Michael Flatley in new legal battle with insurance firm over cover for his Cork mansion

Michael Flatley in new legal battle with insurance firm over cover for his Cork mansion

Michael Flatley, the renowned “Lord of the Dance” star, is embroiled in a legal dispute with his former insurance company over coverage for his Cork mansion, Castlehyde House. The conflict centers on Hiscox Societe Anonyme’s attempt to shift his consumer household policy to a commercial one, thereby invoking the Arbitration Act to settle the matter out of court.

In an affidavit presented to the High Court, Flatley argued that Hiscox, which insured his Fermoy estate until earlier this year, is trying to reclassify his policy to avoid court proceedings. Hiscox has requested the High Court to stay the ongoing Commercial Court proceedings, where Flatley is suing multiple parties for alleged damage to his mansion, pending arbitration.

Flatley’s counsel, Ronnie Hudson BL, instructed by Maxwell Mooney solicitor, emphasized that despite Flatley’s global fame and success, he remains a consumer in his dealings with the insurance company. After hearing arguments from both sides, Mr. Justice Michael Tuomey reserved his decision.

The main Commercial Court case involves Flatley’s claim that he and his family had to leave Castlehyde in October 2023 due to toxic chemical residue discovered during routine maintenance. Flatley is suing several parties, including Hiscox, for an alleged €30 million in damages to the property.

In his affidavit, Flatley stated that he had been purchasing 12-month insurance policies from Hiscox since 2019, and at no point was an arbitration clause specifically negotiated or highlighted. He contended that the arbitration clause, buried in the small print, is an unfair term and that he never agreed to waive his right to seek legal recourse through the Irish courts.

Flatley further argued that Hiscox is attempting to reframe his consumer policy as a commercial one to leverage the Arbitration Act, thereby wasting valuable court time and incurring high costs. He pointed out that despite his international career, he purchased consumer insurance policies for his home at Castlehyde as a consumer, not a commercial entity.

Hiscox’s counsel, James Burke BL, countered that the insurance company seeks a stay on the Commercial Court proceedings and wants the case referred to arbitration.

In a related development, Flatley has claimed that Hiscox plans to cancel the insurance policy for Castlehyde from March 8th onwards. Represented by Ronnie Hudson BL and solicitor Max Mooney, Flatley secured permission from the court to seek an order restraining Hiscox from canceling the policy and an injunction to prevent the insurer from denying coverage until the determination of the proceedings or the policy’s duration.

Flatley stated that he has been insuring the property with Hiscox through a brokerage for several years, paying a premium of over €5,700 per month. He noted that the insurer was aware he had to vacate the property due to health concerns and that the policy was renewed last November for another 12 months.

However, earlier this month, Hiscox informed Flatley’s solicitor that it wished to cancel the policy, citing discrepancies in the property’s occupancy compared to the initial and renewal agreements. Flatley disputes this, arguing that Hiscox is trying to mitigate its loss and prejudice his action against it.

Flatley fears that finding an alternative insurer will be challenging if Hiscox cancels the policy, leaving Castlehyde unprotected. He has invested over €29 million in the property since acquiring it in 1999 and claims that the alleged unsafe levels of toxic chemical residue are due to PVC combustion from a 2016 fire at the estate.

Flatley is also suing three insurance underwriters—MS Amlin Underwriting Ltd, AXA XL Underwriting Agencies Ltd, and Hamilton Managing Agency Limited—alleging negligence, endangerment, misrepresentation, and breach of duty and contract. Hiscox was added to the case for allegedly failing to compensate him for having to vacate his home.

In a recent court ruling, Ms. Justice Eileen Roberts denied Flatley’s request for an injunction to prevent Hiscox from canceling the policy. The judge noted that Flatley had not demonstrated a legal obligation to maintain insurance for Castlehyde or that he could not manage the property without the current policy. She concluded that the balance of justice did not support granting the injunction, leaving Flatley to seek alternative insurance solutions or face a period without coverage.

Flatley expressed concerns that canceling the insurance policy could put Castlehyde, dating back to 1790, at risk. He emphasized that finding a new insurer would be difficult due to ongoing legal battles and the unique nature of the property.

The legal battle continues as Flatley seeks to protect his investment and ensure that Castlehyde remains insured amidst the ongoing disputes.

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