Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly

English Insurance Law

Margaret Hemsworth *

51. Bedfordshire Police Authority v. Constable1

Construction—public liability insurance—police force and liability under Riot (Damages) Act 1886
The claimant police force (BPA) sought declaratory relief against a Lloyd’s syndicate which had provided public liability insurance covering BPA, its employees and the Chief Constable in respect of accidental injury and damage to third parties. BPA became liable to third parties following damage caused by inmates of a detention centre in BPA’s geographical area of responsibility. The insured’s liability was strict, founded on the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 (“the 1886 Act”), and not dependent on proof of negligence or other fault. The insurers contended that the cover did not operate in such circumstances but required proof of fault. The relevant parts of the policy provided that “the [insurer] will indemnify the assured in respect of all sums which the assured may become legally liable to pay as damages … for… (b) accidental damage to property … occurring within the geographical limits during the period of insurance arising out of the business”. “Business” was defined as “the usual activities of the assured as a police authority”.
The insurers raised no issue whether the damage was “accidental” but raised two issues that: (i) “legally liable to pay as damages” required actionable wrongs committed by the insured, typically but not exclusively tortious in nature; (ii) “arising out of the business” meant that, in order to be insured, the third-party damage had to arise out of the activities of the insured and not, as in this instance, out of the activities of rioters, although the compensation payable by the insured might be said to arise out of its activities. A subsidiary issue arose: whether payments of compensation under the 1886 Act by the insured did form a part of its business activities.
The insured succeeded at first instance.
Decision: The policy wording was apt to extend to the subject claims. Appeal dismissed.
Held: (1) Under the 1886 Act, the BPA had notional responsibility for damage caused by riotous and tumultuous assembly.2 This responsibility was a modernisation of the former historical responsibility of each hundred. The starting premise is that a public liability policy will give indemnity in respect of liability to the public at large. The process of construction commences with the language of the particular clause, but in the context



The rest of this document is only available to i-law.com online subscribers.

If you are already a subscriber, click Log In button.

Copyright © 2024 Maritime Insights & Intelligence Limited. Maritime Insights & Intelligence Limited is registered in England and Wales with company number 13831625 and address 5th Floor, 10 St Bride Street, London, EC4A 4AD, United Kingdom. Lloyd's List Intelligence is a trading name of Maritime Insights & Intelligence Limited.

Lloyd's is the registered trademark of the Society Incorporated by the Lloyd's Act 1871 by the name of Lloyd's.