This judgment dealt with a disputed indemnity claimed by the insured in respect of the loss of its warehouse. The warehouse was lost as a result of seizure by the Taliban when US forces withdrew from Afghanistan in 2021. By reason of the seizure the insured lost possession and control of the warehouse.

The question was whether under the reinsurance wording losses directly or indirectly caused by “seizure” were excluded from cover.

The relevant exclusion read:

“2. Loss or damage directly or indirectly caused by seizure, confiscation, nationalisation, requisition, expropriation, detention, legal or illegal occupation of any property insured hereunder, embargo, condemnation, nor loss or damage to the Buildings and/or Contents by law, order, decree or regulation of any governing authority, nor for loss or damage arising from acts of contraband or illegal transportation or illegal trade.”

The insured argued that the words “by law, order, decree or regulation of any governing authority” had to be taken to qualify all the words preceding it, and that the Taliban was not a governing authority.

The court held that those words were not capable of qualifying all the wording which preceded it without doing violence to the natural language of the clause and the provision excluded cover. See the analysis in that regard at paragraphs 24 to 31 of the judgment.

A similar syntactical analysis in respect of the word “seizure” was adopted by the court in the Captain Stefanos [2012] EWHC 571 (Comm) judgment. The court said that it was well established that the word “seizure” covers all acts of taking forcible possession either by lawful authority or by overpowering force. As a matter of ordinary language, it was not limited to acts of a legitimate government or a sovereign power.