KMG v CHEN. The common law reflective loss rule held as being substance, not procedure, and not qualifying as either lois de police or ordre public under Rome II.

KMG International NV v Chen & Anor [2019] EWHC 2389 (Comm)  entertains a claim made in tort, based on a breach of duties allegedly owed as a matter of Dutch or alternatively English law. The wrongful acts of the Defendants are said to have resulted in a diminution of the assets of DPH, against which KMG had won a substantial arbitration award. It is asserted that the Defendants caused the DP Group to part with a valuable asset, namely the shares in a German company, which company was part of the DP Group. It is asserted that the purpose of the transfer was to disable DPH from satisfying the arbitration award.

The core legal issue that would apply under English law are the principles of reflective loss (‘RL’). Defendants argue that the English law rules as to reflective loss barred the Claimant’s claims, even under Dutch law, because: (1) The RL rule was a rule of procedure and not substance and was accordingly governed by the lex fori and not the lex causae; (2) The RL rule was a mandatory overriding rule of English law within the meaning of Article 16 of Rome II; (3) Any derogation from the RL rule would be manifestly incompatible with English public policy within the meaning of Article 26 of Rome II.

A first issue is whether the English RL rule is one of procedure that would fall outside the scope of Rome II. Reference is made on this issue to Actavis v Eli Lilly, with Hancock J at 36 deciding the RL rule is one of substance. I would agree with his suggestion that unlike the discussion of DNI requirements in Actavis, the RL ‘is not a precondition to an action, but is a bar to recovery of a particular type of loss. In my judgment, the RL rule is clearly one which affects the substantive rights and remedies of the Claimant and is not a procedural rule.’ However I disagree with his suggestion (for which he finds support in EC suggestions made in the travaux) that the procedural provision in A1(3) needs to be applied restrictively: A1(3) is not an exception: it is a determination of scope.

Attention then turns at 45 ff to whether the RL could count as overriding mandatory law under A16 Rome II. At 50 Hancock J holds that there is simply no support in any authority for holding that that the RL would meet the high bar of qualifying as lois de police. At 57 he then judges that the RL rule does not meet the requirements to qualify as ordre public either, with due refence to CJEU authority on the exceptional nature of ‘ordre public’ under EU conflict of laws.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 4, Heading 4.8, Heading 4.10.

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