In her judgment, Justice Cockerill deals at length with the ambiguity of certain words in the denial of access clause. But in her decision about the effect of the £250,000 figure is unambiguous: “Overall the picture which emerges from a consideration of the wording and a consideration of the nature of the policy persuades me without difficulty that the correct answer is that this is a composite policy in respect of which each insured is entitled to claim £250,000 in respect of each claim.”
It will be interesting to see whether, in light of this judgment, insurers will reconsider their decisions or whether they will simply wait for the courts to determine each matter on a case-by-case basis.
The Financial Times concluded in a headline report about the case that: "Insurers brace for payouts after Wolseley owner wins Covid case." The article that followed suggested that after the Corbin & King victory, insurers will face "significant increases in Covid-related payouts".
Undoubtedly, in similar cases, companies with certain policies can reasonably expect to be paid out per Covid claim and per premise by their insurers. But while that may well be true for some, every case can be different. Equally, the terms of each policy and its denial of access clause can also vary.
At a more practical level, many businesses that are potentially affected by similar claims will simply not have sufficient resources to run them. Accordingly, while some insurers will need to have a radical rethink about the wording of their policies and the potential claims facing them, the easier response for others may simply be to wait and see what happens next.
Gurpreet Sanghera is a partner at law firm Simkins