I have waited a little while to discuss (I had tweeted it earlier)  EWHC 1028 (QB) Bonnie Lackey v Mallorca Mega Resorts. It is a good case for an exam essay question and that is what I used it for this morning (albeit in simplified form, focusing on the consumer title).
Defendant is domiciled in Spain, and is hereafter referred to as ‘the Hotel’. Claimant was one of a group of friends who went on holiday to Magaluf in Mallorca, Spain. The booking was made in May 2017 by Ms Donna Bond, who was one of the party and a friend of Bonnie Lackey. The Agency’s Booking Conditions stated
‘references to “you” and “your” include the first named person on the booking and all persons on whose behalf a booking is made …’.
Section A, applicable to all bookings stated:
“By making a booking, you agree on behalf of all persons detailed on the booking that you have read these terms and conditions and agree to be bound by them”.
In my exam question I have left the agency out of the factual matrix. Its presence is immaterial for the case for the agency acts, well, as an agent: contract is between clients and the hotel direct.
The group were staying at the site owned and operated by the Hotel. It is agreed between parties that the Agency’s and Hotel’s marketing meets with the Pammer Alpenhof criteria, in other words that they direct their activity at England. Claimant, Ms Lackey, who is domiciled in England, was seriously injured in the ‘wave’ pool and is now tetraplegic. Damages application is for £9 million given the high cost of care for the now 41 year old claimant.
A first discussion concerned the insurance section (not part of the exam essay)(15 ff). Generali (of Spain) were the hotel’s insurers and had already accepted jurisdiction for the English courts. Their liability though was capped at an absolute max of 0.45 Million Euros – far off the claim. Claimant’s hope was that Article 13(3) Brussels Ia as Clyde point out, might be used for a claim anchored unto Generali. Here, the High Court followed the authority of Hoteles Pinero Canarias SL v Keefe  EWCA Civ 598, see references to EU law there. That case went up to the Supreme Court and thence to the CJEU where it was taken off the roll following settlement. In any event, following Keefe, Davison M in Bonnie Lackey held that jurisdiction was conferred on the English courts by Articles 11 and 13 BIa, (contained in Section 3) which permit a claim here against the insurer and the joinder of the hotel to that claim. Master Davison rejected suggestions for the need of a CJEU reference among others because he also upheld jurisdiction under the consumer title. The essential question here was whether there is a need for complete identity between the consumer referred to in Article 17(1) and the consumer referred to in Article 18(1) BIa.
Davison M suggests there need not, referring in particular to the Regulation’s aims to protect the weaker party, and to rule out as much as possible the risk of irreconcilable judgments.
Defendant’s reference to Schrems was considered immaterial. At 39: ‘Plainly, the consumer bringing the claim must be a beneficiary of the consumer contract or at least within its ambit. That does not mean that she personally must have concluded it. To borrow again from the judgment of Gloster LJ in Keefe, there would be no linguistic or purposive justification for such a restrictive interpretation.’ I am not sure I agree, not at any rate without proper discussion of ‘within its ambit’. The CJEU’s case-law on the protected categories does evidently aim to protect weaker categories and interpretation of same must serve that purpose. However the CJEU at the same time also emphasises the fact that these sections are an exception to the general rule and therefore must not be applied too widely, either.
Master Davison cuts short too extensive a discussion of the ‘ambit’ issue, by referring to the General Terms and Conditions – GTCS: the consumer who booked, accepted these GTCS ‘on behalf of all persons detailed in the booking’. At 40: ‘The hotel deployed no evidence of any kind to displace the effect of these terms, (which, I would add, are standard terms to be expected in a contract of this kind). A person who contracts through an agent has still “concluded” a contact. Thus, all argument about the need for complete identity between the consumer referred to in Article 17.1 and the consumer referred to in Article 18.1 is redundant. In each case it was the claimant, Ms Lackey.’ Whether counsel should have made more noise about this issue I do not know, however I would have expected discussion here of the general respect the Regulation has for privity of contract (which I discuss repeatedly on the blog).
I do not think this case will settle the matter. Its outcome evidently is positive (particularly considering that for Ms Lackey it will really not be straightforward to attend trial in Spain). However its legal reasoning cuts a few corners.
I would expect my students to discuss the need for effective protection of consumers ‘v’ the exceptional character of the section; and privity of contract which the CJEU flags on several occasions. Each with proper case-law references.
Handbook of) European private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 184.108.40.206.
4 Replies to “Bonnie Lackey v Mallorca Mega Resorts. High Court throws a wide net for jurisdictional privileges of consumers.”
The cases touches upon another interesting question: when can a consumer contract be regarded to be ‘concluded’ for the purpose of the Brussels Ia consumer section. The best answer I could find is AG Trstenjak in Ilsinger (http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=68002&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=lst&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=8189914). There is something contradictory in requiring the conclusion of a contract to which the litigants are privy, and not having a clear definition of what elements are needed for a contract to be regarded as concluded. Davison M seems to be aware of this issue: in paras 39-40 he referred to the “ambit” of the contract and the fact that the contract was concluded “through an agent”…