The power of domicile

This post looks at two cases which show the  importance of the Brussels I Regulation’s primary rule of jurisdiction – that defendants should be sued in the jurisdiction of their domicile.  Those cases are Aspen Underwriting v Kairos Shipping [2017] EWHC 1904 (Comm), Bestolov v Povarenkin [2017] EWHC 1968 (Comm).  It is the fifth of our “new term catch up series”.

Aspen Underwriting achieves a potentially unsatisfactory result with some claims being tried in England and others capable of resolution only in the Netherlands (the place of domicile).  On the other hand, in Bestolov v Povarenkin, jurisdiction was established on the basis of domicile under the Brussels Regulation when it would not have been asserted at common law. Continue reading

Merits of claim against anchor defendant matter (probably)

This second post in our “new term catch up series” looks at Sabbagh v Khoury [2017] EWCA Civ 1120, an important case about using an anchor defendant under the Brussels Regulation regime.

The use of anchor defendants in English proceedings is very common. Establishing a claim against an anchor defendant allows co-defendants to be sued in England when jurisdiction could not otherwise be established over them.  In Sabbagh v Khoury, the Court of Appeal considered whether, when the Brussels Regulation (or the Lugano Convention) applied, the claim against the anchor defendant had to be meritorious or whether even a hopeless claim against the anchor defendant would be enough to found jurisdiction.

Interestingly, but unhelpfully for litigants, the Court of Appeal judges disagreed with one another.  Patten and Beatson LJJ held that the claim against the anchor defendant must have a real prospect of success.  Gloster LJ considered that this was unnecessary although did agree that the anchor defendant regime cannot be invoked if the sole object of the claim is to oust the jurisdiction of the courts which would otherwise have jurisdiction over the non-anchor defendants.

There is also considerable scope for the issue to be re-argued because, in fact, the court’s decision on whether the claim against the anchor defendant needed to have a real prospect of success was obiter dictum. Continue reading

Article 50 and the Brussels Regulation

With Article 50 now triggered, amongst many other negotiations, attention will turn to the Brussels I Regulation. Rather than setting alarm bells ringing, this article by Sara Masters QC and Belinda McRae sets out three steps, based on previous examples of EU negotiations, of how the UK Government should assuage fears of upheaval in the system of commercial dispute resolution following Brexit.

The full article is here.

Factors in Determining Domicile: Eng King Ltd v Vincent Petrillo

In this case, decided on 5 May 2016, the Commercial Court gave guidance as to the indicia for consideration in determining domicile.

Factual background

The Claimant was a Swiss businessman, who alleged that he had given the Defendant ( a Russian) $17million, which the Defendant had then wrongly kept rather than investing. The Claimant first brought Russian proceedings for unjust enrichment, on the grounds that the money had passed through Russian bank accounts. The Russian court rejected the claim on the grounds that the dispute was contractual, and that this precluded an unjust enrichment remedy. The Claimant then brought English proceedings, alleging fraudulent misrepresentation and breach of fiduciary duty by the Defendant. The Defendant denied fraud, and denied the jurisdiction of the English courts, stating that Russia or
Belarus was a more appropriate forum. Continue reading

Insurance Policies and Jurisdiction – AXA Corporate Solutions SA v Weir Services Australia Pty Ltd

The Commercial Court’s decision in this case (Axa v Weir  [2016] EWHC 904 (Comm)) late last week provides a useful restatement of the jurisdictional position concerning insurance written on the London market.

The case, confirms the English Court’s willingness to find that England is the natural forum in such cases even where (as here) there has been no express choice of jurisdiction.  It also shows a willingness to allow parties to continue related foreign proceedings and, if appropriate, to stay the English proceedings (see also, e.g. my post on Blue Tropic and Josephine Davies’ post on Jong v HSBC).
Continue reading

Sanctions in the wake of the Panama Papers: Diplomacy with teeth?

As the repercussions of the Panama Papers – the unprecedented leak of files from the database of the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca – continue to unfold, the week closed with the announcement by Angel Gurria, Secretary General of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that Panama agreed to adopt global tax reporting standards.  This came about after the EU made it public that it was considering imposing sanctions on Panama over the Panama papers.

Has the imposition of sanctions become a sort of diplomacy with teeth?   The following is a snapshot on sanctions in the wake of the Panama Papers.

The Panama Papers raise interesting issues of public international law and its interaction with national legal systems across jurisdictions. At a jurisdictional level (understood in its public international law concept) we see: (i) acts taking place in one jurisdiction (Panama), breaching international law (sanctions under the European Union and UN) having implications in other jurisdictions (UK, and the entire world); (ii) such countries, asserting their jurisdictions in their own right, when investigations/inquests are opened, parallel to the one taking place in Panama; and (iii) on the other side of the coin, we see, various international fora (UN, EU) enlarging, adopting, sanctions with applicability in the entire world; such public measures affecting private matters (contracts, trade).

This last point brings us to a second type of interaction which operates at the substantive level: public international law resolutions affecting obligations and rights in the private sphere otherwise governed solely by private law (e.g. commercial law); such measures therefore becoming relevant for those practising private, commercial law.

More interestingly, at the level of remedies, the remedy on the part of companies and individuals listed, to be de-listed, is before an international court (European Court of Justice) which can also be parallel to going to local courts, seeking to challenge such international public law measures. Continue reading

The Dangers of Delay: Essar Shipping Ltd v Bank of China Ltd (The “Kishore”) [2015] EWHC 3266 (Comm)

This is a cautionary tale about the dangers of delay in applying for anti-suit injunctions.

The facts: The Claimant was the Charterer of the Vessel Kishore, and the Defendant Bank was the holder of a bill of lading. The time bar for any cargo claim expired on 11 January 2015. The Claimant maintained that the bill of lading incorporated English law and arbitration clauses. The Defendant Bank, however, commenced proceedings in the Qingdao Maritime Court (China) in March 2014, and ship arrest proceedings in the Tianjin Maritime Court (China) in September 2014. On 24 November 2014, the Claimant decided to challenge Chinese jurisdiction before the Qingdao court, on the grounds of the English law arbitration clause. The challenge was rejected and the Claimant appealed.   However, the Claimant did not apply for an anti-suit injunction in the English courts at the same time. The application to the English courts to restrain the Defendant Bank from the Chinese proceedings was not made until 8 July 2015, whilst the parties were still awaiting the outcome of the appeal in China. No arbitration proceedings had been brought in England by this stage, and would have been time barred from January 2015. Continue reading