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Federal Court sets second BI test case hearing dates

The Federal Court will next month start hearing the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) second test case on business interruption cover related to COVID-19, and has joined a separate QBE matter into the proceedings.

Justice Jayne Jagot yesterday fixed the matters for hearing from August 30 to September 8. A further case management hearing will be held beforehand on July 19.

A QBE case involving Educational World Travel and relating to Victorian property law and Quarantine Act wordings is also now set to be heard alongside the ICA action, which involves nine small business claims. Previously, the QBE matter was scheduled for a separate hearing later this month.

“We note that QBE’s business interruption test case has been added to the second industry test case legal proceedings and, along with the rest of the industry, we are looking forward to getting these issues resolved as expeditiously as possible,” a QBE spokeswoman told today.

The number of days set aside compares with a one-day hearing for the first test case, which centred on the single issue of whether a reference to the Quarantine Act in policies excluded cover for pandemics, given the legislation was replaced by the Biosecurity Act. The courts ruled in favour of insureds.

“In contrast to the first test case, the second test case concerns multiple issues as to the meaning of a range of policy wordings such as the definition, COVID outbreak proximity and the impact of government mandates,” an ICA spokeswoman said.

ICA says it has sought a comprehensive review of many outstanding issues in moving ahead with the broader second case. Insurers involved are Allianz Australia, Chubb, Guild Insurance, IAG and Swiss Re.

Chief Justice James Allsop confirmed at a hearing yesterday that it is intended the Full Court of the Federal Court will hear any appeal from the second case in November, the spokeswoman says.

That timetable would allow for final determinations to be made by December, ICA says.