Update on the Setanta case

May 24, 2016

The Supreme Court will hear the appeal by the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) of the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of Law Society of Ireland v the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland.

As previously written in our blog, the case was initiated at the request of President Kearns, as the head of the Insurance Compensation Fund, in order to clarify whether or not the MIBI had liability for certain claims against Setanta Insurance policyholders following the insolvency of that company. Both the High Court and the Court of Appeal found in favour of the Law Society’s legal arguments, confirming that the MIBI’s liability under the 2009 MIBI Agreement extends to situations of insurer insolvency.

The Supreme Court may only hear an appeal from a decision of the Court of Appeal if it is satisfied that the decision involves a matter of general public importance or is required in the interests of justice. The Supreme Court determined that the MIBI appeal came within the former category. The appeal will address the following specific points:

  1. Whether the MIBI Agreement may properly be construed so as to impose liability or potential liability on insurance underwriters which are party to the MIBI Agreement to pay out in respect of claims against persons who were insured with Setanta, a Maltese registered insurance company, at the time of its entering into liquidation in April 2014.
  2. The correct principles to be applied in construing the MIBI agreement, whether it be a private agreement or an administrative arrangement between Government and the motor insurance industry, with particular reference to the influence of statutory provisions on the proper interpretation of the language thereof.
  3. If the MIBI is so liable, how any such liability or potential liability on the part of the MIBI impacts upon the power of the High Court to approve payments under section 3 of the Insurance Act 1964 (as inserted by section 4 of the Insurance (Amendment) Act 2011) authorising payments out of the Insurance Compensation Fund “only if it appears to the High Court that it is unlikely that the claims can be met otherwise than from the Fund.”

A date has yet to be fixed for the Appeal but it is hoped that an expedited date will be obtained in the coming months.

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