Kennedy v National Trust for Scotland. Applying forum non conveniens within the UK. And how to make a case ‘international’.

In [2017] EWHC 3368 (QB) Kennedy v National Trust for Scotland, Eady J considers two important (for this blog at least) issues leading to dicta: when a prima facie domestic case may turn out to be international really; and following his ruling on same, the application of forum non conveniens intra-UK. I reviewed the latter issue, also intra-UK, in my analysis of Cook & McNeil (v Virgin & Tesco).

First the issue of the case being purely domestic or international. It is only when it is the latter, that the Brussels I Recast regime is engaged and, per Owusu, forum non conveniens excluded.

The Claimant, who is domiciled in Scotland, seeks damages and other remedies in this jurisdiction against the National Trust for Scotland in respect of a number of allegations published in both jurisdictions as well as in Italy, France and Brazil. He relies not only on defamation but also on negligence and on alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998. The dispute arises over the Claimant’s attendance at Craigievar Castle in Aberdeenshire on 23 February 2012, when he took a series of photographs of a naked model for commercial purposes. He claims that he did so pursuant to an oral contract, entered into with a representative of the Defendant, which expressly authorised that activity. Some years later, this episode came to the attention of the daughter of Lord Sempill who had gifted the castle to the Defendant (more than 50 years ago) and she protested that it had been used for the purpose of taking nude photographs. Her remarks caught the attention of a journalist who made enquiries and was given a statement by or on behalf of the Defendant on 24 February 2016 which was reported in the Scottish Mail on Sunday of 28 February. Thereafter, the Defendant also issued a press release which denied that the taking of the photographs had been authorised. This was sent to a number of media outlets including a reporter on the (London) Metro newspaper.

Claimant suggests that this is not “a purely domestic case” by referring to re-publication of the defamatory words in France and Italy. At 51 Eady J, with reference to the aforementioned Cook v Virgin Media, suggests the purpose of the regulation, and of the rule of general jurisdiction in particular, is to regularise issues of jurisdiction as between different states, and that no such question arises here, because the only potential competition is between the courts of Scotland and England & Wales (i.e. internal to the United Kingdom). I do not think this is the effect of CJEU precedent, Lindner in particular, as well as Maletic and Vinyls Italia (the latter re Rome I). The potential competition between the England and Scotland only arises if, not because, the Brussels I Regulation does not apply: the High Court’s argument is circular. In Linder and in Maletic, the CJEU upheld the application of Brussels I even though competing jurisdiction elsewhere in the EU was only potential, not actual. Given the potential for jurisdiction with courts in France and Italy, I would suggest the Lindner logic applies.

Eady J though applies forum non conveniens to establish Scotland as the more appropriate forum in the UK, and to stay the English case.

He then obiter (had FNC not applied), at 86 ff suggests the court develop a novel sub-national model of Shevill, such that only courts of the sub-national place where the publisher is domiciled would have jurisdiction to award global damages – and all other courts within the United Kingdom would be restricted to awarding damages for harm occurring within their relevant regions. Importantly, even for post-Brexit use, Eady J suggest the importation of CJEU case-law in applying English law of conflicts is appropriate for Parliament has approved rules in parallel to those under the Recast Regulation.

A little gem of a judgment.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.2.1.

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The Brussels jurisdictional regime at 50. A conference at Leuven on 23 March.

As I am about to take the family on a half-term break (and with no less than 22 draft blog posts in the ledger – February /March are likely to be intense blog months), I am pleased to flag a conference which I am calling together with Jura Falconis, the faculty’s student-run law review.

Registration and program are here. Below is the blurb and exciting line-up. It would be great to see many of you at Leuven! Geert.

*****

In 2018 we celebrate the 50th year since the adoption of the 1968 Brussels Convention on jurisdiction and the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters. The 1968 attempt to facilitate the free movement of judgments in the EU, helped lay the foundations for the exciting developments in European private international law which have occurred since. Many of the outstanding issues in what is now the Brussels I Recast (also known as EEX-bis; or Brussels Ibis) continue to have an impact on other parts of European civil procedure.

Co-organised by Leuven Law’s Institute of Private International Law and Jura Falconis, KU Leuven’s student law review, this event will consider, capita selecta wise, the application and implications of the Convention and its successors. It will also discuss the future direction of EU private international law both for civil and commercial matters, and for issues outside of commercial litigation. At a time when in most Member States the majority of commercial transactions have some kind of international element, this is a timely refresher for practitioners, judges, students and scholars alike.

