Michael Flatley fights insurer’s bid to move court case to arbitration

Riverdance star is suing several parties over alleged damage to his mansion in Co Cork

Michael Flatley is battling an attempt by the former insurer of his Co Cork estate to have his multimillion court action against it over alleged damage to the property referred for out-of-court arbitration.

In an affidavit, the Lord of the Dance star said the company, which insured his Castlehyde estate in Fermoy until earlier this year, is trying to rewrite his consumer household policy into a commercial policy in order to rely on the Arbitration Act.

Hiscox Société Anonyme has applied to the High Court to have the proceedings against it before the Commercial Court -where Mr Flatley is suing several parties over alleged damage to the mansion - stayed pending arbitration.

Mr Flatley’s counsel, Ronnie Hudson BL, instructed by Maxwell Mooney solicitor, told the High Court his client has in his work filled stadiums all over the world but as a client of the insurance company was a consumer.

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After hearing submissions from both sides, Mr Justice Michael Twomey reserved his decision.

In the main Commercial Court proceedings, Mr Flatley claims he and his family had to vacate the period property in October after toxic chemical residue was detected during routine maintenance.

He has sued several parties including Hiscox before the commercial division of the High Court over €30 million of damage allegedly caused to Castlehyde.

In an affidavit to the High Court, Mr Flatley said he had been purchasing insurance policies from Hiscox, each with a 12-month duration, since 2019, and at no stage was an arbitration clause specifically negotiated or brought to his attention. He said the clause is contained in the small print and if it was specifically negotiated he would not have agreed to it.

“I say that at no point did I agree to waive any of my rights to seek legal recourse via the Irish courts and I say the arbitration clause is an unfair term,” he said.

In another affidavit before the court, Mr Flatley said that although he is an international choreographer and dancer in his work life, he was a consumer in his relationship with Hiscox.

“It appears to me that Hiscox is trying to rewrite my consumer policy into a commercial policy in order to rely on the Arbitration Act and is wasting valuable court time with this application and incurring High Court costs because it can afford to do so.”

He said that with Riverdance and as the creator of Lord of the Dance he has filled some of the largest venues worldwide.

“I say I filled Madison Square Garden in New York, Radio City Music Hall, London Palladium among many. I am also currently involved in further work for future dance productions including later this year. I say that despite the above I purchased consumer insurance policies form Hiscox SA for my home at Cattlehyde as a consumer,” he added.

The insurance company, he added, was trying to give the impression that because he was an international performer he was not to be treated as a consumer. He said he does not derive any commercial income from Castlehyde and his business is not that of letting out Castleyhyde.

Counsel for Hiscox, James Burke BL, told the court the court the insurance company wanted a stay on the proceedings against it by Mr Flatley in the Commercial Court and the case referred for arbitration.