Maceió victims v Braskem. Rotterdam court refuses application for Article 34 lis pendens stay.

The (first instance) court at Rotterdam has upheld anchor jurisdiction and refused an application for an Article 34 Brussels Ia stay. The case concerns victims of earthquakes in the Brasilian Maceió region, which they argue are caused by the mining activities of Braskem. The judgment is only available in Dutch.

The Dutch anchor defendants are intra-group suppliers of ia specialty chemicals, and finance. The main target of the claim of course is the Brasilian mother holding. Whether the latter can be brought into the proceedings is not subject to Brussels Ia but rather to Dutch residual rules. However just as in e.g. Shell, the Dutch rules are applied with CJEU authority on Article 8(1) Brussels Ia firmly in mind. In much more succinct terms than the English courts in similar proceedings, the Dutch courts [6.16] finds the cases so ‘closely related’ that it is expedient to hear the cases together. It emphasises that while the respective roles and liabilities of the various undertakings concerned is likely to be very different, there is a bundle of legal and factual questions that runs jointly throughout the various claims. [6.18] it emphasises that the decision to base the European headquarters of the group, and the finance activities at Rotterdam, implies that the concern reasonably could have foreseen it would be sued here.

Equally succinctly [6.19 ff] the Court rejects the argument that the use of the Dutch corporations as anchor defendants is an abuse of process. Such abuse must be narrowly construed and  it is far from obvious that the claim against the anchors is entirely without merit.

Seemingly defendants tried to argue forum non conveniens however [6.23] the court points out such construction does not exist in The Netherlands and obiter it adds (like the Court of Appeal in Municipio) that practical complications in either hearing of the case or enforcement of any judgment are not a reason to dismiss jurisdiction.

Request for a stay in the procedures viz the Brasilian corporations [6.26] is rejected on (Dutch CPR) lis pendens rules for the parties in the proceedings are not the same. Article 34 is dealt with in two paras (quite a contrast with the E&W courts). The pending procedures vis-a-vis Article 34 are not, it seems, Brasilian Civil Public Actions – CPAS (these were at issue in Municipio de Mariana (of some interest is that the law firm behind the claims is the same in both cases)). Rather, pending liquidation proceedings are considered as the relevant assessment points. [6.28] obiter the court finds that the cases are most probably not related. It grounds  its decision however on a stay not being in the interest of the sound administration of justice. The court holds that the Brasilian proceedings are not likely to be concluded within a reasonable time. Defendants’ commitment at hearing to speed up the process in Brasil, are met with disbelief by the court given the defendants’ attitude in the Brasilian procedures hitherto.

[6.32] permission to appeal the interim judgment on jurisdiction is denied. This means that, like in Airbus, discussion on the private international law issues is likely only to resurface at the stage of appealing the judgment on the merits, too.

An important judgment: other than Petrobas, there are to my knowledge no continental judgments discussing Article 34 in this intensity (there are E&W judgments, as readers of the blog will know).

Geert.

See also ‘Dude, where’s my EU court? On the application of Articles 33-34 Brussels Ia’s forum non conveniens- light rules’, Journal of Private International Law, forthcoming 2022.

 

QBE Europe v Generali. Move over, West Tankers!

Update 16 September 2022 see Francisco Quintay, mine and others’ pondering on the enforcement implications, here and here. I agree the position of EU-based parties faced with an ASI, is interesting. ignoring an ASI leads to a contempt judgment, infringement of which is a criminal offence. Unlike Francisco I am not convinced that enforcement of a contempt order would fail under ordre public in the EU.

QBE Europe SA/NV v Generali Espana De Seguros Y Reaseguros [2022] EWHC 2062 (Comm) is not a surprising judgment of course. I flagged it on Twitter early August and I post it here for the sake of blog completeness.

The judgment grants an urgent anti-suit injunction (ASI) to restrain proceedings brought by the Defendant (Generali) against QBE UK in Spain, and to prevent Generali from commencing similar proceedings against QBE Europe. The proceedings in Spain assert a direct claim against QBE UK under a Spanish statute, by reference to a liability insurance policy. The judgment is exactly the kind of ASI outlawed by CJEU West Tankers and will reinforce the position of London in the arbitration market.

