Interest holders in a vessel insured a 50% interest with certain Lloyd’s Syndicates, and a 30% interest with Aigaion Insurance Company. The terms of the Aigaion policy contained a clause reading, “Agreed to follow London’s Catlin and Brit Syndicate in claims excluding ex-gratia payments” (the “Follow Clause”). When the Syndicates later settled a claim after the vessel was damaged, a dispute between the insureds and Aigaion arose over whether Aigaion was required to follow the settlement. Aigaion contended that it need not follow the settlement due to the following provision in the settlement agreement between the Syndicates and the insureds (the “Settlement Clause”): “The settlement and release pursuant to the terms of this Agreement is made by each Underwriter for their respective participations in the Policy only…and do not bind any other insurer providing hull and machinery cover in respect of the [vessel].” The insureds disagreed that this provision was enforceable by Aigaion, and argued that Aigaion was obligated to follow the Syndicates’ settlement under the Follow Clause.
The court interpreted the plain meaning of the Aigaion policy and ruled that the Follow Clause did indeed require Aigaion to follow any settlement made by the Syndicates. The court rejected Aigaion’s argument that the clause’s purpose was only to make the Syndicates Aigaion’s agent to negotiate settlement of disputed claims. The court also found that, although it interpreted the Settlement Clause as an attempt to exclude other parties from the settlement between the insureds and the Syndicates, Aigaion was not an intended third-party beneficiary of that agreement, Aigaion was bound under the Follow Clause, and Aigaion therefore could not rely on the Settlement Clause to avoid liability to the insureds. ,  EWHC 163 (U.K. High Court of Justice, Comm. Div. Feb. 4, 2014).