PROGRAM

Morning program. Chaired by professor Jinske Verhellen (U Gent)

10:00 – 10:30 
Registration and welcome

10:30 – 10:35 
Opening by Jura Falconis

10:35 – 11:00
Les grands courants of 50 years of European private international law
Professor Geert Van Calster (KU Leuven)

11:00 – 11:30
Regulatory competition in civil procedure between the Member States
Professor Stéphanie Francq (UC Louvain)

11:30 – 12:00 
The application of Brussels I (Recast) in the Member States
Professor Burkhard Hess (Max Planck Institute Luxembourg)

12:00 – 12:15
Discussion

12:15 – 13:00
Lunch

Afternoon program. Chaired by professor Karen Vandekerckhove (European Commission’s Directorate General for Justice and Consumers, UC Louvain)

13:00 – 13:30
Brussels calling. The extra-EU application of European private international law
Professor Thalia Kruger (U Antwerpen)

13:30 – 14:00
The (not so symbiotic?) relation between the Insolvency and the Brussels I regimes
Arie Van Hoe (NautaDutilh, U Antwerpen)

14:00 – 14:30
Alternative Dispute Resolution and the Brussels Regime
Professor Stefaan Voet (KU Leuven)

14:30 – 15:00
Brussels I Recast and the Hague Judgments Project
Professor Marta Pertegas (U Antwerpen)

15:00 – 15:15
Discussion

15:15 – 15:45
Coffee break

15:45 – 16:10
Provisional measures under the Brussels regime
Professor Arnaud Nuyts (ULB)

16:10 – 16:30
Brussels falling. The relationship between the UK and the EU post Brexit
Dr Helena Raulus (UK Law Societies’ Brussels office)

16:30 – 16:50
The current European Commission agenda for the development of European private international law
Dr Andreas Stein (European Commission’s Directorate General for Justice and Consumers)

16:50 – 17:15
The CJEU and European Private International Law
Ilse Couwenberg (Judge in the Belgian Supreme Court/Hof van Cassatie)

17:15 – 17:30
Close of conference
Professor Geert Van Calster (KU Leuven)

17:30 – 18:30
Drinks

 

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Altun: Fraud and social dumping. The CJEU emphasises the double sides of the mutual trust coin.

When I reported on Saugmandsgaard ØE’s Opinion in C-359/16 Altun, I emphasised the issue of mutual trust. I noted that the AG effectively flipped the coin: sincere co-operation requires sincerity on both sides (my words, not the AG’s). The AG had recalled the Halifax case-law of the CJEU: EU law cannot be relied on for abusive or fraudulent ends and that national courts may, case by case, take account — on the basis of objective evidence — of abuse or fraudulent conduct on the part of the persons concerned in order, where appropriate, to deny them the benefit of the provisions of EU law, in the light of the objectives pursued by the provisions of EU law concerned. In November 2017 the CJEU confirmed in C-251/16 Cussens that this principle has direct effect and is directly applicable: it is a general principle of EU law which does not require a national measure transposing it.

In the case at issue, the facts point to non-fulfillment of one of the substantive criteria for the E101 certificate to be issued, namely that only an undertaking which habitually carries on significant activities in the Member State in which it is established may be issued an E101 of that State.

The Court today has confirmed the AG’s view (only the Dutch and French version were available at the time of writing). Mutual trust implies responsibilities on both sides. Upon receiving indications of fraud, the Member State of origin is duty-bound to investigate diligently and either confirm or refute the suspicions. (In the event of continuing divergence, there is an appeals procedure within the relevant secondary law, and if need be the possibility for the host State to pursue infringement proceedings with the home State). Like its AG, the Court emphasises that the fraud must be established in the context of adversarial proceedings with legal guarantees for the persons concerned and in compliance with their fundamental rights, in particular the right to an effective remedy enshrined.

This remains relevant even after the planned changes to the posted workers Directive. In the future system, too, Member States will issue certificates, feed data into the newly created register etc.

Geert.

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Bestolov v Povarenkin. On the determination of domicile (and yes, Owusu strikes again).

