June 10th, 2010

Continental European Legislative and Judicial Trends: Conclusion

Posted at 11:00 AM ET

2010_legislative_thumb-2David Lewin, Managing Director
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Continental Europe’s legal framework continues to change and develop. This is evident at both the “macro” and “micro” levels.

At the “macro” level, governments across Europe are increasingly looking to reduce states’ cost burdens for healthcare. This has resulted in more restrictive judgments on cases involving accidents at work. We see this currently in the changes to workers compensation legislation in Norway, as well as in the acceptance of recourse measures against the private insurance industry by state bodies, evidenced by the current successful appeal (which could nevertheless be reversed) of the Swedish National Road administration against the motor liability insurer Länsförsäkringar.

We see two trends emerging in new legislation. One is a movement towards a sharing of the claims burden with the private insurance industry. The other is a simplification of certain legal processes to enable individuals to pursue their civil legal rights more easily. This may, as in the example of Italy, result in the introduction of mass tort litigation but, in contrast to the United States, this is designed to minimize legal costs. Mass tort litigation also attempts to set sensible indemnity limits which are not influenced, for example, by the limit of insurance purchased by the defendant. The upholding of the “Trennungsprinzip” - the principle of maintaining a strict separation between the question of liability of the insured and the question of coverage - is underlined in the recent German Federal High Court ruling described in this report.

At the “micro” level we should not miss important legal changes that influence statutory legal liability coverage, such as those affecting “RC Decennale” in France, nor should we ignore individual judicial decisions which affect the legal liability position of certain industrial/ commercial and professional risk segments in individual territories. This is exemplified by the changing liability position of liquidators in the Netherlands and accountants in Spain.

Together with our legal colleagues from Heuking Kuehn’s network, we will continue
to watch individual cases as well as more general legal trends and developments across the region.

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