Geert.

IRnova v FLIR. CJEU would seem casually to reject reflexivity, and confirms narrow interpretation of A24(4) BIa’s exclusive jurisdictional rule for (in casu non-EU) patents.

Lydia Lundstedt has prior review of the judgment in CJEU C-399/21 IRnova AB v FLIR Systems AB (who had been business partners in the past) here. Swedish courts are clearly busy referring the private international law elements of patent cases to the CJEU.

Of particular note is that a 3 judge chamber would seem to have ruled out reflexive effect as casually as if it were swatting a fly.

On 13 December 2019, IRnova brought an action before the Patent and Market Court seeking, inter alia, a declaration that it had a better right to the inventions covered by international patent applications, subsequently supplemented by European, US and Chinese patent applications deposited by FLIR in 2015 and 2016, and by US patents granted to FLIR on the basis of those latter applications. In support of that action, IRnova had stated, in essence, that those inventions had been made by one of its employees, meaning that that employee had to be regarded as their inventor or, at the very least, as their co-inventor. IRnova therefore argued that, as the inventor’s employer and thus successor in title, it had to be regarded as the owner of the inventions. However, FLIR, without having acquired those inventions or otherwise being entitled to do so, deposited the applications in its own name.

The court had dismissed jurisdiction viz the Chinese and US patent applications, and the US patents, on the ground, in essence, that it regarded the action concerning the determination of the inventor as being linked to the registration and validity of the patents, and it applied A24(4) BIa reflexively. The Appeals Court referred the issue on reflexive effect to the CJEU, in the following terms:

‘Is an action seeking a declaration of better entitlement to an invention, based on a claim of inventorship or co-inventorship according to national patent applications and patents registered in a non-Member State, covered by exclusive jurisdiction for the purposes of Article 24(4) of [the Brussels Ia Regulation]?’

however the CJEU reformulated [22-24] the case as not concerning reflexive effect at all, rather, enquiring about the scope of the A24(4) gateway.

The Court first of all [25] ff makes a point of confirming its broad reading of the ‘international’ element required to trigger European private international law, referring to CJEU Owusu.

It then [35] would seem to rule out reflexivity in a very matter of factly way (and as Lydia also noted, without AG Opinion) and despite as noted having earlier reformulated the question away from reflexivity:

as has already been pointed out in paragraph 26 of the present judgment, the patent applications at issue in the main proceedings were deposited and the patents concerned were granted not in a Member State, but in third countries, namely the United States and China. As Article 24(4) of the Brussels Ia Regulation does not envisage that situation, however, that provision cannot be regarded as applicable to the main proceedings.

This may have already answered a core question in  BSH Hausgeräte v Aktiebolaget Electrolux.

[36] ff it adds (‘in any event’) reference ia to CJEU Hanssen and to the exceptional nature of A24 [39]. It holds that [42]

the main proceedings relate not to the existence of the deposit of a patent application or the grant of a patent, the validity or lapse of a patent, or indeed an alleged right of priority by reason of an earlier deposit, but to whether FLIR must be regarded as being the proprietor of the right to the inventions concerned or to a portion of them.

[47] it refers ia to the fact that fact that

an examination of the claims of the patent or patent application at issue may have to be carried out in the light of the substantive patent law of the country in which that application was deposited or that patent was granted [however it ] does not require the application of the rule of exclusive jurisdiction laid down in Article 24(4) of the Brussels Ia Regulation

The operative part of the judgment refers both to the A24(4) restrictive interpretation element and to the third countries element hence once cannot simply regard the reflexivity issue as obiter.

Much relevant and surprisingly succinct on the reflexivity issue.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, 2.208 and 2.548.

BSH Hausgeräte v Electrolux. An opportunity for the CJEU to clarify reflexive effect of exclusive jurisdictional rules, and stays under Article 24(4) (intellectual property law).