Many thanks to Andrew Savage and Nick Payne for flagging [2017] EWHC 1968 (Comm) Bestolov v Povarenkin a little while ago, and for sending me copy of the judgment at the time. Apologies for late reporting: frustratingly even at gavclaw we cannot always devote the amount of time to the blog we would wish. Dr Maganaris in the meantime also has summary here.

As readers no doubt are aware, the Brussels I Recast Regulation (Article 62) does not define ‘domicile’: it defers to national private international law on the issue. The Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Order 2001 establishes that a person is domiciled in England for the purpose of the Brussels Regulation (recast) if: the person is “resident” in England; and (cumulatively) the person has a “substantial connection” to England. Bryan DJ takes us through the relevant (and often colourful) precedent and notes, importantly, at 28 that the consequence of the English rules is that the same person can be resident in two different jurisdictions at the same time. At 44, he summarises with a list of criteria, and decides on the facts of the case that Mr Povarenkin is indeed domiciled in England (the substantial connection test having been more easy to determine than that of residence).

Subsequently the High Court reviews at length whether there was a valid choice of court agreement under Article 25 of the Regulation – which at this jurisdictional stage of the proceedings Bryan DJ decides there was not (choice of law for the relevant contracts being English law, was justifiably not considered definitive in this respect), at least not clearly. Obiter, the judge reviews forum non conveniens, at lenght in fact (and in a very clear way with a keen eye on relevant precedent as well as court practice in England) however he holds both before and after the obiter that evidently given Owusu, forum non conveniens has no calling.

A well written judgment, the approach of which on domicile evidently goes beyond having relevance merely for the English courts: for under the Regulation, courts in other Member States, too, may have to consider whether parties are domiciled in an EU Member State other than their own including, for the time being, the United Kingdom.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.3, Heading 2.2.14.5.

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International Bank of Azerbaijan: Principle or practice of ‘modified universalism’ in (cram-down resulting from) insolvency proceedings.

[2018] EWHC 59 (Ch) International Bank of Azerbaijan is an excellent illustration of the practicality v the doctrine of modified universalism in international insolvency law, as well as of the binding force of precedent even in a changing world. Hildyard J first summarises at 2 the question raised as ‘whether the Court has power to grant a permanent moratorium or stay to prevent a creditor exercising its rights under a contract governed by English law in order to prevent that creditor enforcing its rights contrary to the terms of the foreign insolvency proceeding by which all creditors were, under the relevant foreign law, intended to be bound. If it does, the second question is whether in its discretion the Court should exercise that power.’

IBA has fallen into financial difficulties, obliging it to enter into a restructuring proceeding under Azeri law. The Foreign Representative, Ms Gunel Bakhshiyeva (hence also giving her name to the official case-name) had the High Court issue an order  recognising the Restructuring Proceeding as a foreign main proceeding. That recognition order imposes a wide-ranging moratorium preventing creditors from commencing or continuing any action against IBA or its property without the permission of the Court.  The plan proposed by IBA pursuant to the restructuring proceeding has been approved by a substantial majority at a meeting of creditors in Azerbaijan, sanctioned by the relevant Azeri court, and as a matter of Azeri law, the plan is now binding on all affected creditors, including those who did not vote and those who voted against the Plan: a classic cram-down.

Respondents in the case contend that the plan cannot bind them. In each case their relationship as creditor with IBA is governed by English law. They rely on the (1890) rule in Gibbs, which states that a debt governed by English law cannot be discharged by a foreign insolvency proceeding. Reformulating the essential issues at 19, Hildyard J summarises them as

(1) Whether the Court has jurisdiction to extend a moratorium imposed under the CBIR without limit as to time, and in particular, beyond the date on which the foreign proceeding will terminate; and

(2) If so, whether the Court should refuse to lift the continuing moratorium in favour of a creditor whose debt is governed by English law, so as to prevent that creditor from achieving a better return than that enjoyed by all of the company’s other creditors under a restructuring plan promulgated in the jurisdiction in which the company is registered and has its centre of main interests (“COMI”).

At 44 ff Hildyard J excellently summarises the rule, and the critical reception of it in recent scholarship, the latter suggesting it is not just out of touch with a less anglo-centric view of the world, but also inconsistent with the English courts themselves expecting foreign recognition of schemes of arrangement (SAs being of a corporate, not lex concursus nature but nevertheless fishing in the same waters as insolvency proceedings) conducted in the English courts with English law as the lex causae.

