximum liability provision (“the Cap”), and (b) the Policies did not indemnify the cost of repairs that the claimants never intended to carry out.

Zagora asserted that the Cap imposed a maximum liability of £25m. ZIP’s case, by contrast, was that the Cap limited each leaseholder’s claim to the declared purchase price of its flat, with the result that the total maximum liability was the declared value of 30 flats i.e. £3.634m. The Judge agreed with ZIP, and found that it was not unreasonable for it to have wanted to limit its cover for a 10-year policy. Accordingly, the leaseholders’ claims were capped at the total purchase price of their flats.

As to the correct indemnity, the Claimants contended they were entitled to recover the reasonable cost of repair without first having to undertake those repairs. Whereas ZIP argued that the Policies did not cover repairs which would never be carried out.

The Policy provided that ZIP would pay “the reasonable cost of rectifying or repairing the physical damage [or] the reasonable cost of rectifying a present or imminent danger”. The term “reasonable cost” was, in the Judge’s view, neutral as to whether it was a cost already occurred or a cost to be incurred. Accordingly, there was no obvious reason why it should have the limited meaning for which ZIP contended.

(iii) The “agreement to rectify” claim

Zagora claimed that at a meeting in June 2013, ZIP agreed to resolve certain defects, regardless of the strict position under the Policies.

The Judge commented that, where parties have no pre-existing contractual relationship, it would be necessary to show that they agreed on all matters essential to the formation of a contract. However, the need to do so would be less acute where there was a pre-existing contractual relationship. The difficulty here, however, was that the relationship between Zagora and ZIP did not fit neatly into either category, given that by the time of the crucial meeting, there was a dispute as to the claimants’ contractual rights under the Policy.

In any event, the Judge found that what was actually agreed between the parties was merely a “step along the road” to what the parties would have expected to be a pragmatic resolution of a serious problem, and did not represent a binding and enforceable contract. Accordingly, Zagora’s claim failed on the basis that the agreement lacked contractual certainty.

The claims against ZBC

The Claimants contended that they would not have acquired the individual flats, or (in the case of Zagora) the freehold, had they known the true position regarding the value of their interests. As their claim was brought in deceit, the Claimants were required to show not only that ZBC knew that the representations in the Certificates were untrue or were reckless as to their truth, but that they also relied on those representations.

It was common ground that ZBC knew at the time that it had not taken reasonable steps to satisfy itself that the Building Regulations had been complied with, and had thus been reckless. The issue therefore turned on reliance.

ZBC’s evidence was that it never anticipated that Zagora, as a subsequent purchaser of the freehold, would have relied on the Certificates. The Judge accepted Zagora’s evidence, and found that it was “impossible” to conclude that it intended Zagora to rely on the certificates 2 to 3 years after they were issued. Accordingly, Zagora’s claim failed.

Contrary to the position vis-à-vis Zagora, ZBC accepted that it did anticipate that the leaseholders would rely on the Certificates. However, there was a complete absence of evidence that the leaseholders or their solicitors were provided with the Certificates either before exchange or completion. Therefore, even though the Claimants were able to prove deceit on ZBC’s part, their claims also failed at the reliance hurdle.


The case illustrates the various complexities and challenges facing policyholders, and particularly leaseholders, when bringing claims under new home warranties. The case is also a reminder of the practical difficulties of bringing claims against Approved Inspectors. Indeed, in the recent decision in The Lessees and Management Company of Herons Court v Heronslea and others [2018] EWHC 3309 (TCC), a claim against an Approved Inspector failed, this time because Approved Inspectors were not subject to the Defective Premises Act 1972.

Alex Rosenfield is an associate at Fenchurch Law