Northampton business owner spearheads 'Goliath' win against insurers refusing to payout coronavirus claims

The Supreme Court victory could mean as many as 370,000 small businesses are owed hundreds of millions in Business Interruption payouts
Northampton's-own Simon Ager has helped win a Supreme Court victory that could help up to 370,000 small businesses with insurance payouts.Northampton's-own Simon Ager has helped win a Supreme Court victory that could help up to 370,000 small businesses with insurance payouts.
Northampton's-own Simon Ager has helped win a Supreme Court victory that could help up to 370,000 small businesses with insurance payouts.

A Northampton man has helped win a landslide Supreme Court victory that could lead to hundreds of thousands of small businesses receiving payouts on insurance claims due to Covid.

Simon Ager, owner of the Pinnacle Climbing Centre, started out by complaining about his insurance company, Hiscox, refusing to cover his losses when he was forced to close in the first lockdown.

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Now, after months of work by Simon and his team at the "Hiscox Action Group", the complaints have led to a ruling in the Supreme Court that up to 370,000 small businesses in the country could be owed money.

The Supreme Court ruled against insurers who refused to pay Business Interruption Claims brought on by the Covid pandemic.The Supreme Court ruled against insurers who refused to pay Business Interruption Claims brought on by the Covid pandemic.
The Supreme Court ruled against insurers who refused to pay Business Interruption Claims brought on by the Covid pandemic.

The landmark test case brought by the Financial Conduct Authority could lead to an estimated £1.2bn in Business Interruption payouts.

Simon told the Chronicle and Echo: "I'm very proud of the group's work. We've taken on a Goliath insurance industry and we've won, proving they should now do the right thing.

"It's a slam dunk. Nearly every point that the insurers appealed has been rejected. The summary by the judges says they should never have disputed the claims."

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Simon set out on his mission after he and hundreds of thousands of other businesses were forced to close by law in April 2020.

Simon Ager - who owns Northampton's Pinnacle Climbing Centre - took action after his claim was turned down.Simon Ager - who owns Northampton's Pinnacle Climbing Centre - took action after his claim was turned down.
Simon Ager - who owns Northampton's Pinnacle Climbing Centre - took action after his claim was turned down.

But despite this, and after 10 years of paying contributions for Business Interruption Insurance, Simon was stunned when Hiscox wrote they would not cover the Pinnacle Climbing Centre's losses.

He said: "Our insurance clearly stated we would be covered if we were forced to close by a public authority because of infection disease. Boris Johnson stood there and told us all we had to close and it would be law by Wednesday - but the insurance companies said they wouldn't cover us.

"It set us back 10 years financially in terms of borrowing. It meant we have in effect had to go into hibernation. If we wanted to come out the other side, we had to keep every cost small. We even had to let go of staff.

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"If we had had our claim we would have had a different mindset to how to come back.

The work of the Pinnacle Climbing Centre and the Hiscox Action Group could help hundreds of thousands of people.The work of the Pinnacle Climbing Centre and the Hiscox Action Group could help hundreds of thousands of people.
The work of the Pinnacle Climbing Centre and the Hiscox Action Group could help hundreds of thousands of people.

"I know of eight businesses out of the 800 companies in the Hiscox Action Group who had to liquidate or stop trading because they didn't get their claim."

Now, after months of work by Simon and the Hiscox Action Group, the Supreme Court has ruled that insurance companies should always have honored their policies in a historic test case.

Judges threw out the appeals from six major insurance companies - Hiscox, RSA, QBE, Argenta, Arch and Ms Amlin - in what has been called a "catastrophic outcome" for insurers by law firm Reed Smith.

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Simon said: "The major shame of the insurers is they argued so strongly against it.

"The next step is securing the payouts.

"I'm proud of the group, and the fact that we stuck to it, got a top law firm, got funding, and took action - not just for us but for small businesses everywhere.

"I've never done anything like this before but I must be a self-taught expert in insurance law by now."

Richard Leedham, a partner of law firm Mishcon de Reya representing the action group, said: “Today’s outcome is one of the most significant for business in modern times.

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"The result should leave Hiscox and the rest of the insurance industry in no doubt that they should immediately

start doing the right thing and settle these claims. What is important now is that Hiscox accepts the Supreme Court’s verdict, and starts paying out to its policy holders, many of whom are in danger of going under”.

One of the judges, Lord Briggs, delivered what the action group claimed was “a damning indictment” on the insurers’ claims, labelling it "clearly contrary to the spirit and intent of the relevant provisions of the policies in issue”.

In a statement, The Pinnacle Climbing Centre in Northampton said it was looking forward to re-opening as soon as possible, and welcoming back all its regular climbers, together with the community groups including brownies, guides, scouts and schools.

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