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Milton Furniture Ltd V Brit Insurance Ltd

7th Jul 2015

The Court of Appeal had heard and dismissed the appeal from the judgment of Jay J on this insurance claim in relation to a fire at a warehouse. The Court of Appeal concluded that there had been a breach of a condition precedent to liability which related to the use and maintenance of the protections at the premises, including the Burglar Alarm. The case is of interest for a number of reasons. First, the Court of Appeal gave guidance as to the proper approach to construction when there are two contractual provisions which cover similar ground. The task of the court is to give effect to each, save insofar as they are actually inconsistent. Secondly, that a condition precedent providing that an alarm should be set “out of business hours” should be read as requiring it to be set in such parts of the premises where this was practicable. Thirdly, that the warehouse in this case was “left unattended”, notwithstanding the fact that two people were asleep in areas distinct from although attached to the main warehouse. Fourthly, that the requirement that protections should not be “withdrawn”, was a strict undertaking, and did not require the knowledge of the insured that there had been withdrawal for there to be a breach.

Christopher Butcher QC appeared for the successful Respondents. To view the judgment, please click here.