An action group representing the UK hospitality industry is the latest policyholder movement threatening collective legal action against insurers including Axa, RSA and Zurich over Covid-19 related business interruption claims.

HIGA

Hospitality Insurance Group Action (HIGA), formed by London-based litigation PR specialists Bell Yard Communications, has said it welcomes policyholders of business interruption coverage from insurers Axa, China Taiping, RSA, Touchstone and Zurich. 

In a statement, it said its aim is “hold insurance companies to account for policy pay-outs arising from lockdown and Covid-19 related losses”.

While the action group said any business interruption policyholders whose current insurance contract includes non-physical damage extensions to cover and is governed by English law are eligible to participate, it has directed disgruntled Hiscox policyholders to join the Hiscox Action Group

Launched today, HIGA represents hotels, restaurants, bars, pubs, nightclubs and leisure businesses which have been forced to close as a result of the government mandated lockdown.

The group says that any collective claim against the insurance industry is likely to run into “tens of millions of pounds”.

The group has already appointed leading litigation law firm Mishcon de Reya to advise HIGA on bringing a collective group action against a range of insurers. Mishcon has secured external funding to cover the policy review exercise and is working with Philip Edey QC, of Twenty Essex Chambers.

Mishcon de Reya has said it hopes to review the insurance policies of those registering interest in the group action by the end of May and will then look at how best to bring a group claim.

Mishcon is also currently advising the Hiscox Action Group.

Sonia Campbell, partner and head of the insurance disputes practice at Mishcon de Reya, said: “Hospitality sector businesses, large and small, have been particularly hard hit by the government-enforced closure during this pandemic and desperately need to mitigate their losses.

“In times of crisis they expect their insurance to respond. Yet I am hearing time and time again that insurers are either stone-walling, unfairly limiting or simply point-blank refusing to pay out under business interruption policies. This strikes us as something that is open to challenge,” Campbell continued.

Campbell added: “I look forward to assisting all members of HIGA in exploring the possibility of a group claim. There may well be some light at the end of this industry’s very dark tunnel.” 

The Insurer’s Covid-19 BI action groups tracker 

HIGA registrant Dan Fox, managing director of London pub owner Craft Locals, said: “If insurers don’t come through, this will have a devastating impact on not only the business and its continued survival, but the livelihood of the fantastic team members that we employ, and the local communities of which we form such an integral part.

“We will do everything in our power to renew these activities and right now we’re hoping HIGA can help us get our insurers to do the right thing.”

HIGA is the latest hospitality sector-focussed policyholder group to take action against the insurance sector after the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) announced it would be coordinating legal action representing more than 100 nightclubs, pubs and bars.

The NTIA has appointed licensing industry barrister Philip Kolvin QC of Cornerstone Barristers to advise on the potential merits of a claim against various carriers including Hiscox.

London-listed Hiscox has come under particular fire from policyholders with the Hiscox Action Group – one of the larger and most vocal UK organisations to emerge out of the Covid-19 crisis  – having also appointed Mischon de Reya to pursue potential claims and yesterday named Harbour Litigation Funding as its litigation finance partner.

As previously revealed by The Insurer, a subsidiary of Qatar Insurance Company is facing the prospect of a policyholders’ action group after it declined a claim from UK trampoline park business JXL.