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Mammoth aircraft insurance case to begin today

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As many as 200 lawyers are involved in a mammoth Commercial Court action, opening on Tuesday, of a dispute over the alleged refusal of insurers to pay out €2.5 billion (€2.3 billion) dollar insurance claims over aircraft stranded in Russia.

Some senior counsel involved in the action, being heard in a special courtroom set up near the Four Courts complex, are believed to have secured brief fees of about €1 million.

Lessors are suing dozens of insurers around the world for billions of dollars after more than 400 planes were unable to leave Russia due to Western sanctions imposed in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine that forced the termination of their leases.

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Media reports have estimated that aircraft assets valued at up to $15 billion remain in Russian territory.

More than 60 per cent of the world’s leased aircraft are owned or managed in Ireland.

The world’s biggest aircraft lessor, Irish-based AerCap, is pursuing its insurance claims through London’s High Court but the world’s number two and three lessors, SMBC and Avolon, along with BOC Aviation, CDB Aviation, Nordic Aviation Capital and Carlyle Aviation Partners, are pursuing their claims in the Irish courts.

The case is due to get under way today before Ms Justice Eileen Roberts with opening arguments on behalf of the plaintiff companies and is expected to run for six months.

Because none of the existing courtrooms of the Commercial Court are large enough to accommodate the legal teams and others involved, a special courtroom was set up in the Phoenix House complex for the hearing.

The action involves six identical sets of proceedings over alleged refusals by various international insurers to indemnify the plaintiffs for the loss of planes.

The lessors allege the EU sanctions imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine forced them to terminate lease agreements in Russia and they cannot retrieve their aircraft.

The insurers deny the “all risks” or “war risks” policies are engaged or that payouts are due.

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