Troke v Amgen. On lex causae for interest and the procedural exception of Rome II.

Troke & Anor v Amgen Seguros Generales Compania De Seguros Y Reaseguros SAU (Formerly RACC Seguros Compania De Seguros Y Resaseguros SA) [2020] EWHC 2976 (QB) is an appeal against a decision of the country court at Plymouth. It has a case-name almost as long as the name of some Welsh villages (that’s an observation, I mean no disrespect. I live in a country which has villages names such as Erps-Kwerps; but I stray).

For brevity’s sake I suspect it is best shortened to Troke v Amgen. The case involves only the rate of interest awarded on what were otherwise agreed awards of damages against the defendant insurer  to the  claimant, victims of a road traffic accident in Spain.

Spanish law is lex causae. Rome II like Rome I excludes “evidence and procedure…”. The extent of this exception is not settled as I have discussed before. Of particular recurring interest is its relation with Article 15 ‘scope of the law applicable’ which reads in relevant part for the case

 “15. The law applicable to non-contractual obligations under this Regulation shall govern in particular: (a) the basis and extent of liability… (…) (c) the existence, the nature and the assessment of damage or the remedy claimed; (d) within the limits of powers conferred on the court by its procedural law, the measures which a court may take to prevent or terminate injury or damage or to ensure the provision of compensation;”

Griffiths J refers in particular to Actavis v Ely Lilly and to KMG v Chen, and at 45 holds obiter that were the interest a contractual right, it would clearly not be covered by Rome I’s exclusion for procedural issues seeing as it would then clearly amount to a substantive right under the contract.

At play here however is Rome II. Griffiths J first refers to a number of inconclusive precedent on the interest issue under various foreign applicable laws, to then note at 65 ff that the judge in the county court whose findings are being appealed, was informed in the expert reports that the interest sought under Spanish law were not mandatory ones but rather discretionary ones: the terminology used in the expert report which determined that decision was ‘contemplates’.

This leads Griffiths J to conclude ‘I reject the argument that the Expert Report was describing a substantive as opposed to a procedural right to interest. It follows that the Judge was right not to apply the Spanish rates as a matter of substantive right to be governed by the lex causae.’

This is most odd. It could surely be argued that a discretionary substantive right is still a substantive right, and not a procedural incident. Whether the right is mandatory or discretionary does not in my view impact on its qualification as being substance or procedure.

The judge’s findings

It follows that I agree with the Judge that the award of interest in this case was a procedural matter excluded from Rome II by Article 1(3); that there was no substantive right to interest at Spanish rates to be awarded to the Claimants under the lex causae; that interest could be awarded under section 69 of the County Courts Act 1984 as a procedural matter in accordance with the law of England and Wales as the lex fori; and that he was entitled to award interest at English and not Spanish rates accordingly.

in my view surely therefore most be appealable.

Geert.

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

Third edition forthcoming February 2021.

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