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UPDATE 1-S.African court dismisses insurer Guardrisk's appeal in COVID-19 claims case

(Adds Guardrisk comment)

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 17 (Reuters) - A South African court on Thursday dismissed insurer Guardrisk’s appeal against a previous ruling that found it was liable pay a Cape Town cafe’s rejected coronavirus claim.

Like other insurers in South Africa and around the world, Guardrisk, the fourth largest non-life insurer in the country, has been battling with clients over its rejection of claims related to the impact of the pandemic on their businesses.

In South Africa, insurers argue that national lockdowns to stem the virus’ spread, forcing firms across many industries to shutter for weeks at a time, were not covered under their business interruption policies.

Guardrisk appealed a court decision from earlier this year that said it was liable to pay the claim of one of its clients, Cafe Chameleon, but this was dismissed by South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal on Thursday.

“The central question in this appeal was whether the government’s imposition of a lockdown ... was covered by the infectious diseases clause,” the written judgment read.

“The question was answered in favour of Cafe Chameleon, as was the question whether the outbreak of COVID-19 in Cape Town was the cause of its business interruption,” it continued, dismissing the appeal and ordering Guardrisk to pay costs.

Guardrisk said its legal team was studying the judgment and it would comment further once the team had made its analysis.

The case, one of many underway both locally and around the world, was being closely watched in South Africa.

While it is not seen as having as broad implications as a similar case between the country’s largest non-life insurer, Santam, and its clients, the ruling adds to a growing body of local and international legal opinion against insurers’ arguments. (Reporting by Emma Rumney. Additional reporting by Wendell Roelf. Editing by Mark Potter)

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