Non-disclosure clauses: when is a non-disclosure “deliberate or fraudulent”?

In Mutual Energy Ltd v Starr Underwriting Agents Ltd [2016] EWHC 590 (TCC), Mr Justice Coulson considered the proper construction of a clause which prevented insurers from avoiding the policy for non-disclosure unless that non-disclosure was "deliberate or fraudulent".  The Judge held that a non-disclosure would only be "deliberate or fraudulent" if the insured deliberately withheld information knowing that it was required to be disclosed.  Insurers were not entitled to avoid the policy where the insured withheld information in the honest but mistaken belief that the information did not need to be disclosed.

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A “blot on English insurance law”

Insurers successfully avoided a policy on the grounds of inadvertent non-disclosure. The High Court commented on the different outcome that would have been available under the Insurance Act 2015 which comes in to force in August 2016, remarking that the stringent remedy of avoidance under the present law remains a "blot on English insurance law". 

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