An attorney with “considerably more than ten years’ experience of insurance and reinsurance law” has been deemed unqualified to arbitrate a reinsurance dispute stemming from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. The arbitration agreement called for an arbitration tribunal consisting of “persons with not less than ten years’ experience of insurance or reinsurance.” The High Court of Justice, Business and Property Courts of England and Wales, determined that this language required appointment of an individual with more than ten years’ experience in the business of insurance or reinsurance, rather than the law of insurance or reinsurance.
The court’s determination was largely dictated by a 2000 decision in which the judge held that the parties to an arbitration agreement utilizing the same language intended a “trade arbitration” meaning “the tribunal was to consist of persons from the trade or business of insurance or reinsurance.” Although the court acknowledged the strength of the argument that the “ordinary and natural meaning” of “experience of insurance or reinsurance included experience acquired not only from working within the insurance and reinsurance industry but also from working with or on behalf of that industry,” the court nevertheless held that the previous decision was not so “obviously wrong” that the precedential decision (Company X v. Company Y date July 17, 2000), should be departed from.
The court relied in part on the fact that the 2000 decision was “mentioned in Butler & Merkin’s Reinsurance Law … at paragraph C-0729.” This was accepted as evidence that the decision was “fairly well known in the legal/reinsurance claims community.” Therefore, in light of “the importance of precedent,” if the parties had intended a different meaning than that adopted in the “fairly well known” prior case, they would have used different language. As such, the court ruled that legal insurance or reinsurance experience was not sufficient under the clause and the attorney could not be appointed as an arbitrator. ,  EWHC (Comm) 2753.