Mr Massar took out legal expenses insurance managed by insurers DAS. Under Netherlands employment law, his employer applied to the Employee Insurance Agency, a public independent body, to terminate his employment contract on the ground of redundancy. Mr Massar employed an external lawyer to assist him at this stage against unjustified dismissal.

DAS said that seeking authorisations from the Agency did not amount to ‘recourse to a lawyer in order to defend, represent or serve the interests of the insured person in any enquiry or proceedings’ and that cover was not afforded to Mr Massar.

The court of justice of the European Union held that the term ‘enquiry’ includes the procedure at the end of which a public body authorises dismissal. The word ‘enquiry’ had to be read in opposition to the term ‘proceedings’ and not as limiting the meaning of ‘enquiry’. There was no distinction between the preparatory stage and the decision-making stage in an enquiry or proceedings. The law was there to protect the interests of insured persons and Mr Massar, who was affected by the initial decision and the decision taken at the administrative stage, was therefore entitled to cover.

(Massar v DAS Nederlandse Rechtsbijstand Verzekeringsmaatschappij NV)