Logistical nightmare? British American Tobacco SA v Exel Europe Ltd [2015] UKSC 65

Yesterday the Supreme Court handed down its judgment in an important case for those involved in international road haulage where successive carriers are involved.  The case is also of general importance for its discussion of the relationship between international treaties and EU law.  In that part of its judgment (discussed at the end of this post), the Supreme Court held that Regulation 44/2001 (the Brussels I Regulation) did not, in this case, have the effect of a trump card able to override the CMR’s jurisdiction provisions.

In summary, it was held that where the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road 1956 (CMR) applies (as it does in England pursuant to the Carriage of Goods by Road Act 1965), the jurisdiction provisions in CMR article 31 provide a complete jurisdictional code.  As a result, although the first carrier could be sued in England (by reason of its English domicile and/or an exclusive jurisdiction clause), this was not sufficient to found jurisdiction against subsequent, non-English, carriers.  Although the “commercial logic” of the CMR’s provisions might point to a single jurisdiction, “the language of the CMR points clearly in the other direction” (Lord Sumption at [60]).

The result is particularly unattractive for consignees shipping goods subject to high tax or duty. Continue reading