Important decision for anyone involved in coverage disputes or Brokers’ E&O claims

5 October 2018
By Michael Hayes

Dalamd Ltd v Butterworth Spengler Commercial Ltd [2018] EWHC 2558 (Comm)

Judgement by Mr Justice Butcher was handed down on 12th October.

One of the key messages (see paras 133-134 of the judgment) is that, where an insurer declines indemnity, there is a very significant distinction between (i) the situation where the policyholder challenges the insurer’s stance and goes on to reach a reasonable settlement with it; and (ii) the situation where the policyholder simply accepts the declinature and sues the broker for the uninsured loss.

In the first scenario, the policyholder can sue the broker for the difference between the amount of the settlement and what it would have recovered under policy, without having to establish in the action against the broker that the insurer’s coverage defence was necessarily a good one.

By contrast, in the second scenario (where the policyholder does not settle with the insurer before suing the broker), it will be required in the action against the broker to establish as a matter of fact or law that the insurer’s coverage defence was correct. Butcher J rejected the claimant’s submission that it could instead simply establish the “loss of a chance” to have claimed on the insurance policy.

So this is the message for any policyholder whose insurer has declined indemnity – only regard a professional negligence claim against the broker as your first and exclusive mode of redress in the clearest of cases, where there is no real doubt that the insurer’s stance is well founded. In any other situation, the policyholder will be well advised first to challenge the insurer’s stance with a view to reaching a reasonable settlement with it, and only then to contemplate a claim against the broker for the shortfall.

Here’s the full judgement:

Jonathan Corman is a partner at Fenchurch Law