In a judgment dated 4 August 2021, the Haifa District Court(1) declined a request for the certification of a class action filed against seven insurance companies. The request included a demand for reimbursement of a partial premium paid for business insurance, due to alleged reduced risk as a result of the national lockdowns and restrictions that were imposed during the covid-19 pandemic.
In April 2020, business owners who had purchased business insurance policies from seven insurance companies filed a request for certification of a class action lawsuit against insurers following the covid-19 pandemic. After the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, a number of restrictions were imposed upon Israel's residents, which led to the closure of numerous businesses. Other businesses reduced their workforce and faced a decrease in suppliers and customers. As a result, it was alleged that the level of risk to which insureds were exposed during the period of restrictions was substantially lower than normal.
Accordingly, insurers should have significantly reduced the amount of the premium that they collected from insureds. As the insurers in the CamaMia case continued to collect the full premium, the applicants demanded, among other things, that they be compensated for the difference in the premiums that they paid – an estimated 81.37 million new Israeli shekels (approximately $23.6 million).
The Court ruled that the legal arguments raised by the applicants based on the Insurance Contract Law had no grounds. According to clause 20 of that law, insureds who pay additional premiums due to aggravating circumstances can notify their insurer that such circumstances have ended, and this would entitle them to a reduction in the premium from the date of the notification.
Such an announcement cannot be made by the insureds retroactively, as the principle of insurance is that the pricing of risks is made in advance. The applicants were not able to prove that there were circumstances that aggravated the risk for which an additional premium was charged when the policy started. Further, the applicants had not notified the insurers that aggravating circumstances had ended, as required by clause 20 of the Insurance Contract Law.
The Court declined the applicants' contention that general knowledge of the restrictions and lockdowns by insurers was sufficient in this respect, as not all the businesses had been affected in the same way.
The Court further ruled that the expert opinion filed by the applicants was not sufficient to prove that there had been a reduction in risk within the coverage of employers' liability and third-party liability in business policies, and that it was based on irrelevant facts.
The Court concluded that the applicants had no cause of action and the request to certify their claim as a class action was declined. In addition, the Court ruled that the claim was not suitable to litigate as a class action given the significant difference between the operations of each business during the covid-19 pandemic, which required conducting individual inquiries.
The applicants did not appeal the judgment, which was final.
Similar requests to certify class actions were filed against insurance companies at the Tel Aviv District Court in respect of car and insurance policies. However, in view of the CamaMia judgment, the applicants in Rachel Segal(2)decided to withdraw the motions that they had filed against two insurance companies regarding car policies. They filed an agreed withdrawal motion, which was approved by the Tel Aviv District Court in a judgment dated 10 March 2022.
For further information on this topic please contact Tammy Greenberg or Aviv Klepner at Levitan, Sharon & Co by telephone (+972 3 688 6768) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Levitan, Sharon & Co website may be accessed at www.levitansharon.co.il.
(1) Class Action 25472-04-20, CamaMia Textile Ltd and others v Migdal Insurance Company Ltd and others.
(2) Class Action 35104-04-20, Rachel Segal and others v Bituach Haklai and others.