In re Asbestos Insurance Coverage: HL 1985

A London insurance brokerage company had been ordered to produce documents pursuant to a letter of request issued by a Californian court in proceedings brought by manufacturers of asbestos against their insurers. The 1975 Act empowered the court to make orders for the production of documents for use as evidence in proceedings abroad pursuant to a request from a foreign court.
Held: The brokers appeal was allowed. The question as to what evidence would and what evidence would not be relevant to an issue in the foreign action is primarily a matter for the foreign court: ‘It would be quite inappropriate, even if it were possible for this House or any English court to determine in advance the matters relevant to the issues before the Californian courts on which each of these witnesses is in a position to give evidence’.
A witness however can simply reply that he does no know if that is the answer to the question. The jurisdiction ‘ is to be construed so as not to permit mere ‘fishing’ expeditions’ and the court would not sanction an order which required production of documents which ‘may or may not exist.’


Lord Fraser of Tullybelton


[1985] AC 331, [1985] 1 WLR 331, [1985] 1 All ER 716


Evidence (Proceedings in Other Jurisdictions) Act 1975 82


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedFirst American Corporation and others v Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan Al-Nahyan and Others CA 12-May-1998
Letters of Request had been received for the production of document to be used in litigation in the US. It was complained that they were drafted so widely as to amount to a fishing expedition.
Held: ‘an English court must look at the issue of . .
CitedCharman v Charman CA 20-Dec-2005
The court considered orders to third parties abroad to produce docments for use in ancillary relief proceedings. The husband had built up considerable assets within an offshore discretionary trust. The court was asked whether these were family . .
CitedTajik Aluminium Plant (Tadaz) v Hydro Aluminium As and others CA 24-Oct-2005
Application for leave to appeal against refusal to grant witness orders to attend arbitration. The respondent had argued that the request was too vague and broad.
Held: Moore-Bick LJ said: ‘In order to answer the question raised in this case I . .
CitedFinancial Services Authority (FSA) and Others v AMRO International Sa and Another CA 24-Feb-2010
The FSA appealed against an order refusing its request for inquiries and production of accounting records by the defendant accountants to satisfy a request issued by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
Held: The FSA had properly . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice

Updated: 29 April 2022; Ref: scu.188699