Lloyd's trials halted

The Commercial Court has adjourned the start date of trials for two Lloyd's Names action groups until next year.

The two actions, involving more than 2,000 Names seeking damages of more than “several hundred million pounds” were due to start soon.

The Wellington action, involving 1,250 Names seeking “tens of millions” in damages from members agents, due to start in November, has been put back to January 1996 following an application to Mr Justice Cresswell.

This will allow Names time to consider further announcements from the Lloyd's of London Corporation giving detail of the £2.8 billion settlement, expected early next year. The hope is that the settlement will be acceptable to Names who will then call off legal action.

DJ Freeman partner Dorothy Cory-Wright, acting for Wellington Names, says: “It's a sensible outcome. It's in everybody's interest to settle this litigation if possible.”

But there will be no let-up in lawyers' work, she says.

“Trial preparation will have to continue. We were already quite a long way down the road with it, and also the judge stressed repeatedly that we must be ready for trial.”

The Poland 105/108 Names, claiming £25 million damages from members agents, managing agents and auditors Ernst & Whinney, was due for a three-month trial in January 1996.

However, an application from Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst & Young) and its lawyers McKenna & Co for more time to prepare witness statements has delayed the trial until April 1996. A spokeswoman for the auditors says: “The timetable, with a September deadline for witness statements, didn't allow for sufficient time for the defence.”

Ernst & Whinney is a defendant in four Names' action groups: Wellington, Poland, Merrett and Secretan.

Poland 105/108 Names did not want the adjournment but decided not to contest it. James Crowley, secretary of the Poland Names Association, also instructing DJ Freeman says: “We were not so happy, partly because the Lloyd's settlement offer ought to be known by the time we would have been in court in January.”

He adds: “It's become apparent that there is slippage in the Lloyd's timetable by up to one or two months, although this has not been announced.”

The Pulbrook 90 action is a claim by 337 Names for several hundred million against members and managing agents, represented by Reynolds Porter Chamberlain and Cameron Markby Hewitt respectively.

Pulbrook 90 Names applied for an adjournment of its trial starting in April 1996, but has now adjourned the application until receiving judgment in an interlocutory matter from Mr Justice Gatehouse.