ID v LU. A voluntarily appearing defendant cannot serve as anchor for another under the English residual rules (as indeed under BIa).

In ID v LU & Anor [2021] EWHC 1851 (Comm) Pelling J discusses a challenge to jurisdiction in which each of the parties are Ukrainian nationals. Brussels Ia applies but is only engaged viz one of the defendants. Claimant and second defendant are both domiciled and resident in Ukraine. The first defendant is a Ukrainian national who is and was at all material times domiciled in an otherwise unidentified EU Member State.

Claimant alleges that the second defendant approached him requesting that he move his corporate banking business to the second defendant, a Bank. Following discussions, the claimant agreed to do so and considerable funds  were placed with The Bank. The claimant’s case is that he agreed to do so only after the second defendant agreed that he would undertake personal responsibility for all monies that the companies placed with The Bank. The claimant alleges that it was expressly agreed by the claimant and second defendant that this oral agreement was governed by English law.

There was more tro and fro however I focus here on the jurisdictional challenge. With reference to Article 4 BIa and the most recent authority of Vedanta, the judge holds that in principle the defendant with EU domicile has a right to refuse to be sued other than in his place of domicile. However that defendant acknowledged service, indicating an intention to defend the claim but not to contest jurisdiction. This leads the judge to conclude, after some discussion, that there is A26 BIa submission (aka voluntary appearance).

Next follows an important discussion on the circumstances in which a defendant who voluntarily submits, may serve as an anchor defendant under the English residual rules.  It would certainly not be possible under Brussels Ia. The relevant rule in the practice directions (this is ‘Gateway 3’) reads

“3.1 The claimant may serve a claim form out of the jurisdiction with the permission of the court under rule 6.36 where –… 3) A claim is made against a person (‘the defendant’) on whom the claim form has been or will be served (otherwise than in reliance on this paragraph) and  – a) there is between the claimant and the defendant a real issue which it is reasonable for the court to try; and b) the claimant wishes to serve the claim form on another person who is a necessary or proper party to that claim.

Second defendant argues claimant is not entitled to rely on Gateway 3 because the first defendant is not a defendant who is to be treated as being a person on whom the claim form has been or will be served because the court has jurisdiction over the first defendant only because he has voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction of the English Court. The overall nature of the discussions on this issue essentially discuss the need to avoid abuse. Of note in this respect is the judge finding [41] that there is ‘no evidence that suggests that there was any agreement reached between the claimant and the first defendant by which the first defendant agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of the court prior to the issue of the Claim Form in these proceedings or for that matter afterwards.’

Nevertheless the judge holds that the current authorities in particular the Court of Appeal in the Benarty [1983] 1 Lloyds Rep 361, continue to not permit a claimant to rely on an anchor defendant who has voluntarily submitted to the jurisdiction when he could not otherwise have been served in accordance with the CPR. Obiter he holds that while there is a real issue to be tried against the second defendant, the contract gateway for jurisdiction (which would require English law to be the lex contractus) is not engaged. No clearly demonstrated will exists for English law to be lex voluntatis per Rome I [76] and [80]

There is no plausible evidential basis to submit that that the governing law identified by either Article 4(2), 4(3), or 4(4) [of Rome 1] would be English law. The Tripartite Agreement was, if made: (a) agreed between three Ukrainians who reside (or resided) in Ukraine and/or [The EU Member State]; (b) agreed in, variously, [The EU Member State], Ukraine, and France; (c) premised on a further agreement said to have been agreed in Ukraine, between two Ukrainians, in respect of deposits made by Ukrainians into a Ukrainian bank; (d) to be performed outside England. No party has provided any evidence of any connection between themselves, or the Tripartite Agreement, and England”

Neither does the tort gateway help [83]:

There is no evidence that at any stage any of the contact that took place leading to what the claimant contends to be the inducement of a breach by the first defendant of the Tripartite Agreement took place otherwise than in either Ukraine or The EU Member State.

At [86] ff England is, equally obiter, held to be forum non conveniens.

Lack of jurisdiction against the second defendant is confirmed. One imagines there might be ground of appeal given the change to the practice directions’ formulation after the Benarty and the need to clear up this principled issue.

Geert.

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