London & Lancs. Insur. Company v Bolands Ltd

CourtHouse of Lords (Ireland)
Judgment Date01 May 1924
Date01 May 1924

[House of Lords.]

H. L.

London & Lancs. Insur. Co. v. Bolands, Ltd.
BOLANDS, Limited, Respondents (1)

Insurance policy - Loss by burglary, housebreaking, and theft - Exceptions -

Riot - Theft committed in circumstances amounting to riot.

A policy of insurance effected by the respondents with the appellants against loss by burglary, housebreaking, and theft provided that "this insurance does not cover loss directly or indirectly caused by, happening through, or in consequence of (inter alia) riots." A loss having been incurred by the respondents by a theft, the circumstances of which amounted to riot, the parties went to arbitration as to their rights under the policy. The arbitrators found that the loss was caused by or happened through or in consequence of a riot within the meaning of the policy, and that the claimants were not entitled to recover. In a special case stated for the opinion of the King's Bench Division the arbitrators set out the circumstances in which the loss occurred, and submitted for the opinion of the Court the question whether on the facts they were entitled so to find. The King's Bench Division answered this question in the negative, and this decision was affirmed successively by the High Court of Appeal in Southern Ireland and the High Court of Appeal for Ireland.

The House of Lords, reversing the High Court of Appeal for Ireland,held that, inasmuch as the circumstances in which the theft occurred themselves amounted to riot, the resulting loss was within the exception in the policy, and that the arbitrators were justified in their conclusion.

Viscount Finlay (2):—

My Lords, this is a case stated by the arbitrators for the opinion of the Courts, and it now comes before your Lordships by way of appeal; it relates to a policy "against loss by burglary, housebreaking, and theft of the cash" mentioned in the policy, being "£5,000 in cash in the cashier's office of the assured's bakery, known as 'The City of Dublin Bakery'"; and then follows a proviso: "Provided that this insurance does not cover loss directly or indirectly caused by, happening through, or in consequence of (a) invasion, hostilities, acts of foreign enemy, riots, strikes, civil commotions, rebellions, insurrections, military or usurped power or martial law, or the burning of property by

order of any public authority; (b) incendiarism directly or indirectly connected with any of the circumstances or causes above mentioned in (a)."

My Lords, the circumstances in which this loss occurred are compendiously stated in the case, and will be found at p. 5 of the appendix. The arbitrators set out the terms of the policy in the case, and then, in paragraph 3, they state at some length the circumstances in which the loss occurred; they say that the watchman of the premises heard a knock at the side door; he opened it; "four men entered (none of them disguised), pushed in the watchman, and ordered him to go down the yard. Then they searched him, and one of them directed him to put up his hands, and kept him in that position until the robbers left. The others rushed into the office, shouted 'Hands up,' covering all who were present with revolvers," and then the names of the persons present were given, some half a dozen of them. "They asked" (that is, the men who had entered asked) "where the telephone was, and cut it. The cashier, seeing a hand presenting a revolver at him from outside his office window, had left the cash office enclosure, but at the door of the outer office was held up by one of the armed men, who ordered him to put up his hands and stand further up the room." Then the money was taken away by one of the men, including certain money which was being counted up. "One of the armed men came to where the cashier had been directed to stand, and asked him to point out the safe, saying, 'have the contents of this (revolver) or give me the keys of the safe.' The cashier pointed out the safe, which was open. It had been locked before the late vanmen, already named, arrived, but had been opened to put away the cash received from them. Two of the robbers went to the safe and took what money they found there, but overlooked the larger bank notes and a quantity of Treasury notes. The robbery occupied about ten minutes, and the employees present were warned not to leave the premises for a quarter of an hour." The men were not disguised, and the cashier thinks he could identify two of them. Now, my Lords, the circumstances, as they are stated, seem to me to constitute what in the legal sense of the term would be a riot. Whether one looks at the acts that were done and threatened, or to the number of persons present, or the whole surroundings, one is forced to the same conclusion, that it would be perfectly impossible to say that all the essentials to the constitution of the offence of a riot at law did not exist. There was a riot beyond all question.

It is said that the exception in the policy for loss by riot does not apply to this case, because the riot was in truth the theft itself under another name. The theft was conducted by a number of...

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