In his legal column, James Bessey (25 January, page 59) tells us “there was a first and second layer of insurers. The first paid out, but the second reserved its position”. If the court has established liability, on what grounds can an insurer refuse to pay?
I suspect that we have to peer into the murky world of the insurance industry to find answers. My understanding is that the prospective insured approaches a broker who advises on the appropriate insurance and finds an underwriter to provide a policy.
The broker is paid a commission by the underwriter, which he may not disclose to the insurer. The underwriter takes the proposal to the floor, where sit syndicates waiting for trade. Each takes a percentage of the total risk. It is the underwriter’s job to visit enough syndicates to reach 100%. Then the policy can be written. In the case Bessey describes, it seems clear that there were at least two syndicates (layers).
The effects of all this were vital to the players in this case. With whom did the claimant have a contract of insurance? Not his broker (who may have been negligent for not having advised his client adequately). The underwriter? Doubtful. Each syndicate? We may be getting warmer. So, must an aggrieved client pursue the possibly many syndicates for his money if they resist paying?
I might have got many of my assumptions wrong, so perhaps an insurance expert would put me right.
Malcolm Taylor, Lancaster