I mentioned the pending case C-339/22 BSH Hausgeräte v Aktiebolaget Electrolux yesterday at our excellent (if I say so myself) Max Planck Institute – EAPIL – KU Leuven workshop on Brussels Ia reform. Questions referred, are

Is Article 24(4) [BIA] to be interpreted as meaning that the expression ‘proceedings concerned with the registration or validity of patents … irrespective of whether the issue is raised by way of an action or as a defence’ implies that a national court, which, pursuant to Article 4(1) of that regulation, has declared that it has jurisdiction to hear a patent infringement dispute, no longer has jurisdiction to consider the issue of infringement if a defence is raised that alleges that the patent at issue is invalid, or is the provision to be interpreted as meaning that the national court only lacks jurisdiction to hear the defence of invalidity?

Is the answer to Question 1 affected by whether national law contains provisions, similar to those laid down in the second subparagraph of Paragraph 61 of the [Swedish] Patentlagen (Patents Law), which means that, for a defence of invalidity raised in an infringement case to be heard, the defendant must bring a separate action for a declaration of invalidity?

Is Article 24(4) [BIa] to be interpreted as being applicable to a court of a third country, that is to say, in the present case, as also conferring exclusive jurisdiction on a court in Turkey in respect of the part of the European patent which has been validated there?

BSH hold a European patent relating to a vacuum cleaner. The patent has been validated in Austria, Germany, Spain, France, the United Kingdom, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Turkey. Electrolux of Sweden has subsidiaries in a number of other Member States, such as Germany. A number of disputes have arisen between BSH and companies in the Electrolux group concerning the patent in question. Inter alia, the European patent validated in Germany was invalidated in 2020 by a German court at the request of a subsidiary of Electrolux. That judgment has been appealed.

On 3 February 2020, BSH brought an action against Electrolux before the Patents and Market Court in Sweden and claimed inter alia that Electrolux should be prohibited from using the patented invention in all the abovementioned States and ordered to pay reasonable compensation for the unlawful use. BSH also claimed compensation for the additional damage caused by Electrolux’s alleged patent infringement. Electrolux argue that the Court should dismiss the action in relation to the foreign parts of the patents. In its view the foreign patents are invalid and the Swedish court therefore lacks jurisdiction to hear infringement actions concerning those patents.

End of December 2020 the court agreed, citing A24(4) viz the EU patents (the claim being issued prior to Brexit implementation day, this includes the UK) and ‘an internationally accepted principle of jurisdiction’ (in essence, the Moçambique rule) viz the Turkish patent.

BSH of course appeal.

A asked students in the August resit exams how they think the CJEU should answer. On Q1 I would expect them to cite the need to interpret A24 restrictively, with reference to one or two cases confirming same (there are plenty); and the lack of solution in the Brussels Recast. Contrary to what Electrolux contend, a proposal to allow a court to merely stay the case pending the foreign court’s decision on validity, was never rejected. Such a proposal was never made. BIa merely confirmed CJEU Gat v Luk’s holding that exclusive jurisdiction kicks in regardless of whether the argument of invalidity is introduced as a claim of by way of defence.

On Q2 I would like to seem them argue something to the effect that national CPR must not infringe the effet utile of BIa. (Only) if the effect of the Swedish rules is that it requires the defendant to initiate IPR invalidity claims in all the relevant States, or lose its possibility of an invalidity defence, this would in my view run counter BIa’s intention and scope.

Finally, on the 3rd Q they should engage with the lack of BIa clarification on reflexive effect, other than in the strict confines of A33-34 and its related recitals. Relevant case-law of course includes Ferrexpo and Central Santa Lucia L.C. v. Meliá Hotels International S.A. Interested readers may wish to consult Alexander Layton KC’s most excellent paper on same. Some students may refer to the UPC developments and the jurisdictional consequences in Article 71 BIa (operational 2023?).

Geert.

Airbus Investors Recovery v Airbus. Rechtbank Amsterdam unconvincingly on applicable law under Rome II in investor suits.

