Tuesday 16 January 2018

Widow given €790k damages award 'not entitled to payment from State-backed insurance company'

Helen Guiney's husband John died in a workplace accident in 2000

A WIDOW who is unable to recover the bulk of a €790,000 damages award from an insurance company - over a workplace accident which claimed the life of her husband - is not entitled to payment from the State- backed Insurance Compensation Fund, the High Court heard.

Mother of two, Helen Guiney, was awarded more than €790,000 arising out of the death of her husband John Guiney at a construction site in Raheen, Carrigaline, Cork, in November 2000.

She sued her husband's then employer MJ Manning Construction Ltd.

In 2012, the High Court awarded her damages of €794,765 plus costs, against the employer, which has since ceased trading.

Mrs Guiney, from Sean Moylan Park, Kiskeam, Mallow, Co Cork, was told she might only recover a fraction of the award because the employer's insurer, the UK authorised "Independent Insurance Company Ltd (IICL)" went in provisional liquidation in 2001.

Under an anticipated survival scheme for IICL, its creditors  may only recover 10-15 per cent of what they are owed.

Mrs Guiney then applied for payment out of the Insurance Compensation Fund,  set up by the State to compensate policy holders in relation to certain risks when authorised insurers go into liquidation.

The fund, established as part of the 1964 Insurance Act, is administered and controlled by the President of the High Court through the Accountant of the Court of Justice.

Last May Mrs Guiney's application was refused by the Accountant  because the policy held by MJ Manning with IICL does not fall under the relevant terms of the 1964 Act, as amended in 2011, because of the date when IICL was put into liquidation.

The Insurance Act was only amended in 2011 to cover risks in Ireland no matter where an insurance policy is issued in the EU.

Prior to 2011 the ICF only covered policies issued by insurance companies in the State.

She was also informed that as policy held by her late husband's employer was held by a UK authorised company and responsibility for meeting her claim rests with the UK authorities who are responsible for the financial supervision of IICL.

The Accountant sought advice from both the Department of Finance and independent advice from the law firm Matheson. Both agreed that Mrs Guiney is not entitled to payment out of the fund.

Lawyers for Mrs Guiney, whose only income is the widow's pension, disagree with this assessment and say that she is entitled to to apply for payment out of the fund.

In her proceedings, Mrs Guiney seeks various orders from the High Court including one quashing the decision she is not entitled to make a claim on the compensation fund as the policy in question did not fall within the 1964 Insurance Act

She also seeks declarations from the court including one that she is entitled to have the Accountant apply on her behalf for the approval of a payment from the fund.

The Accountant of the High Court has opposed the action, and argues that Mrs Guiney is not entitled to a payout from the fund.

The case before Mr Justice Gerard Hogan continues.

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