Zurich Insurance Plc UK Branch v International Energy Group Ltd: SC 20 May 2015

A claim had been made for mesothelioma following exposure to asbestos, but the claim arose in Guernsey. Acknowledging the acute difficultis particular to the evidence in such cases, the House of Lords, in Fairchild. had introduced the Special Rule at common law as to such evidence. In the UK, the 2006 Act had amended the Rule, bu that Act did not apply in Gurnsey, and the Court was now asked to consider where stood the position at common law. The claim had been settled, and liability apportioned between the insurers who had covered the various years over which the claimant had worked, at first instance, but the Court of Appeal had overturned that claim. The sepcial rule amounted to a) ‘ a person contracting mesothelioma, after being exposed to significant quantities of asbestos dust originating from different sources over the same or different periods, can sue any person who was (negligently or in breach of duty) responsible for any such source of exposure, although unable to show which exposure in probability actually led or contributed to the disease’ and b) ‘ This rule applies even if the only potential sources consist in the ambient environmental exposure which the population generally experiences and some other negligently created source which only increases this ambient exposure by a small percentage’.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The position at common law stood as it had been stated in the Barker case, notwithstanding the ‘Trigger’ line of cases, proporionate recovery still applied.
Lord Mance said: ‘so long as the insured has insured itself for the whole period for which it exposes the victim, the insurer can ask for no more, and must, as Trigger decides, bear the whole of any liability which the insured incurs. The palliative in this latter situation is of course that an employer/insured will have a right to contribution under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978 against any other person who was, negligently or in breach of duty, responsible for exposing the victim to asbestos, and its insurer will, after meeting the insurance claim, be subrogated to this right to contribution against the other responsible source of exposure.’


Lord Neuberger, President, Lord Mance, Lord Clarke, Lord Sumption, Lord Reed, Lord Carnwath, Lord Hodge


[2015] UKSC 33, [2015] Lloyd’s Rep IR 598, [2015] WLR(D) 233, [2015] 2 WLR 1471, [2016] AC 509, UKSC 2013/0057


