Accidents abroad, pre-Brexit: just sue the insurer here and join the policyholder? CJEU says no, unwinding English decision in Keefe

It’s been four years since conflict lawyers were left with the ‘Keefe question’ echoing in their ears. But now comes the time to launch those seashells back into the ocean because today, thank you to the CJEU’s ruling, we finally have an answer!

For those of you who are not familiar with the ‘Keefe question’ perhaps you were washed away by the incoming tide and missed the excitement. But here is a quick summary… The case of Keefe arose out of a claim brought by a Claimant domiciled in England. He suffered severe personal injuries while staying at a hotel in Spain.  A direct action was brought against the hotel’s liability insurer, with jurisdiction established under the special rules relating to insurance under Council Regulation (EC) 44/2001 (Brussels I, latterly amended to the Brussels I recast regulations).  However, it was later discovered that there was a limit of indemnity under the insurance policy which was significantly less than the estimated £5 million of damages claimed.  In order to recover any uninsured amount, the Claimant joined the hotel as a second defendant, citing art.11(3) (which is now art.13(3) in the recast regulations) in respect of jurisdiction.  The Court of Appeal held that the joinder was allowed and jurisdiction of the English court over the claim against the hotel was established.

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