Robert Charman v Charles Wallis & Sons (Sacks) Ltd and Otford Holdings Ltd
At the age of 16 Michael Charman start worked cleaning out sacks for Charles Wallis & Sons (Sacks) Limited in Sevenoaks. He worked there for 3 or 4 years. Some of the sacks had contained asbestos to which he was exposed. As a result he later developed mesothelioma. Sadly Mr Charman died from his disease on 20 March 1999. He had no wife or children of his own but had previously been a very fit and active individual. This was brought to an abrupt end by his mesothelioma.
At some point, Charles Wallis & Sons (Sacks) Limited became part of the Otford Group of companies. Otford Holdings Limited was subsequently dissolved on 17 March 1998, coincidentally about the time that Mr Charman first developed symptoms of his mesothelioma. Local solicitors were unable to sue the dissolved employers because they could not trace any insurance cover.
Mr Charman’s brother, Robert, pursued the claim after Michael's death. He instructed Andrew Morgan at Fieldfisher. Andrew pieced together the corporate history of the Otford Companies, establishing that “Charles Wallis” and the “Otford” companies shared the same address and telephone number at around the time that Mr Charman worked there, and using statements from people working at the factory in the 1960s to link the companies. Andrew pursued the claim and instructed insurance archaeologists to make enquiries. It emerged that Guardian Royal Exchange had been the insurers for the Otford group during the period relating to Mr Charman’s claim. Even so, AXA, who are now responsible for GRE policies, denied that they were the insurers for "Charles Wallis".
Andrew issued Court proceedings against the “Charles Wallis” and “Otford” companies. When the insurers refused to file any Defence, Andrew threatened to obtain a “default judgment” and then to enforce that judgment against AXA. Andrew would have been able to rely upon an insurance application document from the 1980s that the insurance archaeologists had uncovered, and a statement from a witness, who had joined the “Otford” company in 1966, who had first hand knowledge of the company’s insurance affairs and of the relationship between the “Charles Wallis” and “Otford” companies, as well as evidence of people who worked for the company in the 1960s and evidence in the form of trade and telephone directories.
Faced with this prospect the insurers offered to settle for £67,000 which Mr Charman was happy to accept.
The case was funded using a Conditional Fee Agreement.
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