The blog is back from summer recess with a post on Airbus Investors Recovery Limited v Airbus SE, where the first instance court at Amsterdam by way of preliminary judgment deals with the law applicable to an investor suit. Claimant has had the investment claims of a number of Airbus investors assigned to it. The core of the claim is that Airbus has tortiously caused damage to the investors in both the act, and in the correspondence leading to, and after, settlement with various financial authorities following allegations of corruption in securing aircraft orders. 

Oddly, no reference at all is made to Petrobas, despite the issues there being similar – perhaps the court in Airbus rejected relevance of the Petrobas decision for that case was held prior to CJEU Vereniging voor Effectenbezitters (VVE v BP).

I flagged many of the issues at issue in the judgment, in my post on applicable law which followed the jurisdictional discussion by the CJEU in VVE v BP.

The judgment is in Dutch of course however non-Dutch speakers may refer to it anyway, for the extract of Airbus’ choice of law provisions in the 2019 annual accounts [2.6]. This is relevant with a view to the discussion on transparency obligations following CJEU VVE v BP

The court, and one assumes parties were in agreement for the issue is not discussed, first of all assumes the liability is non-contractual. I continue to be of the view that this need not necessarily be the case. Focusing the discussion on Rome II therefore, the court also accepts readily that the lex societas carve-out of Rome II does not apply (reference is made [5.3] to CJEU Treuhand). Parties are in agreement [5.6] that for Dutch investors, Dutch law applies per Article 4(2) Rome I (shared habitual residence).

[5.10] Airbus absolutely correctly in my view insist that the CJEU’s Brussels Ia application in VVE must not simply be extrapolated to the applicable law issues at stake here. The court essentially disagrees ([5.10] in fine) and in my view it is wrong to do so.

It then [5.111], not entirely convincingly in my view, dismisses application of Article 4(1), holding that this Article in its view always leads to two applicable laws in each investor-Airbus relationship: that of the market in which the shares were bought (which will have subjected the sales to information requirements), always accompanied by Dutch law for that is where in any event listing information needed to be given.

Having ruled out A4(1), it settles for Dutch law under Article 4(3) as the law of the place of the seat of the corporation that issues financial instruments, largely citing predictability. I am not convinced.

Reference to the CJEU, requested by Airbus, is dismissed, as is [5.17] immediate appeal against the applicable law finding. Airbus will no doubt appeal the final judgment to review the issue of applicable law, too. I would suggest they have plenty of reason to do so.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Chapters 2 and 4.

 

Rome I’s corporate carve-out and agency /principal relations in Canara Bank v MCS.

Canara Bank v MCS International [2022] EWHC 2012 (Comm) is interesting with respect to Cooper J’s discussion of privity of choice of court and law, and the corporate carve-out of retained (post Brexit) Rome I.

Canara (an Indian bank) say that the Guarantee at the core of the issues, with English choice of law and court, was transmitted automatically to MCS France under the French Civil Code as a result of an amalgamation or merger of two French companies, namely the original guarantor and MCS France.

On the impact of Rome I, the judge [53] presumably with parties’ counsel approval, remarks that ‘pursuant to Article 1(2)(e) and (f), Rome 1 does not apply to questions governed by the law of companies or to the issue of whether or not an agent is able to bind a principal in relation to a third party. For both these issues, it is necessary to look to common law principles.’

[88] It is said again that whether an agent is able to bind a principal in relation to a third party is excluded from Rome 1 further to article 1(2)(g), the corporate carve-out. I do not think that is necessarily the case, even in combination with the Article 1(2)(e) carve-out for choice of court. The judge at any rate continues by applying the Dicey Rule 243 that where an agent acts or purports to act on behalf of a principal, their rights and liabilities in relation to each other are in general governed by the law applicable to the relationship or contract between them, with Dicey Rule 244(1) adding a bootstrap /von Munchausen /putative law element:

The issue whether the agent is liable to bind the principal to a contract with a third party, or a term of that contract, is governed by the law which would govern that contract or term, if the agent’s authority were established.”

[89] In light of the foregoing, ‘it was common ground between the parties, and rightly so, that Mr. Maurel’s actual authority on behalf of MIF fell to be determined under French law and the question of whether and to what extent Mr. Maurel was able to bind MIF in respect of the Guarantee given Canara’s knowledge of the resolution is a matter of English law.’

