Win in Supreme Court for widow entitled to recover under insurance policy

In Burnett or Grant v International Insurance Company of Hanover Ltd [2021] UKSC 12, the pursuer sought a declaration that the insurer defender was liable to pay damages under its public liability policy.  It had provided insurance cover to a security company which had employed a door steward, Mr Marcius. Tragically, after Mr Grant was ejected from a bar in Aberdeen where Mr Marcius was working, Mr Marcius had applied a neck hold for 3 minutes and so choked Mr Grant to death. Mr Grant’s widow, the pursuer, brought an action against the security company, since in liquidation, on the basis that it was vicariously liable for the actions of Mr Marcius. The defender relied on an exclusion clause which covered liability arising out of “deliberate acts” by employees of the insured; alternatively, another clause which limited payments to £100,000 for wrongful arrest.

Lord Hamblen, giving the judgment of the Supreme Court, held that the exclusion clause covered acts intended to cause injury, that is some injury, but not acts recklessly performed. On the findings below, Mr Marcius had no intention to injure Mr Grant; what he did “badly executed, not badly motivated” per Lady Wolffe when sentencing him for assault. It followed that the pursuer was entitled to indemnity under the policy.

Robert Weir QC acted for the pursuer with Robert Milligan QC and James Hastie of Compass Chambers, Edinburgh, instructed by Sarah McKinnon of Lefreves solicitors.

To read the full judgment, please click here.

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