Evidence of people who caught Covid-19 preparing to bring claims against their employers or other businesses in England has raised concerns it will also start a trend in Ireland when the courts fully reopen here after the crisis, Peter Boland, who heads up the Alliance for Insurance Reform, has warned.
Mr Boland said there was no evidence yet that claims were being prepared for Irish courts against firms with public or employer liability insurance cover, but it was watching with some concern developments in England where it appears claims were being prepared.
UK insurance broker Gallagher last month said its survey suggested businesses in Britain could be open to claims if they had failed to abide by official health guidelines.
Mr Boland said that claims here against employer or public liability insurance have driven up premiums, even if the cases were thrown out. He also said that insurers have had a habit in Ireland of settling claims as quickly as possible and any trend to bringing litigation relating to Covid-19 must be discouraged, while the judiciary "we would hope take a balanced view on duty of care".
We have learned from bitter experience that there doesn’t have to be negligence for people to trigger claims.
Experts have said that potentially all types of businesses and enterprises could be vulnerable to claims agianst their employer liability and public liability insurance from staff or the public contracting Covid-19.
However, the burden of proof of negligence during a pandemic will likely be that much higher because health officials have said that Covid-19 is rampant in the community.
Neil McDonnell, chief executive at business group Isme, said the courts here were likely to be more sceptical than in the past, and bringing a successful Covid-19 case would likely be very difficult. “However, for employers that will not be a ‘get out of jail free card’ because the problem is the threshold for presenting a claim is so low in Ireland that even when someone presents you with a no-hope claim, you have to defend it — and the insurance company puts a reserve on the business and your premium immediately goes up,” Mr McDonnell said.
“And even when the case is thrown out or dismissed, the insurance cost will stay high,” he said.