Common English conflict of laws is held to apply to the issue of transfer of a guarantee during the dissolution of a company, and parties agree [76] that whether a corporation has been amalgamated with another corporation is to be determined by the law of its place of incorporation: French law is held to be the relevant law for the dissolved guarantor issue, and expert reports were discussed.

Overall conclusion is [125]

Having considered the issue of good arguable case by reference to each of the issues raised by the parties in relation to the question of whether MCS France was a party to the Guarantee and therefore the jurisdiction agreement contained within it, it seems to me to appropriate to step back and consider whether overall Canara has a good arguable case on whether or not MCS France was a party to that jurisdiction agreement. In this regard, I consider that it does. Even were I to be wrong on one of the issues considered above, the balance of the evidence supports the conclusion that MCS France is a party to the Guarantee and to the jurisdiction agreement contained within it. In circumstances, where the evidence establishes that Canara, MCS France and MCS UK have done business since 2014 on the basis that the Guarantee was binding on MCS France, it would be a surprising conclusion that there was no good arguable case that MCS France was a party to the jurisdiction agreement.

Interesting, if flimsy on the corporate carve-out issue.

Geert.

Otsuka v GW Pharma. When does a tussle about intellectual property rights engage the Moçambique rule?

I tweeted the case on 4 May….slowly I am getting trough the backlog. In Otsuka v GW Pharma [2022] EWHC 1012 (Pat) Karet DJ upheld jurisdiction to hear a dispute about a patent licence in circumstances where the licensee has indicated it will challenge the validity of licensed patents granted outside the UK.

On 7 January 2022 GW commenced proceedings against Otsuka in a state court in New York. There is a significant overlap between the matters raised in the New York claim and the E&W claim (as GW have indicated they will defend it). GW seek a declaration that under the Agreement between the parties none of the relevant patents Covers Epidyolex, including because the patents are invalid. Epidyolex is a drug for the treatment of seizures associated with various conditions or epileptic syndromes. The active ingredient in Epidyolex is cannabidiol (“CBD”).

[47] ff the judge considers the Moçambique rule which means that an English court has no jurisdiction to adjudicate a claim of title to foreign land. In Lucasfilm v Ainsworth the UKSC with some reference to the CJEU’s application of Brussels Ia’s Article 24, held that there is no jurisdiction in proceedings for infringement of rights in foreign land where the proceedings are “principally concerned with a question of the title, or the right to possession, of that property” (including intellectual property). [51] Reference is also made to Chugai Pharmaceutical Co Ltd v UCB Pharma SA and to Unwired Planet International Ltd v Huawei Technologies (UK) Co Ltd.

The judge [73] holds GW’s intended challenge to a foreign patent in this case is not direct in the sense suggested in Chugai and the rule in Moçambique is not engaged. Claim formulation in the US proceedings features as a strong argument in that conclusion. [81] ff a forum non challenge is rejected.

Geert.

EU private international law, 3rd ed. 2021, 2.196 ff.

Fong Chak Kwan v Ascentic. The Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal aligns the damage jurisdictional gateway with the UKSC’s Brownlie approach.

This post is one for the comparative binder. Fong Chak Kwan v Ascentic Limited and Others [2022] HKCFA 12 (many thanks to Poomintr Sooksripaisarnkit for alerting me to the judgment) discusses a variety of issues, the one of interest to the blog is the tort gateway for a tort allegedly committed outside of Hong Kong. The ruling on that issue was delivered by Lord Collins, a former UKSC judge who continues to sit in the Hong Kong judicial system (unlike others who have withdrawn from the Hong Kong courts in light of the region’s rule of law issues).

[67] Direct damage was sustained on the Mainland, with indirect damage only in Hong Kong.

