Considered in Grand Committee
My Lords, the Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Act 2010 (Consequential Amendment of Companies Act 2006) Regulations 2018 will make amendments to the Companies Act 2006. The amendments are consequential to the changes in the law introduced by the Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Act 2010. They are necessary because of the effect of the interaction of the Third Parties (Rights Against Insurers) Act 2010, the Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Regulations 2016, and the Companies Act 2006 on the ability of insurers to exercise their rights of recourse against other parties liable for the same loss.
I will make clear that the draft regulations are concerned only with the ability of one insurer to obtain money from someone else, typically another insurer, where the first insurer has already paid out an award of damages. They do not affect the rights of personal injury claimants.
The Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Act 2010 simplified and modernised the previous law and procedure by which victims could obtain compensation for wrongs done to them by insolvent wrongdoers. Most importantly, the 2010 Act allowed claimants to take legal proceedings directly against the insurer of the insolvent wrongdoer, rather than having to establish the wrongdoer’s liability in separate legal proceedings.
Wrongdoers which are dissolved companies were brought within the scope of the 2010 Act by the addition in the Third Parties (Rights against Insurers) Regulations 2016 of new Section 6A. This also meant that claimants no longer had to spend time and money restoring the company to the register of companies simply for the purpose of suing it, establishing its liability and thereby gaining access to its insurer.
The creation of this direct remedy against the insurer affects the insurer’s rights of subrogation in respect of their ability to recover payments of contribution from other wrongdoers and their insurers potentially liable for the same loss. Subrogation is a common law concept allowing a person who pays out a claim to “stand in the shoes” of the payee as regards other rights of action the payee had in relation to the claim. An insurer who pays damages to the claimant is therefore subrogated to the rights of the insured in relation to the claim.
Importantly in this context, as a result of the 2010 Act claimants no longer have to restore companies to the register. As a result, the current six-year time limit imposed on the restoration of dissolved companies, other than in relation to personal injury claims, will bite on insurers who are directly sued under the 2010 Act. This is because a claim for subrogation is not a personal injury claim.
The effect is particularly acute in personal injury claims for exposure to asbestos, where Section 3 of the Compensation Act 2006 makes any defendant liable for the whole of the loss to the claimant, irrespective of whether others might also have caused the injury and might also have an obligation of contribution.
Damages in these and other personal injury cases are usually paid by the defendant’s insurer. As a result of the payment the insurer is subrogated to the rights of the defendant against other parties liable for the same loss. However, a right to subrogation can be exercised only if the company to be sued exists. A dissolved company clearly does not, and a company that has been dissolved for more than six years cannot currently be restored to existence.
The changes to the law introduced by the 2010 Act, which removed the need for a claimant to restore a company, have therefore had the indirect consequence in personal injury cases that the insurer has to restore the dissolved company to be able to exercise rights of subrogation, but cannot do so if the six-year limit has been exceeded. A right to be subrogated to a claim for contribution against such a company has therefore been made inoperable, with the consequence that one insurer will have to bear the whole loss. This was not the intention of the 2010 Act.
The draft regulations cure this problem by allowing an application to restore a company under Section 1030(1) of the Companies Act 2006 outside the six-year time limit for the purpose of an insurer bringing proceedings against a third party, typically another insurer, in the name of that company in respect of that company’s liability for damages for personal injury. This change ensures that the same subrogation result is produced for direct claims against insurers under the new Section 6A of the 2010 Act as is already produced for indirect claims where the person who suffered the loss claims against the insured wrongdoer and the insurer pays for the loss. In other words, this solution restores insurers’ rights of subrogation without prejudicing any third party. We submit that it is a fair and sensible way to resolve the problem inadvertently caused by the 2016 regulations. I beg to move.
My Lords, try as I might, I can find absolutely nothing wrong with the regulations. I have tried very hard to do so and failed completely. It is perhaps worth noting that it is unfortunate that this problem arose in the first place; presumably the original drafting ought to have anticipated and dealt with it. However, it is being corrected, although somewhat belatedly. What are the consequences, if any, for cases that have already gone through the process? It is presumably too late to apply the present terms to cases that have already concluded. Will there be litigation to go back over cases that have already been determined?
I am obliged to the noble Lord for his efforts in trying to find some flaw in the regulations. I am relieved that he was not able to do so. I do not see how the problem of prior claims could arise, because we would be within the six-year time limit for restoring a company to the register with regard to past claims. I do not understand there to be an issue over that; a problem is not anticipated. As far as future claims are concerned, it is entirely proper that we should be able to accommodate these matters. In these circumstances, I commend the regulations to the Committee.