Ramco (UK) v. IIC of Hannover (CofA)
The Court of Appeal has confirmed, with some reluctance, that the insurance of goods "held by the Insured in trust for which the Insured is responsible" means that the insured bailee will only be able to claim on the policy if he is legally liable to the owners for their loss or damage. Whether he can claim the full value of the goods or only the amount of his liability was left open, although the Court of Appeal commented that the judge's decision that the insured could claim full value was not necessarily correct.
DMC Category Rating: Confirmed
This case note is based on an Article in the June 2004 Edition of the ‘Bulletin’, published by the Marine and Insurance teams at the international firm of lawyers, DLA. DLA is an International Contributor to this website.
The insurers did not dispute liability in respect of property owned by the insured. But some of the goods damaged or destroyed were bailed to them. Were insurers liable in respect of those goods and, if so, on what basis?
The material damage section of the policy covered property against loss and damage during the period of insurance. "Property" was defined to include stock and materials "the property of the Insured or held by the Insured in trust for which the Insured is responsible".
At first instance, the judge held that the phrase "for which the insured is responsible" meant that the insurance responded only if the bailee was liable in respect of the goods. If so, then the bailee could claim their full value. But if there was no legal liability, there could be no claim. The insured appealed.
This position has, however, been qualified by various standard phrases which have been recognised by the courts as having certain meanings. Where the policy states it covers goods held "in trust", this has been taken to mean that the policy covers the full value of the goods (Waters v Monarch Fire and Life Assurance Company (1856) 5 E&B 870). But if the policy covers goods "in trust for which [the insured] is responsible", the insurance only covers the bailee's liability in respect of the goods and not the goods themselves (The North British and Mercantile Insurance Co v Moffatt (1871) LR 7 CP 25). Responsible in this context mean legally responsible (Engel v Lancashire & General Assurance Co Limited  21 LLR 327.
If the issue had been purely a matter of language, the Court of Appeal acknowledged that it would be difficult to conclude that the goods would only be covered if legal liability were established. However, albeit with some reluctance, the Appeal judges unanimously concluded that it would not be right to overrule the authorities. This form of words had been in use for many years and it would be wrong for the court to interfere unless there was a real reason for supposing the wording was unsatisfactory in practice.
Assuming there was legal liability, what could the bailee claim? The judge at first instance found that the policy would respond as a property policy rather than a liability policy. Insurers would, therefore, have to pay the full value of the goods in the event of their destruction, rather than any lesser amount for which the bailee was liable.
This point was not appealed so could not be taken any further. The Court of Appeal did, however, comment that it was not "necessarily satisfied" that the judge's answer on the amount recoverable would stand.
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