Colin Wynter QC and Thomas Cordrey successful in High Court LEI test case

The High Court has given judgment in Webster Dixon & ors v Equity Syndicate & ors [2011] EWHC 2661, described by Burton J as a test case. The decision concerns the industry-wide practice of legal expenses insurers refusing to pay for non-panel solicitors unless they sign-up to the insurer’s low non-panel rates.

In the first case in which a law firm has challenged the stance taken by insurers, Colin Wynter QC and Thomas Cordrey, instructed by Michael Webster of Webster Dixon LLP, successfully argued for the Claimants that it was contrary to European and domestic law for an insurer to reject a policyholder’s choice of solicitor simply because that solicitor’s rates exceed those proposed by the insurer.

In a judgment which is likely to have widespread impact on the operation of before-the-event legal expenses insurance, Burton J also agreed with Mr Wynter’s submission that, where appropriate, a policyholder can exercise their choice more than once – they can switch lawyers. Once a non-panel solicitor has been appointed under a policy their costs will be assessed in the usual manner, against the touchstone of reasonableness, subject to a requirement that the assessor take into account the availability (if any) of solicitors willing to do the work at the insurer’s non-panel rates.

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