Europe set for liability ruling

EUROPE could institute a community-wide ruling on limited liability if proposals before the Council of Bars and Law Societies of the European Union (CCBE) prove fruitful.

The details emerged at the International Bar Association's (IBA) 12th Biennial Conference on the section on business law in Paris last week.

Member states vary in their approach to capping the liability of practitioners, with responses ranging from the German Bar's liberal attitude on the matter to the French who virtually rule it out.

The French delegation, supported by the Netherlands, is expected to ask the CCBE presidency to commission a study on the topic to canvass attitudes before taking the matter further.

Dutch Bar president Tom de Waard, a member of the Netherlands delegation to the CCBE, said attitudes on the issue were “diverse” and EU legal systems and insurance markets should be studied before approaching Europe to legislate.

The Dutch Bar, with the permission of the country's Department of Justice, recently altered its rules to end the prohibition on capping. Lawyers are now free to incorporate individually or as a firm and limit liability above the 1 million guilders covered by insurance.

The country also lifted its ban against introducing limits through a reference to standard conduct presented to clients at the time a contract is agreed.

More than 3,300 delegates attended one of the biggest ever IBA conferences held since their inception 25 years ago.