On the temporal scope of Brussels I, and the notion of ‘counterclaim’ in Art.6(3) Brussels I Regulation. Kokott AG in C-185/15 Kostanjevec.

In Case C-185/15 Kostanjevec, Kokott AG (not available in English at the time of writing) advised on a number of issues in relation to a counterclaim under Article 6(3) Brussels I (now 8(3) of the Recast). At the core of the dispute lies a leasing contract and the consumer counterclaiming for restitution per unjust enrichment, of the sums she had transferred to counterparty. The counterclaim follows the annulment of the contract between the two, even though Marjan Kostanjevec had initially been ordered to pay.

The first relates to the temporal scope not of the Recast Brussels I Regulation viz Brussels I, but rather simply of Regulation 44/2001, in particular with respect to a Member State (Slovenia) which joined the EU on 1 May 2004. The Brussels Convention had never applied to Slovenia. The proceedings between parties  go back to 1995, prompting the EC among others to suggest that per Article 66 of the Regulation (This Regulation shall apply only to legal proceedings instituted…after the entry into force thereof) it simply does not apply. Kokott AG however suggests first of all that the new claim in restitution, followed the use of a separate means of redress under Slovenian law, instituted after the initial claim by the leasing company had been wrapped up in its entirety. Moreover, other language versions refer not to ‘proceedings’ but rather to a claim (defined in C-341/93 Danvaern Production as claims by defendants which seek the pronouncement of a separate judgment or decree. It does not apply to the situation where a defendant raises, as a pure defence, a claim which he allegedly has against the plaintiff (at 18)

Regulation 44/2001 applies therefore, in the view of the AG. I would agree that it should: this is particularly relevant where parties have a long and complex history of litigation. (Similarities here may exist with Nikiforidis, which is in my blog pile). Applying Danvaern Production however for the interpretation of Article 66 I think may be problematic. The raison d’être of Article 6(3) is to help avoid conflicting decisions in cases that are closely related. Even if, per Danvaern, they seek a separate pronouncement, they do essentially relate to reciprocal commitments which are part of the same bundle of facts. (See also Kokott AG herself, in para 44 of her Opinion with reference to the Jenard Report and to Léger AG in Danvaern). It feels a little inconsistent to call upon arguments developed viz inseparable claims (under Art.6(3): Danvaern) to support a thesis of separability (viz the application ratione temporis: they are separate claims even if they have a common history in fact and in contractual liaison).

With reference to C-297/14 Hobohm, the AG subsequently also advises that the counterclaim is covered by the Regulation’s consumer contracts title as having a ‘close link’ with the consumer contract, and, for the sake of completeness, and with reference to Profit SIM, that claims for restitution are covered by (now) Article 7(1) ‘s forum contractus even if they are grounded in a claim arguing that the contract at issue did not actually exist.

I am curious how the Court will approach the temporal application issue.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International law, 2nd ed. 2016, chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11.1.a, Heading 2.2.21.3, Heading 2.1.1

 

 

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