Lloyd's members win High Court victory over agents

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LLOYD'S of London underwriting members facing hundreds of millions of pounds of losses yesterday gained a High Court victory, writes John Moore. A judge ruled that they could sue underwritng agents over their losses before they had paid out money from their own resources to meet their liabilities.

Litigation has been mounted by thousands of members of insurance syndicates once managed by the Gooda Walker and Feltrim underwriting agencies. They are suing more than 60 companies at Lloyd's.

The members' action had been challenged by hundreds of errors and omissions insurers, which had insured the companies that the members are suing against the financial consequences of litigation.

Lloyd's agents and their insurers had argued that losses must be paid by underwriting members before the members could sue, under Lloyd's 'pay now sue later' requirements.

The members argued that since many of them would have been unable to pay, this would have had the effect of denying them justice. In the High Court yesterday Mr Justice Saville upheld the members' rights to seek justice regardless of whether they have paid all the losses charged to them. The agents are expected to mount an appeal against the judgment.

The members regard the ruling as a great victory and believe it will cause many more members to join action groups fighting for financial restitution. Up to 17,000 Lloyd's members are involved in legal actions over the pounds 5bn of losses that have flooded into the market over the past three years.