Supreme Court to decide next week on Motor Insurers' Bureau appeal on Setanta claims

The Supreme Court will give judgment next week on the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland’s appeal over decisions it is potentially liable for claims brought against collapsed insurer Setanta, writes Ann O'Loughlin.

A seven-judge court heard the appeal last October and reserved judgment. Judgment is due to be delivered on May 25.

The appeal was brought against a Court of Appeal 2016 judgment rejecting the MIBI’s arguments it should not be held liable. That ruling affects all insurance companies underwriting motor insurance here.

The liquidator of Maltese-registered Setanta, which sold insurance policies exclusively in Ireland before it collapsed in 2014, has determined the cost of claims could run to about €90m with the number of claimants estimated at 1,750.

The MIBI argued, as a result of the appeal court decision, it has been “left captive” with its members obliged to give guarantees even concerning insurers whom they believe will not last. It maintains the State-backed Insurance Compensation Fund should pick up the Setanta bill, as was done in the cases of PMPA and Quinn Insurance.

In opposing the appeal, the Law Society argued that agreements between the MIBI and Government concerning claims related to uninsured drivers envisaged the MIBI would pay out if a member became insolvent.

The MIBI is operated under the terms of a 2009 agreement between the Government and companies underwriting motor insurance in Ireland to deal with claims related to uninsured drivers.

The core issue in the appeal is the interpretation of that agreement. If the court finds the MIBI is liable, it will consider how that impacts on the power of the High Court to approve payments out of the ICF if the High Court believes that is the only way of meeting such claims.

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