State body to pay out on Setanta claims

The Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) must pay out on 1,750 outstanding claims following the collapse of the Setanta Insurance Company, a High Court judge has ruled.

In a reserved judgment, Mr Justice John Hedigan said that, following the liquidation of Setanta on April 30, 2014, approximately 1,750 claims by and against Setanta policyholders remained in existence.

He said an issue had arisen as to who was liable to cover these claims — the MIBI or the Insurance Compensation Fund — and the Law Society had asked the court to determine the matter.

Judge Hedigan said Setanta was a Maltese registered company. At an extraordinary general meeting in April last year, it decided to surrender its insurance business licence and be immediately dissolved.

The company was a member of the MIBI, which was set up by the transport minister to meet claims against uninsured or untraced motorists, and at the time had issued approximately 75,000 motor insurance policies, all of which had been cancelled from May 29, 2014.

Approximately 1,750 claims remained in existence by and against Setanta policy holders which had been potentially eligible for payment by the MIBI.

The president of the Law Society had written to the MIBI stating that solicitors had been inundated with queries from concerned Setanta customers as to the consequences of the liquidation.

The MIBI claimed it did not have to satisfy awards against policyholders where the insurer was unable to pay all or part of the award because of insolvency. The Department of Transport shared the MIBI’s view and the transport minister suggested policyholders should pursue claims with the liquidator of Setanta.

Judge Hedigan said it was clear that the background to the MIBI agreements was the obligation to protect the innocent victims of uninsured drivers. This obligation had been placed on insurers in return for the introduction of compulsory insurance in 1932.

He said that, from the evidence and legal argument before the court, it seemed to him that the wording of the 2009 MIBI Agreement meant it had a liability to pay out in respect of claims against persons who had been insured by an insurer which had become insolvent.

In his view, this liability of the MIBI had been apparent and accepted since, at the very least 1964, if not 1955.

Judge Hedigan stated that the MIBI was liable to pay out in respect of claims against persons who were insured with Setanta at the time of its liquidation.

The proceedings had initially been brought by the accountant of the Courts of Justice, who has statutory responsibility for administering the Insurance Compensation Fund.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, had directed that the Law Society of Ireland should act as the claimant, while the MIBI should be the respondent. The accountant of the Courts of Justice had adopted a neutral position.

Brian Murray, with Francis Kieran, appeared for the Law Society. Paul Sreenan, with Kelly Smyth, represented the MIBI. David Barniville, with Barbara O’Neill appeared for the accountant of the Courts of Justice.


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