Agreeing transatlantic compensation

Roger Pearson looks ahead

A case is in the pipe-line which promises to turn into a fascinating transatlantic dispute over inter-activity between our High Court and the US courts.

It centres on an award of $2.9 million compensation to widow Julie Hardy in respect of the death of her husband, Stephen, on 15 August 1991 while he was working on a derrick barge in the South China Seas.

Hardy agreed to accept the money from McDermott International Incorporated on behalf of herself and her three children by her husband.

Under the settlement, $750,000 was to be paid to Mrs Hardy and the rest was to be distributed between her and the children, two girls and a boy. The money was to be distributed through the High Court here and the settlement, made under the laws of Louisiana and approved by US District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, imposed an obligation on Mrs Hardy to seek High Court approval of it.

However, High Court approval has not been sought so far and, as a result, New Orleans-based McDermott is planning to take Hardy to the High Court itself.

It claims Hardy, of Dunnington, York, who now challenges the validity of the settlement in the US courts, has breached the requirement to seek High Court approval.

She argues, however, that the High Court has no power or jurisdiction to approve the settlement because she is unable to issue the necessary summons and comply with the requirements of an English Court rule.

She says the reason for this is that there has been no settlement of claims on behalf of other dependents or potential dependents of her late husband, including his former wife and two children, his mother and father. It is also claimed that the agreement is unenforceable because it does not purport to settle any claim by the executor of her late husband's estate.

McDermott, on the other hand, will argue that the US settlement is valid and it will seek a declaration from the High Court that it has both power and jurisdiction to approve it.

No date has yet been fixed for the hearing of the case.