The First Instance judge [68] ‘in line with the majority judgments of Lady Hale and Lord Wilson in [UKSC Brownlie] .., and being unpersuaded by the minority view of Lord Sumption, decided that (a) the expression “damage” in Gateway F was not limited to damage which completed the cause of action; (b) the expression was not limited to direct damage as opposed to indirect/consequential damage; (c) where damage was felt in more than one jurisdiction, indirect/consequential damage qualified under Gateway F if it was of some significance; (d) the expression was to be given its ordinary and natural meaning, which embraced indirect/consequential damage; and (e) the consequences of a wide interpretation were sufficiently addressed by the discretion as to forum conveniens.’ 

The Court of Appeal [69] ‘like the judge, held that the reasoning of the majority in Brownlie v Four Seasons Holdings Inc was to be preferred to that of the minority. Damage included all of the heads of damage which might be suffered as a result of tortious conduct, including all the detriment, physical, financial and social which the plaintiff suffered as a result. The natural and ordinary meaning of Gateway F was clear, and there was no basis for drawing a distinction between direct and indirect damage. Nor was there any basis for applying the European jurisprudence on the Brussels Convention and Brussels I Regulations. Finally, the expression “the damage” in Gateway F did not mean that all the damage, or the damage which completed the cause of action, had to be sustained in Hong Kong.’

[74] ff Collins NPJ provides a historic and geographical comparative (Commonwealth) tour d’horizon, confirming the lower courts’ view.

[107]-[108] ‘(I)n the light of the legislative purpose, the natural and ordinary meaning of the word “damage” is just that, and the rule does not distinguish between the damage which completes a cause of action and that which does not, nor does it distinguish between direct or indirect damage, or between physical or financial damage. The question is whether there is a legislative purpose, or a public policy, or an absurd or undesirable result, which justifies a narrower construction, to encompass only direct damage as opposed to indirect damage.’: the judge finds there is no such purpose, policy or result.’

[109] he discusses 3 flows in the reasoning of the alternative reading, which are worth a read. [121] the same safety valve is emphasised as the UKSC did in the majority view in Brownlie: where the exercise of the locus damni gateway leads to unwarranted results, forum non conveniens can come to the rescue.

Geert.

G I Globinvestment. A jurisdiction finding with core shortfalls on Brussels Ia.

In G I Globinvestment Ltd & Ors v VP Fund Solutions (Luxembourg) SA & Ors [2022] EWHC 1872 (Comm) wealthy Italian investors seek to recover losses which they suffered when investments they had made plummeted in value at the outset of the COVID pandemic. Defendants are in various jurisdictions. Most have accepted jurisdiction, two of them, one based in Luxembourg, the other in Liechtenstein, challenge jurisdiction.

The claim against the Liechtenstein defendant is subject to common law rules, the country not being a party to Lugano. I will leave that further undiscussed here, suffice to say the challenge was unsuccessful.

The claim against the Luxembourg based defendant was issued before Brexit implementation date and subject to Brussels Ia. It claims there is an A25 exclusive choice of court clause in the investment fund’s general subscription terms, and Vineall DJ discusses it with reference to the general A25 outline in PIFSS v Piqtet.

Parties are agreed [64] – wrongly, nota bene, that on formal validity, the question is whether there has been an actual consensus between the parties, clearly and precisely demonstrated, and on material validity, the question is whether the dispute between the parties arose or originated from the particular legal relationship in connection with which the clause was concluded. That is the kind of agreement which would see my students fail a Brussels Ia question.

[65] a further major error is made with the parties seemingly agreeing that ‘whether the claim falls within the scope of the [clause], that question is to be answered according to Luxembourg law’.

The conclusions are [88] that there is no [forum clause] in the in the Subscription Agreement, although there is choice of law clause; 88.2. There is no EJC in the Offering Document; The Offering Document wrongly asserts that there is a jurisdiction clause in the Subscription Agreement; That is insufficient to establish a clearly and precisely demonstrated consensus; no consensus as to jurisdiction is demonstrated: the result of the conflicting documents is a muddle; therefore there is no exclusive jurisdiction clause on which VP Lux can rely.

I have not got the kind of access to the file to say the outcome is factually wrong – the route to it certainly is and simply wrong in law.

