Lawyers acting for Glasgow City Council’s insurers have started legal action to force First Bus to share liability for compensation payouts to bereaved families of the George Square bin lorry crash.

The council accepted liability following the crash in 2014 that killed six people as the lorry, driven by Harry Clarke, careered along Queen Street and George Square before crashing into Queen Street Station at the Millennium Hotel.

While not contesting its liability to those bereaved in the crash, the council’s insurers want First Glasgow, Harry Clarke’s previous employer, to share a degree of responsibility.

He was employed as a driver with First Bus for just over two years before taking a mini-bus driving job with Glasgow City Council.

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He was later promoted to a job as an HGV driver with the council.

It was found he had “deliberately concealed” medical information from the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and provided false information on a medical assessment form with the council both when he applied for the first job and when he applied for the promoted post.

It is argued that had the bus firm supplied an accurate reference retailing the driver’s medical history the council would not have employed Clarke as a bin lorry driver.

The legal action is listed at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, between Glasgow City Council and First Glasgow (no. 1).

First Glasgow said it would “vigorously” defend the action.

The lorry crashed three days before Christmas as the streets and George Square were busy with shoppers.

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Jacqueline Morton, 51 and Stephenie Tait, 29, from Glasgow; Erin McQuade, 18, and her grandparents Jack Sweeney, 68, and Lorraine Sweeney, 69, from Dumbarton; and Gillian Ewing, 52, from Edinburgh, died.

A Fatal Accident Inquiry following the crash found Clarke lost consciousness while at the wheel of the lorry.

Last year, Ms Ewing’s daughter Robyn, 28, and six other members of the family, agreed a £800,000 compensation settlement with Glasgow City Council. Others are understood to be still subject to ongoing discussions.

The council’s insurers, however, have begun the legal process of seeking First Bus to make a contribution to the damages paid out over the last four years.

In his Fatal Accident Inquiry judgment, Sheriff John Beckett said there were eight “reasonable precautions” that could have been taken to avoid the crash.

Five involved Clarke himself, including failing to tell the DVLA about blacking out at the wheel of a bus in 2010 and not telling the whole truth to doctors about his medical condition.

He also said another reasonable precaution was First Bus providing Glasgow City Council with a full employment reference.

If First had supplied an accurate reference the council would not have employed him

The council accepted it was liable for damages because the council employed Clarke, from Baillieston, at the time of the tragedy.

The council insurers wants First to accept a share of financial liability for the compensation payments, which could run into millions of pounds.

An insurance industry source said: “This is unusual in the sense that tragedies like this are also unusual.

“If one party believes another party is partly responsible for the damage they can take legal action to recover costs.”

Andrew Jarvis, managing director for First Glasgow, said: “Mr Clarke was a driver for First Glasgow between October 2008 and December 2010. Our thoughts remain with those affected by the tragic events of December 22, 2014.

“We will vigorously defend our position and question the rationale of Glasgow City Council’s decision to invest significant funds, which could be directed elsewhere, in unwarranted legal proceedings.”

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A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “This is a matter for our insurers and it would not be appropriate to comment further at this time. The council is not investing any funds in the action.”