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Inner House overturns insurance ruling

30 March 2006

Scotland's appeal court overturned a 14-year-old rule today to allow people to claim damages for distress and inconvenience in actions against insurance companies within five years instead of three.

Govan Law Centre’s case of Mack v Glasgow City Council concerned a tenant who had lived in unpleasant and damp conditions while the city's social housing was the responsibility of the council.

Insurance companies had previously relied on the 1992 case of Fleming v Strathclyde Regional Council to reject claims for distress and inconvenience. Fleming decided that such claims were treated as "personal injuries", and only recoverable if brought within three years.

The Inner House of the Court of Session overturned Fleming today, confirming that such claims can now be pursued for up to five years.

Delivering the court’s opinion in Mack, Lord Macfadyen said: “In our opinion Fleming was wrongly decided… We conclude that the claim is not properly to be regarded as a claim for personal injuries."

Implications

The Mack decision has implications not only for the insurance industry, but also for Glasgow City Council and social landlords across Scotland.

If the council had won, it would have meant that no tenant in Glasgow could have sued the council for having to live in poor housing conditions because the council transferred all of its stock to the Glasgow Housing Association on 7 March 2003.

Under the decision in Mack, the council will be liable for claims for inconvenience and distress of former tenants brought by 6 March 2008. Likewise, all former landlords will be subject to a five-year claim period after stock transfer, now and in the future.

Govan Law Centre’s principal solicitor, Mike Dailly, said: “Govan Law Centre believes that the case of Mack is potentially good news for thousands of citizens across Scotland."

The judgment of the court is available in full at http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2006CSIH18.html .