Piper Alpha case gets ready for conclusion

After thirteen years and £20m in fees it reaches the Lords

The House of Lords is preparing to hear what is believed to be its longest ever case. Eight days have been set aside for the expected conclusion to the 13-year-old Piper Alpha legal drama, which centres on the millions paid out by insurers to 700 victims and relatives.
The contractors are appealing the demand for £8.5m to be paid to the owners and insurers of Piper Alpha.
The case is one of the longest pieces of litigation in British history and total legal fees amount to approximately £20m.
Scottish firm Paull & Williamsons' head of litigation Lesley Gray is acting for the owners of Piper Alpha, Caledonia North Sea, and insurance partner Douglas Russell of Edinburgh firm Simpson & Marwick is acting for the contractors. Both have been working on the litigation for 13 years.
Clyde & Co has also engaged a team for the insurers of Piper Alpha for the Lords hearing, led by partner David Reynolds.
Sir Sydney Kentridge QC of Brick Court Chambers and Scottish silk Colin MacAulay are representing Caledonia North Sea in the Lords, and silks Heriot Currie and Richard Keen, both Scottish, are acting for the contractors.
The Lords will hear the appeal by the seven contractors who are facing the £8.5m claim by Caledonia which was upheld by Scotland's Inner House of the Court of Session, equivalent to England's Court of Appeal.
The case went to the Court of Session after Caledonia, which was called Oxidental until it sold its rights in Scotland to Elf, won on some 50 points, but crucially lost on two points before the Lord Ordinary in Scotland. These points were overturned at the Court of Session. The two points will probably be examined again by the Lords when the case opens on 26 November.
The first point was that Caledonia's insurer, rather than Caledonia, should have brought the action, as it paid out the money originally to the victims and relatives. The second point was that Caledonia's inclusion in its claim against the contractors of payouts to victims in Texas was tantamount to consequential loss and should not have been included.