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Money Covid-19: first victory of a restaurant owner against an insurer

22:43  22 may  2020
22:43  22 may  2020 Source:   parismatch.com

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A Parisian restaurant owner had signed a contract which provided for the compensation of its operating losses in the event of administrative closure and therefore asked to benefit from it within the framework of the general closure of restaurants.

  Covid-19: première victoire d'un restaurateur face à un assureur © THOMAS COEX / AFP

A Parisian restaurant owner won a first victory against his insurer, Axa, who refused to compensate his losses related to the health crisis, but the company puts the scale of this decision into perspective while insurers and restaurateurs persist in deferring the invoice.

"It's a great moment for all the big and small bosses who suffer (...) We faced a multinational, and we won," said restaurateur Stéphane Manigold on Friday at the Bistrot next door Flaubert , one of its establishments. At the end of an emergency summary procedure, the Paris Commercial Court had ruled in favor of the restaurateur.

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Mr. Manigold considered that Axa was evading its obligations concerning the four establishments that it manages in Paris.

He had signed a contract which provided for the compensation of his operating losses in the event of administrative closure and therefore asked to benefit from it within the framework of the general closure of restaurants since mid-March in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

But the insurer refused. According to him, the contract concerns the isolated closure of a restaurant by the authorities, and not a general measure like that decided in the face of the pandemic.

Calling this position "explosive", Mr. Manigold had launched legal proceedings for the only Bistro next door to Flaubert, even if a similar contract is signed with Axa for the three other restaurants.

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The insurer was ordered to pay two and a half months of operating loss calculated on the gross margin of the restaurant, "or 70,000 euros," said Stéphane Manigold, stressing that Axa also had to pay 5,000 euros in compensation.

But the insurer "will appeal the decision, simply because it was taken in an emergency, without debate on the merits," announced AFP Eric Le Maire, director of communications for French branch of Axa. It noted that the interim decision was by nature only provisional.

Axa has, in any event, minimized the extent of this decision, ruling out any snowball effect on other restaurateurs, even in the event of a final defeat.

Unsuccessful negotiations

Generally, professionals sign contracts that only compensate for damage, not business interruption. At Axa, only 18,000 contracts provide for the repayment of these loans.

Even among the latter, "99% of contracts today have a clause which clearly excludes the pandemic," reports Le Maire.

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However, he explains that Axa automatically compensated a few hundred policyholders for whom the clauses were "badly drafted". But, for the insurer, Mr. Manigold is not one of them.

Unlike Axa, the restaurant industry hopes that the victorious restaurateur will serve as an example for his colleagues.

"This decision gives hope to all the restaurateurs in France who have the same contract, and who will go to see their insurer," Didier Chenet, president of the employers' group of hotel independents, told AFP. restoration (GNI), present alongside Mr. Manigold.

For weeks, hoteliers-restaurateurs and insurers have been in the middle of a deaf dialogue, the insurance sector opposing, with a few exceptions, an end of inadmissibility to requests to cover operating losses linked to the epidemic from Covid-19.

Because the hotel and catering industry would like a massive and general reimbursement of operating losses, even when the contracts do not provide for it.

According to the majority of insurers, the losses linked to the coronavirus are too heavy to be covered. Their federation, the FFA, assesses them at 60 billion euros.

If negotiations have been started between the FFA and the hotel and restaurant owners, the latter consider the results obtained to be clearly insufficient.

Friday, starred chefs like Gérald Passédat, Marc Veyrat, Michel Saran and Gilles Goujon still asked insurance companies to reimburse "the operating loss for all up to 15 to 25%", as well as "a guarantee fund + health catastrophe + ", in a letter sent to AFP.

Restaurants and cafetiers will know at the end of May if they can reopen from June 2 in departments classified as "green".

Some 55,000 establishments in the cafes, hotels, restaurants and nightclubs sector - out of 94,000 tourist businesses - have already applied for and obtained a loan guaranteed by the State, in addition to recourse to partial unemployment and the Solidarity Fund.

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