Irreconcilable judgments of the same State of Origin – The ECJ in Salzgitter Mannesmann

Case C-157/12 Salzgitter Mannesmann, concerned proceedings between Salzgitter Mannesmann Handel GmbH (‘Salzgitter’) and SC Laminorul SA (‘Laminorul’) concerning an application for a declaration of enforceability in Germany of a judgment given by a Romanian court by which Salzgitter was ordered to pay EUR 188 330 to Laminorul.  That judgment was at odds with an earlier judgment of that very same court, declaring the action as inadmissible. Salzgitter had not been properly represented in the second proceedings (there was discussion in the legality of representation). Appeals failed, and the Courts at Düsseldorf found themselves being asked to enforce a judgment which is incompatible with another judgment by that same State.

Does Article 34 of the Regulation apply? It provides that ‘A judgment shall not be recognised: …

(3)      if it is irreconcilable with a judgment given in a dispute between the same parties in the Member State in which recognition is sought;

(4)      if it is irreconcilable with an earlier judgment given in another Member State or in a third State involving the same cause of action and between the same parties, provided that the earlier judgment fulfils the conditions necessary for its recognition in the Member State addressed.

The ECJ held against the application of Article 34(4) on the familiar grounds of predictability and mutual trust. Courts in the Member States in which recognition and enforcement is sought, have very limited grounds for refusal. One of the core limitations is to ensure that the Member State of recognition does not perform a de novo review of the case. The ECJ essentially argues that, were Article 34(4) to apply to judgments of the same Member State of origin, the recognition and enforcement procedure would essentially amount to a further appeal in the underlying case. Salzgitter having exhausted all internal procedures to seek to have the judgment overturned, now has to face the music in Germany.

There is course one further option: the German court could find the Romanian proceedings manifestly contrary to German public order. Per Trade Agency this is a measure of last resort and of strict application- not one firmly contemplated by the court at Düsseldorf, so it would seem.

Geert.

 

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