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Legal Expenses Insurers Cannot Restrict Choice Of Legal Representative

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the case of Sneller v DAS Nederlandse Rechtsbijstand Verzekeringsmaatschappij NV, Case C-442/12; reported at [2013] WLR (D) 426, has decided that a legal expenses insurers were not entitled to restrict the insured’s choice of legal representative. In summary, the Claimant held legal expenses insurance with DAS. The insurance contract stated that the insured had the freedom to choose their own lawyer if DAS decided that the case should be dealt with by external lawyers (rather than its own staff). The Claimant wished to bring a claim for unfair dismissal and to instruct his own lawyer, but DAS preferred to keep the case in house. The CJEU considered Article 4(1) of Directive 87/344/EC on legal expense insurance, which recognises an insured person’s freedom of choice in instructing a lawyer. The CJEU held that the requirement that the insurer must decide if lawyers are to be instructed was too restrictive. The Claimant’s freedom of choice as to their representative should not be dependent upon the insurer’s view on whether it is necessary to instruct lawyers. However, the insured should be aware that the insurers might not necessarily have to meet the costs in full of who the insured decides to instruct.

For further information on this case or any related matters please contact Charles Avens of Druces LLP’sEmployment Group.

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