Finance

Insurers must compensate corona damage HEMA entrepreneurs

More than 200 stores of the HEMA store chain are owned by independent entrepreneurs, so-called franchisees. Through their interest group VAB, they took out fire insurance with insurers AIG and NN (formerly Nationale Nederlanden).

Coverage

This policy also provided cover of 25,000 euros per shop for a number of other loss items, including ‘business loss due to contagious diseases (…) where the branch must be closed by order of a government agency (…)’.

After the entrepreneurs had to close their stores in December 2020 as a result of the corona measures, they claimed coverage through their interest group. But the insurers refused to pay out.

Insurers did not pay

A letter from Jeroen Vollers, who handles large claims settlement at AIG, shows that the insurer believed that ‘the infectious disease must have occurred at the insured location’ in order to be covered by the policy.

The interest group and four separate franchisees from Winterswijk, Wervershoof, Enkhuizen and Weert then initiated summary proceedings.

Illness does not cause damage

As it turns out, the Rotterdam preliminary relief judge ruled in favor of the department stores at the end of May. However, the insurers appealed against that decision.

One of the arguments they put forward is that the damage suffered by the shopkeepers was not caused ‘by an infectious disease, but by measures to prevent the spread of the corona virus’. According to the insurers, these measures are not covered.

Insurers have to pay

A decision of the Court of Appeal in The Hague, which became public yesterday, shows that the insurers have once again been unsuccessful. The court also ruled that the insurers must pay.

The ruling applies to all 231 members of the interest group of the HEMA franchisers. This means that the total claim payment will amount to almost 5.8 million euros.

For the vast majority of entrepreneurs, the damage is higher than the insured amount, which means that they are entitled to full coverage. For a handful of entrepreneurs it has been calculated that the damage is slightly lower.

Also pay in the event of a setback

Lawyer Jos van de Meché of the HEMA franchisees says that his clients are ‘very satisfied’ with the judgment.

“It is also a very logical and clear statement. What the insurers say is not in the policy, so two legal authorities also agree. The core of the matter is that if you insure something, you also have to pay it. Even if which is disappointing afterwards.”

Adjustment policies

The lawyer says he expects that coverage of such damage will be much more difficult to insure in the future.

“I can imagine that the cost of claims as a result of the corona measures was disappointing, because it was difficult to imagine. Now many policies will probably be rewritten. You also saw that after the attacks of 9-11.”

Lawyer Olaf Zwijnenberg, who acted for AIG and NN during the case, was unable to provide an explanation this morning because he first wanted to consult with the insurers. AIG claims handler Jeroen Vollers has not yet responded to requests for comment.

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