Bailii, Bailii Summary, WLRD, SC, SC Summary, SC Summary Video


Compensation Act 2006, Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978


England and Wales


CitedFairchild v Glenhaven Funeral Services Ltd and Others HL 20-Jun-2002
The claimants suffered mesothelioma after contact with asbestos while at work. Their employers pointed to several employments which might have given rise to the condition, saying it could not be clear which particular employment gave rise to the . .
CitedBarker v Corus (UK) Plc HL 3-May-2006
The claimants sought damages after contracting meselothemia working for the defendants. The defendants argued that the claimants had possibly contracted the disease at any one or more different places. The Fairchild case set up an exception to the . .
CitedSienkiewicz v Greif (UK) Ltd; Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council v Willmore SC 9-Mar-2011
The Court considered appeals where defendants challenged the factual basis of findings that they had contributed to the causes of the claimant’s Mesothelioma, and in particular to what extent a court can satisfactorily base conclusions of fact on . .
At First InstanceInternational Energy Group Ltd v Zurich Insurance Plc UK ComC 24-Jan-2012
The defendant insurance company was found liable to contribute under insurance it had written, 22% of the compensation it had paid out in a mesothelioma claim brought in Guernsey by a Mr le Carre. The company was successor to a company which had . .
CitedEmployers’ Liability Insurance ‘Trigger’ Litigation: BAI (Run Off) Ltd v Durham and Others SC 28-Mar-2012
The court considered the liability of insurers of companies now wound up for mesothelioma injuries suffered by former employees of those companies, and in particular whether the 1930 Act could be used to impose liability. The insurers now appealed . .
Appeal FromInternational Energy Group Ltd v Zurich Insurance Plc UK Branch CA 6-Feb-2013
. .
CitedPhillips (Widow and Executrix of the Estate of Arthur Phillips, Deceased) v Syndicate 992 Gunner and others QBD 14-May-2003
Mr Phillips had been employed by a single employer between 1955 and 1957 and then between 1959 and 1970, during which periods he was exposed to asbestos dust. Out of the 13 years of this exposure, the insurers were on risk for 9 years between 1959 . .
CitedGodin Et Al v London Assurance Company 9-Feb-1758
The defendant insurers contended that because there had been double insurance they ought only to have to pay half the loss, although neither insurer had as yet paid any sum. They appealed against an order that it pay the whole loss.
Held: The . .
CitedArneil v Paterson 1931
Viscount Dunedin spoke of a hypothetical case in which two dogs had worried a sheep to death: ‘Would we then have to hold that each dog had half killed the sheep?’
Viscount Hailsham said: The owner of one of the two dogs which had worried the . .
CitedBonnington Castings Ltd v Wardlaw HL 1-Mar-1956
The injury of which the employee complained came from two sources, a pneumatic hammer, in respect of which the employers were not in breach of the relevant Regulations; and swing grinders, in respect of which they were in breach.
Held: It had . .
CitedMcGhee v National Coal Board HL 1973
The claimant who was used to emptying pipe kilns at a brickworks was sent to empty brick kilns where the working conditions were much hotter and dustier. His employers failed, in breach of their duty, to provide him with washing facilities after his . .
CitedThompson v Smiths Shiprepairers (North Shields) Ltd QBD 1984
The test to be applied in determining the time at which an employer’s failure to provide protection constituted actionable negligence was what would have been done at any particular time by a reasonable and prudent employer who was properly but not . .
ApprovedNew Zealand Forest Products Limited v the New Zealand Insurance Company Limited PC 21-Jul-1997
(New Zealand) Proceedings had been instituted in five causes of action against a company and its director, whose costs were both covered by an insurance policy, and in the case of one of the causes of action against a third person not so covered. . .
CitedLord Napier and Ettrick and Another v Hunter and Others; Same v R F Kershaw Ltd HL 3-Mar-1993
Certain insureds sought recovery of a sum which was greater than the sum which had been paid to them by their insurers. The insureds had claimed first on the policies of insurance. Their claims had been met. The insureds then pursued an action in . .
CitedMunicipal Mutual Insurance Limited v Sea Insurance Company Limited and Others CA 26-Mar-1998
The unifying event in an aggregation clause in an insurance policy was expressed in very general terms: ‘all occurrences of a series consequent on or attributable to one source or original cause.’
Held: As long as one could find any act, event . .
CitedDeutsche Morgan Grenfell Group Plc v Inland Revenue and Another HL 25-Oct-2006
The tax payer had overpaid Advance Corporation Tax under an error of law. It sought repayment. The revenue contended that the claim was time barred.
Held: The claim was in restitution, and the limitation period began to run from the date when . .
CitedEagle Star Insurance Co Ltd v Provincial Insurance Plc PC 24-May-1993
Two insurance companies were liable to contribute equally to an amount payable to a third party. The doctrine of contribution could be modified by contract and the matter should be considered by reference to the parties’ contractual liabilities. . .
CitedAlbion Insurance Co Ltd v Government Insurance Office (NSW) 31-Oct-1969
(High Court of Australia) Insurance – Contribution between insurers – Identity of risk insured – Loss covered by two policies – General nature and purpose of policies different – Extent of rights and liabilities created under policies different – . .
CitedLegal and General Assurance Society Ltd v Drake Insurance Co Ltd CA 15-Jan-1991
An insurance company, having paid under the policy to a doubly insured party, sought contribution from the second insurer, who had not been notified of the claim by the insured. The claim for a contribution was one in equity, but since the company . .
CitedThe National Farmers Union Mutual Insurance Society Ltd v HSBC Insurance (UK) Ltd ComC 19-Apr-2010
Gavin Kealey QC DHCJ set out the concept of double insurance: ‘Double insurance arises where the same party is insured with two (or more) insurers in respect of the same interest on the same subject-matter against the same risks. If a loss by a . .
CitedPetrofina (UK) Ltd v Magnaload Ltd 1983
A finding of double insurance requires the same insured to be covered in respect of the same property against the same risks.
Lloyd J held that: ‘a head contractor ought to be able to insure the entire contract works in his own name and the . .
CitedHinz v Berry CA 1970
Then plaintiff saw her husband killed and her children injured by a runaway motor car. At trial she was awarded damages for nervous shock. The question was whether, having regard to the fact that she had suffered sorrow and grief it would not be to . .
CitedWimpey Construction UK Ltd v D V Poole 3-May-1984
The defendant offered a professional skill, but held itself out as offering such skills to a higher degree than normal. The plaintiff sought to hold it to the high standard proclaimed.
Held: The standard of care remained that of the ordinary . .
CitedWhite, Frost and others v Chief Constable of South Yorkshire and others HL 3-Dec-1998
No damages for Psychiatric Harm Alone
The House considered claims by police officers who had suffered psychiatric injury after tending the victims of the Hillsborough tragedy.
Held: The general rules restricting the recovery of damages for pure psychiatric harm applied to the . .
CitedAMP Workers Compensation v QBE 19-Sep-2001
Austlii (Supreme Court of New South Wales – Court of Appeal) FACTS
The appeal involved a question of double insurance. The employer held a compulsory third party policy with QBE Insurance Limited in respect . .
CitedBurke v LFOT Pty Ltd 18-Apr-2002
(High Court of Australia) Trade and commerce – Damages – Equitable contribution – Liability to pay damages under ss 75B, 82, 87 of Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) for breach of s 52 of the Act – Whether solicitor who gave negligent advice should . .
CitedRobinson v St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council CA 25-Jul-2002
The claimant sought an extension of the limitation period to allow him to pursue an action. He sought damages for negligence against his former school which had failed to diagnose and treat his dyslexia.
Held: His appeal was denied. The claim . .
CitedTame v New South Wales; Annetts v Australian Stations Pty Limited 5-Sep-2002
Austlii (High Court of Australia) Tame v New South Wales
Negligence – Duty of care – Psychiatric injury – Motor accident – Clerical error by police constable in recording driver’s blood alcohol content – . .
CitedZurich Australian Insurance Ltd v GIO General Ltd 10-Mar-2011
Austlii (Supreme Court of New South Wales – Court of Appeal) INSURANCE – Double insurance principle – two different insureds entitled to indemnity from two different insurers with respect to separate liabilities . .
CitedOsborn v The Parole Board SC 9-Oct-2013
Three prisoners raised questions as to the circumstances in which the Parole Board is required to hold an oral hearing before making an adverse decision. One of the appeals (Osborn) concerned a determinate sentence prisoner who was released on . .

Cited by:

CitedWillers v Joyce and Another (Re: Gubay (Deceased) No 1) SC 20-Jul-2016
Parties had been involved in an action for wrongful trading. This was not persisted with but the claimant sought damages saying that the action was only part of a campaign to do him harm. This appeal raised the question whether the tort of malicious . .
CitedNavigators Insurance Company Ltd and Others v Atlasnavios-Navegacao Lda SC 22-May-2018
The vessel had been taken by the authorities in Venezuela after drugs were found to have been attached to its hull by third parties. Six months later it was declared a constructive total loss. The ship owners now sought recovery of its value from . .
CitedTravelers Insurance Company Ltd v XYZ SC 30-Oct-2019
Challenge to the making of a non-party costs order under section 51 of the Senior Courts Act 1981 against the product liability insurer of one of the defendants in litigation being managed under a Group Litigation Order (‘GLO’). Many of the . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Personal Injury, Negligence

Updated: 04 May 2022; Ref: scu.546915