The claimant was a 24-year-old labourer. His arm was caught in a conveyor system at work, causing a very bad injury.
The company went into liquidation shortly after the accident. We later found out that they did not have employer’s liability insurance. The liquidators advised us that there was little prospect of any creditor being paid out.
We amended the pleadings to pursue claims against two of the directors, who shortly afterwards declared themselves bankrupt. In defence they said that sections 285, 246 and 347 of the Insolvency Act say no damages shall be sought against a bankrupt without leave of the court.
By this time, a trial had been listed but we applied to vacate the trial. The company, by then, had also been dissolved. We had to restore the company and then seek retrospective leave to commence proceedings against them.
At the trial, the Judge asked the directors if they had not taken out employer’s liability insurance so as to maximise their profits. They said they had asked their accountants to take out the insurance and the Judge was surprised the accountant had not been brought into proceedings.
The trial Judge commented the case was complex but that the claimant should have judgment on an 80/20 basis as the directors were liable as “hands on directors” who were aware of the unsafe system of work being carried out by the claimant.
Middlesbrough County Court, 14 October and 11 November 2008