No Time To Be Without Cover

15 December 2021
By Alex Rosenfield

This short article considers a handful of the possible insurance claims that arise in the latest James Bond outing, No Time to Die, as well as paying homage to Daniel Craig’s brilliant 5-film stint as 007.

Warning: this article contains major spoilers. So, to all those who are yet to see the film, read no further.

Matera – the prologue

The film opens with Mr Bond enjoying some downtime in Matera, Italy, with his beloved Madeleine Swann. It’s an idyllic scene. Glorious weather; a spectacular backdrop; and a stylish cave hotel. What could possibly go wrong here? Quite a lot, sadly.

After visiting the grave of his first (and perhaps one) true love, Vesper Lynd, Bond is attacked by scores of Spectre henchmen. There’s then a frantic car chase through Matera’s ancient streets, before Bond casually disposes of said henchmen by turning the headlights of his Aston Martin DB5 into revolving machine guns. Very cool.

Sadly, the Aston Martin takes quite a battering, and presumably is no longer road-worthy. That’s a fairly chunky insurance claim, which gives rise to some non-disclosure issues. At inception of the Policy, Mr Bond’s insurers would have most likely asked: “have you or any person who will drive the motorhome had any accidents, claims, damage, theft or loss involving any vehicle during the past 5 years”.

Unfortunately for Bond, he’s had his fair share of rotten luck behind the wheel. In particular, if one assumes that the events of Skyfall and Spectre were within the last 5 years, the following incidents come to mind: –

  • Aston Martin DB5 – destroyed at the end of Skyfall, after a fist-fight with Raoul Silva (estimated damage of £850,000);
  • Aston Martin DB10 – sank at the bottom of the River Tiber in Spectre, after Bond is chased by one of Blofeld’s henchmen (estimated damage of £2.6m).

Given the above, a failure to disclose these incidents would probably be treated as a deliberate breach of Bond’s duty of fair presentation under the Insurance Act. Insurers would invariably avoid the Policy, refuse all claims and keep the premium. Bond could always try arguing that it wasn’t a qualifying breach, because Insurers would have written the Policy anyway, but that seems speculative.

Another issue to address is the duty to take reasonable precautions. As many of us will be aware, such provisions mean no more than the insured must avoid reckless behaviour (Sofi v Prudential Assurance [1993] 2 Lloyd’s Rep. 559). So, in order to rely on a breach, Insurers would need to demonstrate that Bond was indifferent about looking after his vehicle. Acting carelessly will not be sufficient. Once again, that poses something of a conundrum for Bond. At the time of the incident, he’s clearly courting danger by inviting Spectre’s goons to shoot at him, and makes very little effort to conduct his affairs in a prudent and businessmanlike manner. All in all, this doesn’t smell like a winner.

Cuba – Bond comes of retirement

Five years after the events in Matera, Bond is blissfully retired in Jamaica. Not before long, one of MI6’s brightest and best shows up, who tells Bond that she now stands in his shoes as the new 007, and has been tasked with recovering a Russian scientist (a subrogated recovery, one might say). Bond, suitably unimpressed, decides to buddy up with the CIA’s Felix Leiter to try and get to the scientist first.

This leads Bond to Cuba, where literally all hell breaks loose. The number of insurance claims that could arise here is mind-boggling. Those include:

  • Cuban drinking establishment/Property damage – there’s fairly significant damage here, after Bond gate-crashes a birthday party held in the honour of his arch-nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld;
  • Cuban drinking establishment/BI Loss – more hefty losses, one would imagine;
  • Cuban drinking establishment/Public Liability – given that all of the attendees meet their maker after being infected by DNA-targeting nanobots (more on that below), this could give rise to another sizeable claim.
  • Property damage/boat & helicopter – catastrophic damage to a boat after a terse fist-fight between Bond and Leiter’s duplicitous associate, Logan Ash (Rest in peace, Felix). Presumably the helicopter which Bond pilots to get to the boat is also a write-off.

Lytusifer Safin – he’s been expecting you, Mr Bond

In the film’s third act, we’re properly introduced to Bond’s main adversary, Lyutsifer Safin, played by the brilliant Rami Malek. We’d seen precious little of Mr Safin until this point, but all the familiar Bond-villain tropes are there. He’s creepy as hell, has set up shop on a secret island, and has a name which literally sounds like Lucifer (definitely evil, then).

Mr Safin, it would seem, has had a bit of a chip on his shoulder since Spectre murdered his family as a boy. Having recently wiped out Spectre, thusly achieving his revenge, Safin now wants to conquer the world by using the aforementioned nanobots as a biological weapon. Bond obviously isn’t having any of this, and heroically stops Safin in his tracks; but not, in a surprising and devastating turn, before he’s inflicted with mortal wounds. Sadly, this really is the end for Bond, who shortly afterwards succumbs to his injuries whilst he’s blown to smithereens by a British warship.

We assume that Mr Bond was sensible enough to procure a policy of life insurance before his untimely passing, and that he named Ms Swann as his beneficiary. To make a claim, Ms Swann would need to provide, as a minimum: (i) the name of the deceased (Bond, James Bond); (ii) the Policy number; and (iii) the cause of death.

The price and cover available would depend on a number of factors, which include the nature of Bond’s profession, as well as the fact that he indulges in what some would say is an unhealthy lifestyle i.e. a heavy alcohol intake. One can only imagine how high the premium must have been.

Mr Bond’s estate would also need to satisfy that his death wasn’t the result of reckless or dangerous behaviour. Whether that’s the case here is debateable, but we’d argue that Bond is just on the right side. Indeed, having agreed to cover Mr Bond, the underwriter would be ‘presumed to be acquainted with the practice of the trade he insures’ (Noble v Kennaway [1780]), and therefore should have appreciated that taking on a megalomaniac and his machine-gun wielding disciples was merely an occupational hazard. In circumstances where Bond quite literally saved the world, paying this claim feels like the right thing to do.

Given that Ms Swann is seen happily driving an Aston Martin V8 Vantage at the end of the film, we’re going to assume that the claim succeeded. Happy days for all. Well, apart from Bond, of course. May his memory live on.

Alex Rosenfield is a Senior Associate at Fenchurch Law