EWCA Civ 1889 Committeri v Club Med , appeal against Dingeman J’s findings in  EHWC 1510 (QB) featured in a recent resit exam of mine, slightly later reporting therefore. Dingeman J’s analysis was confirmed by the Court of Appeal.
Mr Committeri lived and worked in London. He was injured when climbing an ice wall in Chamonix in France in 2011. He brought proceedings in England against Club Med and their insurers: they had provided the relevant travel and accommodation pursuant to a ‘team-building’ contract with the appellant’s employers, a Bank. The claim is pleaded by reference to that contract and Article L211-16 of the French Code de Tourisme (which imposes strict (safety) liability upon the providers of tourist accomodation: une obligation de résultat); contrary to English law which foresees in une obligation de moyens).
French law has considered that “proper performance of the contract” in a package holiday setting requires the absolute safety of the consumer, so that (unless the exceptions in the Code apply) when there is an injury on a package holiday the organiser will be liable.
The central issue is the proper characterisation of that claim. If it is a contractual claim then English law applies (the lex contractus agreed between the Bank and Club Med) and it is common ground that it will fail. If it is properly characterised as a non-contractual claim, French law applies and it is agreed that it will succeed.
CJEU authorities considered by Coulson LJ were in particular Brogsitter, Ergo, Verein Fur Konsumenteninformation v Amazon, and flightright.
At 52 Coulson LJ summarises the modus operandi per the European precedents as follows:
‘(a) The mere fact that a contracting party brings a civil liability claim against the other party does not by itself mean that the claim concerns “matters relating to a contract” but it will be sufficient if the conduct complained of may be considered a breach of contract (Brogsitter ) or if the purpose of the claim is to seek damages, the legal basis for which can reasonably be regarded as a breach of the rights and obligations set out in the contract (Brogsitter ).
(b) Only an obligation freely consented to by one person towards another and on which the claimant’s action is based is a ‘matter relating to contract’ (Ergo ).
(c) The classification of an obligation for the purposes of Rome I or Rome II depends on the (contractual or non-contractual) source of that obligation (Amazon, AG’s opinion ). A contractual obligation implies at the very least an actual and existing commitment (Amazon ).’
I would have added what I called Sharpston AG‘s ‘pedigree’ (one of my students seems to have mistakenly noted this down as ‘Paddy Pee’), ‘ancestry’, or ‘centre of gravity’ test in Ergo.
At 53: ‘On an application of all or any of those principles, it is clear that the pleaded strict liability claim can only be characterised as a contractual claim. …That contract is the source of the relevant obligations and imposed the necessary commitments. To put it another way, to use Judge Waksman’s words in AXA ( EWHC 3431 (Comm), the contract was not “a stepping stone to the ultimate liability of [the respondent but] the basis for the obligation actually relied upon…”.
A very useful reminder of the relevant precedents.
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 126.96.36.199.
One Reply to “Committeri v Club Med. The Court of Appeal parades CJEU precedent to distinguish contract from torts.”