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Insurer's bid to halt ombudsman investigation to be 'vigorously opposed', court told

The case was heard in the High Court today.

Image: RollingNews.ie

THE FINANCIAL SERVICES and Pensions Ombudsman will “vigorously oppose” FBD’s bid to halt the investigation of a publican’s complaint over the insurer’s refusal to pay out for a business interruption claim due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the High Court has heard.

Last week, FBD Insurance Plc secured permission from the High Court to seek to have the Ombudsman’s investigation of a complaint made by Phil Flannery’s of Denmark Street Ltd judicially reviewed.

In that action the insurer claims the probe should be halted on grounds including that the same issue is the subject of separate High Court proceedings brought by pubs against the insurer.

Four test cases, brought by pub owners from Dublin and Athlone are due to commence before the Commercial Court, the big business division of the High Court, in early October.

As well as seeking an order halting the investigation FBD also seeks an order staying the probe pending the outcome of the dispute.

At the High Court today, Francis Kieran Bl for the Ombudsman said that the entirely unprecedented challenge to his client’s jurisdiction to investigate a complaint made against the provider of a financial services would be “vigorously opposed”.

The Ombudsman is also opposing any attempt to put a stay on the investigation, counsel added.

Gary Compton Bl for the complainant, which is a notice party to the proceedings, said his client was “equally appalled” by FBD’s bid to halt the investigation of its complaint.

Counsel added that the pub owner will also oppose the insurer’s judicial review action.

In reply Remy Farrell SC for FBD said his client was entitled to bring the challenge against the decision to investigate the claim.

The judge, in adjourning the case, was informed that the parties were anxious that the hearing of the matter be expedited. The action will return before the court in two weeks.

In its action against the Ombudsman FBD claims that the four test cases raise the same issue which is the subject of Phil Flannery’s complaint. As a result it asked the Ombudsman to discontinue its investigation.

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It claims the courts are a more appropriate forum to determine the dispute. FBD claims the Ombudsman refused to halt its probe forcing the insurer to deal with the same issue at multiple fora.

FBD claims that this decision is not appropriate, nor proportionate and will result in the insurer having to engage in needless duplication and having to incur additional costs.

FBD further claims that the Ombudsman’s decision to continue with its investigation is also in breach of fair procedures.

In its action against the Ombudsman it seeks various orders, including one quashing the decision to investigate the complaint. It also seeks various declarations including that the Ombudsman lacks jurisdiction to investigate the complaint.

It further seeks a declaration that the Ombudsman has acted contrary to law by failing to discontinue the investigation of a complex complaint where the courts are a more appropriate forum.

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Aodhan O Faolain

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