The judge also [89] concludes that whether one of the claimants is a consumer who can sue in England and Wales need not be decided:  ‘That issue does not seem to me to be entirely straightforward and since it is not necessary to resolve it in the light of my conclusions about [choice of court] I prefer not to decide it’: why not?: VP Lux contest jurisdiction and it is the judge’s task under Brussels Ia to assess the existence of jurisdiction on any of the Brussels Ia grounds.

Had the judgment been issued in exam season it would have been obvious material for ‘spot the Brussels Ia errors’.

Geert.

 

Athena Capital. Court of Appeal sets aside case-management stay under Brussels Ia, emphasises Brussels statutory purpose and A6 ECHR.

In Athena Capital Fund SICAV-FIS SCA & Ors v Secretariat of State for the Holy See [2022] EWCA Civ 1051, the Court of Appeal has overturned the High Court’s judgment ordering a stay in a case involving alleged property fraud. I reviewed the first instance judgment here. The judge held the E&W courts did have jurisdiction over the claims but stayed them

because he took the view that the respondent had adopted a neutral position as to whether the appellants were under any liability and because the real dispute was not between the parties to this action but between the appellants and the prosecuting authorities responsible for the conduct of criminal proceedings against the fourth appellant in the Vatican City State.

(Males LJ [1]).

Many of the High Court judgment’s’ findings were not on appeal (such as the erroneous dropping of renvoi in the A25 BIa choice of court analysis).

The Court of Appeal spends a while summarising the earlier judgment, to arrive [54] at the crucial juncture between the Brussels Ia Regulation and case-management stays, with reference to its very recent decisions in Municipio and Nokia and to Article 6 ECHR right of access to courts [59]. Para 59 is crucial and I repeat it here in full

There is, as it seems to me, no reason to doubt that it is only in rare and compelling cases that it will be in the interests of justice to grant a stay on case management grounds in order to await the outcome of proceedings abroad. After all, the usual function of a court is to decide cases and not to decline to do so, and access to justice is a fundamental principle under both the common law and Article 6 ECHR. The court will therefore need a powerful reason to depart from its usual course and such cases will by their nature be exceptional. In my judgment all of the guidance in the cases which I have cited is valuable and instructive, but the single test remains whether in the particular circumstances it is in the interests of justice for a case management stay to be granted. There is not a separate test in “parallel proceedings” cases. Rather, considerations such as the existence of an exclusive English jurisdiction clause and the danger of circumventing a statutory scheme for the allocation of jurisdiction (such as the Judgments Regulation) will be weighty and often decisive factors pointing to where the interests of justice lie.

Males LJ therefore, like others before him, does not rule out a case-management stay even for proceedings covered by Brussels Ia yet puts (among others) that Regulation’s statutory purpose, and the need not to allow it to be circumvented, at the centre ground of the decision on a stay.

[60] ff a succinct background is given to the happiness, or not, of English courts entertaining negative declarations. [74] is the Court of Appeal’s core argument for lifting the stay:

I consider that the judge’s conclusion on what he described as the Secretariat’s “central argument” was mistaken. The Secretariat was not neutral. It follows that the basis on which the judge concluded that, at present, the grant of declarations would serve no useful purpose and therefore exercised his discretion to grant a case management stay was fundamentally flawed. Indeed the circumstances in which he envisaged that the declarations might serve a useful purpose and that the stay might be lifted, that is to say if the Secretariat adopted a partisan position in the criminal proceedings in the Vatican, already existed.

The judge had essentially decided that claimants, given the jurisdictional (for reasons of immunity) unavailability of the real defendants, had picked an ‘innocent bystander’ against whom to seek the negative declaration, the Secretariat, yet the Court of Appeal now finds that the Secretariat is not a neutral bystander at all. There is a real ‘dispute between the appellants and the Secretariat as to whether the appellants are under any civil liability to the Secretariat, for example to pay compensation, as a result of entering into the Transaction.’ [75]

[77] it is conceded that the lifting of the stay means there will be related proceedings going on in E&E, and the Vatican. But that is not found to be a reason to stay the English proceedings.

Geert.

 

 

 

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