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Ben Lynch, barrister at Fountain Court Chambers, examines the recent outcome in Zurich Insurance PLC v Maccaferri Ltd and explains that the significant issue in the case was not about circumstances or claims, but rather the notification of an event that is likely to give rise to a claim.
Zurich Insurance PLC v Maccaferri Ltd  EWCA Civ 1302,  All ER (D) 33 (Jan)
The Court of Appeal Civil Division held in dismissing an appeal by the insurers, that the insurers were not entitled to rely on a condition in the insurance regarding notification of event. The question to be considered was whether when the event occurred (an occasion not limited to the exact moment) it was likely to give rise to a claim. That would depend on whether in the light of the actual knowledge that the insured then possessed a reasonable person in his position would have thought that it was at least 50% likely that a claim would be made.
This is an important question because the case was not in fact concerned with the notification of either circumstances or claims. Rather, it focussed on the notification of ‘the occurrence of any event likely to give rise to a claim’. While Zurich sought to argue that the notification clause in question gave rise to a ‘rolling obligation’ on the insured to notify matters to the insurer (in a manner similar to the notification of circumstances under ‘claims made’ to a professional indemnity insurance policy), the Court of Appeal rejected this construction.
As one might expect, it was crucially important in this case to have regard to the precise words used in the notification clause. The insurance policy in Zurich Insurance PLC v Maccaferri Ltd was a combined Public and Products Liability policy. Clause 1 of the policy’s
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