Agora v SPA Italiana Lastre. French Supreme Court refers to CJEU on lex fori prorogati in hybrid choice of court.

This short post on Agora v SPA Italiana Lastre ECLI:FR:CCASS:2023:C100265 at the French SC could suffice with referring to para 2.331 of the Handbook. That para asks exactly the question on which the SC has now referred to the CJEU:

The insertion into the Regulation of the lex fori prorogati rule often does not assist. In particular, where parties expressly make choice of court non-exclusive (non-exclusive choice of court), or where they designate a plurality of specifically identified courts, the lex fori prorogati is not immediately ascertainable.[1] Neither is it in the event of so-called ‘unilateral’ or ‘one-sided’ choice of court, which I review below. In my opinion, therefore, at the very least for these cases which are not solved with the new lex fori prorogati rule, parties are best advised to continue to (or start to) make separate and express choice of law for unilateral and non-exclusive choice of law.

[1]               An argument also made by counsel for the defendants in Commerzbank Aktiengesellschaft v Liquimar Tankers Management Inc [2017] EWHC 161 (Comm).

Please refer to François Mailhé’s post who has background to the issues here, referring ia to Banque de Rothschild. Note that Mary Keyes edited a whole volume on asymmetric aka hybrid aka unilateral choice of court.

Like François I do not think the CJEU will entertain all the questions referred. I cannot imagine it finding the very acceptability of unilateral choice of court to be covered by Article 25. That is simply not within the Article’s remit. (The CJEU might make an exception for the issue in those consumer contracts not covered by the protective regime of Brussels Ia, eg pure contracts of transport; here it might refer to secondary EU consumer law on unfair terms).

I do also wonder whether the Court will say anything about recital 20’s odd inclusion of renvoi, and whether parties may take away the uncertainty by designating a specific lex causae for the choice of court clause, and in doing so may also exclude renvoi (the answer to both in my view should be ‘yes’).


EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, 2.331.

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