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Vanilla Lounge moves forward with BI court action

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The Vanilla Lounge restaurant business is pressing ahead with its Federal Court action over a pandemic-related business interruption claim after a key question in the dispute was separately decided in December.

The Melbourne-based business filed submissions to the court last Tuesday, following a timeline set down by Chief Justice James Allsop. Insurer Vero is asked to provide its response by April 20.

The Full Court last year ruled in favour of the restaurant on a specific clause question put as part of the wider case, but both sides took positives out of the finding.

Suncorp said after the judgment that while the court had rejected one interpretation put, it had also rejected the insured’s narrow interpretation and accepted the argument that the exclusion applied broadly for losses connected with COVID-19.

Justice Allsop said earlier this month that a document to be filed by lawyers for the restaurant should “grapple with the issues raised by the reasons of the Full Court”.

“For this document to be helpful, the applicant needs to engage openly, carefully and intellectually with the operation of the policy to explain how it says it is entitled to indemnity,” he said.

Rockment, which owns the Vanilla Lounge in suburban Oakley, lodged a claim after Victorian lockdown orders disrupted its business. Vero in May declined payment, citing exclusion wordings for emergencies declared under the Federal Biosecurity Act.

The cafe’s legal action requires the insurer to show a causal connection between the federal emergency declaration and the state orders affecting Rockment’s premises.

The Governor-General’s declaration of a human biosecurity emergency for COVID-19 under the Biosecurity Act took effect on March 18. Victoria declared a State of Emergency on March 16.

A Suncorp spokesman told that the company does not comment on matters before the courts.