Away to Scotland with thee! CA applies forum non conveniens to intra-UK conflicts in Cook & McNeil (v Virgin & Tesco)

A great example of internal forum shopping and the application of forum non conveniens in the Court of Appeal. (Just before Christmas. I am still hacking away at my end-of-year queue).

Claimants claim damages for personal injuries they alleged they sustained in accidents in Scotland as a result of the negligence and/or breach of statutory duty of the defendants. The claims were issued in the Northampton County Court. The registered offices of the defendants are situated in England and Wales. Both claimants are domiciled in Scotland. Liability has been admitted in the case of Cook, but denied in the case of McNeil.  Since the claims related to accidents in Scotland, the claims were allocated to Carlisle County Court, which is the court geographically closest to Scotland. The claims were struck out on forum non conveniens grounds, with Scotland being the appropriate forum.

The most important issue that arises on these appeals (and the reason why Tomlinson LJ gave permission for a second appeal) is whether the doctrine of forum non conveniens can apply in a purely domestic context where the competing jurisdictions are England and Scotland. Put simply, the question is: does the English court have the power in such a case to stay or strike out a claim on the ground that the natural and more appropriate forum is Scotland?

As Floyd MR notes (at 7) it is surprising that there was no authority on this point.

He correctly holds that the ‘international element’ required for the Brussels I regime to apply, as it did in Owusu and Maletic  (but also Lindner) is absent in the case at issue. There is nothing in the facts which renders the case international in the Brussels I (Recast) sense.  Relevant precedent which did have some calling was Kleinwort Benson, Case C-346/93, in which the CJEU refused to interpret the (then) Brussels Convention in a purely domestic UK situation, even if the internal UK rules were modelled on the Brussels regime.

Forum non conveniens could be applied. Though not under appeal, Floyd MR does suggest that in his view the claim in which liability was admitted (Cook), should not have been struck out but rather stayed under the relevant rules.

Geert.

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