Having summed up all the arguments against the rule and yet recent continued application of it, Hildyard J at 58 dryly notes that his place in the hierarchy means that he cannot simply swipe the rule aside: he must apply it and simply assess whether it applies in the current circumstances. More particularly, whether at one and the same time the ‘rule’ may formally be observed by accepting the continuation of the rights which English law confers, and yet also the principles of modified universalism which the UNCITRAL Model Law gives effect to.

Lengthy discussion then follows of the pros and contras, with the High Court eventually finding no persuasive argument to set aside the rule, particularly not by the English application of the UNCITRAL model law. Counsel had argued that qualifying the model law as procedural as opposed to substantive law, would enable the Court effectively to sidestep Gibbs as precedent. However Hildyard J prefered to accept the full force of precedent rather than sweeping it aside by the procedural pretext.

The substantive rule clearly is ripe for reconsideration by the Court of Appeal.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 5, Heading 5.1.

 

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Schrems v Facebook. Consumer class actions and social media.

I reported on Bobek AG’s Opinion in Schrems v Facebook when it came out last year. The CJEU held this morning (judgment so far in FR and DE only) and largely confirms the AG’s Opinion.

As I noted at the time, the long and the short of the case is whether the concept of ‘consumer’ under the protected categories of Brussels I (and Recast) is a dynamic or a static one; and what kind of impact assignment has on jurisdiction for protected categories.

On the first issue, Mr Schrems points to his history as a user, first having set up a personal account, subsequently, as he became the poster child for opposition to social media’s alleged infringement of privacy, a Facebook page. Each of those, he suggests, are the object of a separate contract with Facebook. FB suggests they are part of one and the same, initial contractual relationship. This one assumes, would assist FB with its line of argument that Herr Schrems’ initial use may have been covered by the forum consumentis, but that his subsequent professional use gazumps that initial qualification.

The Court suffices at 36 with the simple observation that the qualification as a single or dual contract is up to the national court (see inter alia the Gabriel, Engler and Ilsinger conundrum: Handbook, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11.1.a and generally the difficulties for the CJEU to force a harmonised notion of ‘contract’ upon the Member States), yet that nevertheless any such qualification needs to take into account the principles of interpretation of Brussels I’s protected categories: in particular, their restrictive interpretation. Whence it follows, the Court holds, that the interpretation needs to be dynamic, taking into account the subsequent (professional or not) use of the service: at 37-38: ‘il y a notamment lieu de tenir compte, s’agissant de services d’un réseau social numérique ayant vocation à être utilisés pendant une longue durée, de l’évolution ultérieure de l’usage qui est fait de ces services. Cette interprétation implique, notamment, qu’un requérant utilisateur de tels services pourrait invoquer la qualité de consommateur seulement si l’usage essentiellement non professionnel de ces services, pour lequel il a initialement conclu un contrat, n’a pas acquis, par la suite, un caractère essentiellement professionnel.’

The Court does add at 39-40 that acquired or existing knowledge of the sector or indeed the mere involvement in collective representation of the interests of the service’s users, has no impact on the qualification as a ‘consumer’: only professional use of the service does. (The Court in this respect refers to Article 169(1) TFEU’s objective to assist consumers with the representation of their collective interest).

On this point therefore the Court unlike the AG attaches more weight to restrictive interpretation than to predictability. (Bobek AG’s approach to the issue of dynamic /static was expressed more cautiously).

As for the assignment issue, the Court sides squarely with its AG: the assigned claims cannot be pursued in the jurisdiction which is the domicile of the assignee. That in my view de lega lata makes perfect sense.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.8.2.

 

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Looking for a PhD or paper topic? Public interest litigation and access to industry standards.

Perhaps it has been studied already. Perhaps it is more of a PhD chapter, short paper or indeed a case for public interest litigation. Stephanie Bijlmakers and I had a good moan about the lack of access to ISO standards when we wrote on ISO 26000. I now have encountered again how extraordinary it is that the public do not have free access to industry standards with such high societal relevance. The trigger this time round is one of our PhD students enquiring with me about recyclable content in packaging. This has sent me on a goose chase to gain access to a copy without having to fork out £170 each for 5 relevant CEN standards.

So here’s my research starter for ten: could and if so under what circumstances can privately developed yet publicly approved standards be considered environmental information under relevant EU and international rules, access to which needs to be granted without charge?

Geert.

 

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