In a closely watched case, the Court of Appeal of England and Wales has given reinsurers a win with respect to reinsurance claims related to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. The decision bars insurers from engaging in “spiking.”
Under that practice, insurers were making a single reinsurance claim for the entire loss to an injured employee under a single reinsurance policy of their choosing rather than allocating the loss on a pro rata basis between the various policy years in which the employee was exposed to asbestos. Prohibiting “spiking” is a significant win for reinsurers.
The decision stemmed from a dispute between insurer Municipal Mutual Insurance Limited (MMI) and reinsurer Equitas Insurance Limited.
For decades, MMI has issued employers’ liability (EL) policies to insured entities on an annual basis. Many of the entities insured by MMI faced claims from their employees for mesothelioma and other diseases related to exposure to asbestos in the workplace. Because of unique developments in the law of the United Kingdom regarding asbestos litigation, employees who made such claims did not need to prove which employer caused the critical exposure or the year in which the critical exposure occurred. (Under the Fairchild jurisprudence, for the employee’s injury, all employers will have to take severe liability who were part of mesothelioma.
Pursuant to an act of Parliament that reversed a Barker decision, an employee can recover their entire damages from any employer during the years in question.) As a result, MMI did not need to, nor did it, identify which policy provided coverage for a particular claim when it paid claims. Nor did MMI apportion the claims among policy years.