Stein v Blake: HL 18 May 1995

Where A and B each have claims against each other and A is insolvent, the common amount is set off, and the net difference remains as a debt due.
Hoffmann L said: ‘It is a matter of common occurrence for an individual to become insolvent while attempting to pursue a claim against someone else. In some cases, the bankruptcy will itself have been caused by the failure of the other party to meet his obligations. In many more cases, this will be the view of the bankrupt. It is not unusual in such circumstances for there to be a difference of opinion between the trustee and the bankrupt over whether a claim should be pursued. The trustee may have nothing in his hands with which to fund litigation. Even if he has, he must act in the interests of creditors generally and the creditors will often prefer to receive an immediate distribution rather than see the bankrupt’s assets ventured on the costs of litigation which may or may not yield a larger distribution at some future date. The bankrupt, with nothing more to lose, tends to take a more sanguine view of the prospects of success. In such a case the trustee may decide, as in this case, that the practical course in the interests of all concerned (apart from the defendant) is to assign the claim to the bankrupt and let him pursue it for himself, on terms that he accounts to the trustee for some proportion of the proceeds.
It is understandable that a defendant who does not share the bankrupt’s view of the merits of the claim may be disappointed to find that notwithstanding the bankruptcy, which he thought would result in a practical commercial decision by an independent trustee to discontinue the proceedings, the action is still being pursued by the bankrupt. His disappointment is increased if he finds that the bankrupt as plaintiff in his own name has the benefit of legal aid which would not have been available to the trustee. Similar considerations apply to an assignment of a right of action by the liquidator of an insolvent company to a shareholder or former director. In such a case there is the further point that the company as plaintiff can be required to give security for costs. The shareholder assignee as an individual cannot be required to give security even if (either because he does not qualify or the Legal Aid Board considers that the claim has no merits) he is not in receipt of legal aid’.
Lord Keith of Kinkel, Lord Ackner, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, Lord Nicholls of Birkenhead, Lord Hoffmann
Independent 19-May-1995, Times 19-May-1995, [1996] 1 AC 243, [1995] UKHL 11, [1995] 2 All ER 961, [1995] 2 WLR 710, [1995] 2 BCLC 94
Bailii
Insolvency Act 1986 323
England and Wales
Citing:
Appeal fromStein v Blake CA 13-May-1993
The plaintiff argued that: ‘Nothing in the wording of section 323 changes the nature of set-off as it operates between solvent parties; it merely widens the categories of claim capable of being, and which must be, set off.’
Held: The decision . .

Cited by:
AppliedCircuit Systems Ltd (In Liquidation) and Another v Zuken Redac (Uk) Ltd CA 5-Apr-1996
The assignment of a debt by a company in liquidation to a significant shareholder, in order to allow him to make an application for legal aid, and to avoid having to give security for costs and to allow the action to proceed was not unlawful, but . .
CitedMulkerrins v Pricewaterhouse Coopers HL 31-Jul-2003
The claimant sought damages from her former accountants for failing to protect her from bankruptcy. The receiver had unnecessarily caused great difficulties in making their claim that such an action vested in them. The defendants had subsequently, . .
CitedSecretary of State for Trade and Industry v Frid HL 13-May-2004
The company went into insolvent liquidation. The secretary of state was to make payments to employees and there were other state preferential creditors. At the same time a refund of VAT was due from the Commissioners of customs and Excise.
CitedFuller v Happy Shopper Markets Ltd and Another ChD 6-Mar-2001
A tenant complained to the landlord about his failure to repair. He ceased paying rent, and the landlord eventually distrained for rent by direct action.
Held: The tenant was unable to claim a legal set-off because there was no context of . .
See AlsoStein v Blake and others CA 13-Oct-1997
The defendants challenged leave to appeal given to the plaintiff against dismissal of his claim following the Prudential Assurance case.
Held: The issue was whether the plaintiff can recover the loss which he has allegedly sustained by reason . .
See AlsoStein v Blake and others CA 13-Oct-1997
The defendants challenged leave to appeal given to the plaintiff against dismissal of his claim following the Prudential Assurance case.
Held: The issue was whether the plaintiff can recover the loss which he has allegedly sustained by reason . .
See AlsoStein v Blake ChD 31-Oct-2000
When a Legal Aid certificate was withdrawn, leading to an opposing party suffering abortive costs in continuing the action, it was not a duty of the Legal Services Commission to inform the opposing side. They would have no access to arrangements . .
CitedIn re Kaupthing Singer and Friedlander Ltd SC 19-Oct-2011
The bank had been put into administrative receivership, and the court was now asked as to how distributions were to be made, and in particular as to the application of the equitable rule in Cherry v Boultbee in the rule against double proof as it . .
CitedLB Holdings Intermediate 2 Ltd, The Joint Administrators of v Lehman Brothers International (Europe), The Joint Administrators of and Others SC 17-May-2017
In the course of the insolvent administration of the bank, substantial additional sums were received. Parties appealed against some orders made on the application to court for directions as to what was to be done with the surplus.
Held: The . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 19 February 2021; Ref: scu.89537