COMI for natural persons and the EIR. The High Court unconvincingly in Lin v Gudmondsson.

Lin v Gudmundsson & Ors [2021 EWHC 820 (Ch) is an application to annul the bankruptcy of Mr Gudmundsson by his ex-wife. She argues inter alia that the bankruptcy order should not have been made because England was not Mr Gudmundsson’s COMI.

At 54, Briggs J (presumably so led by counsel) oddly holds that the EU Insolvency Regulation (‘EIR’) 2015/848 only defines COMI in its recital 13. Odd, for that was the case under the previous Regulation, 1346/2000, not the current one which does define COMI in the text of the Regulation proper (Article 3(1) – see Heading 4 of my overview here). However that issue is of minor importance for the real hesitation I have with the judgment is

that the judge despite the EIR’s specific instruction that COMI needs to be determined proprio motu, retreats to the default adversarial nature of common law proceedings and defers to the claimant’s concession ‘that even if the court were to find that Mr Gudmundsson did not have his COMI in England and Wales it should not exercise its discretion to annul the bankruptcy order’ [57]; and

that the judge resorts to section 265(2) of the Insolvency Act 1986’s jurisdictional anchor (“in the period of three years ending with the day on which the petition is presented …a place of residence in England and Wales”) instead of the autonomous concept of ‘habitual residence’ in the Regulation. The meaning of that concept was recently discussed by the CJEU in C-253/19 Novo Banco.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed 2021, Chapter 5, para 5.95.

The continuing enigma that is the Brussels Ia arbitration exception. The Paris CFI on liability claims against arbitrators.

Thank you indeed Gilles Cuniberti for flagging and discussing the end of March decision (Press Release only) by the Paris Court of First Instance in which it held that an action against an arbitrator for damages following his failure to disclose a conflict of interests, which led to the annulment of the award, fell within Brussels Ia despite its arbitration exception.

I have more sympathy for the decision than Gilles. At the very least I am not surprised national courts should be confused about the demarcation. Brussels Ia inserted the Smorgasbord of confusion following West Tankers, by collating an even prima facie conflicting array of ins and outs in its recital 12. Even before the entry into force of Brussels Ia, Cooke J in Toyota v Prolat held that recital 12 is of no use. Other than in fairly straightforward cases such as Premier Cruises v DLA Piper Russia, good argument might exist on many conceivable cases.

Deciding the demarcation with help from the New York Convention itself (one might have suggested that what is included in New York, should not be included in Brussels Ia) does not help in the case at issue for as ia Tadas Varapnickas notes, Uncitral and New York are silent on the status of the arbitrator.

Assuming BIa applies, there must be little doubt there is a contractual relation, even between the arbitrator and the party who did not appoint her or him, in the BIa Article 7(1) sense, following CJEU flightright.

Curial seat was Paris, yet hearings and deliberations had taken place in Germany. Forum contractus as a provision of services was held to have been Germany.

This is where Burkhard Hess, at the request of Gilles, took over: Burkhard further discusses the findings on arbitration, agrees with Germany as the forum contractus per ia CJEU Wood Floor Solutions, and suggests (see similarly Mann J in Philips v TCL) the German courts are bound by the Paris’ court’s findings per CJEU Gothaer.

Much relevant. I do not know whether appeal is being sought.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 2.2.3.4, para 2.110 ff.;

Italy’s residual private international law rules in the spotlight in Dolce & Gabbana v Diet Prada defamation suit.

I was unaware of a fashion blogosphere war of words and more between Dolce & Gabbana and the founders of Diet Prada until I was asked to comment (in Dutch) on the pending lawsuit in Italy. The suit has an echo of SLAPP – Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.

Among others this post on The Fashion Law gives readers the necessary background and also links to the defendants’ lawyers reply at the jurisdictional level. It is this element of course that triggered the interview request, rather than my admittedly admirable sense of style (with sentences like these, I think I may be in need of a break).

Readers might be surprised to find the legal team discussing A7(2) Brussels Ia’s forum delicti, and CJEU authority such as Bolagsupplysningen seeing as per A6 BIa the Regulation does not apply, rather the Italian residual rules. However as Andrea Bonomi and Tito Ballarino review in the Encyclopedia of Private International Law, Italy has extended the scope of application of BIa to its internal sphere. Hence an interesting discussion of the CJEU case-law on locus damni, centre of interests etc. As well as a probably ill-fated attempt to encourage the Italian courts, in subsidiary fashion, to exercise forum non should the A7(2) arguments fall on deaf ears. Probably futile seeing as the Italian regime does not know a foum non rule, however if BIa is extended, would that not also extend to forum non-light in A33-34? As far as I could tell from the submission, however, no reference was made  to an 33-34 challenge.

Enfin, lots of interesting things to ponder at a different occasion. Happy Easter all.

Geert.

EU Private International Law 3rd ed. 2021, para 2.437 ff.

Swiss court’s refusal of recognition under Lugano 2007 shows the difficult road ahead for UK judgments.

There is much to be said about the refusal of the courts at Zurich at the end of February, to recognise a September 2020 High Court judgment under the 2007 Lugano Convention. Rodrigo Rodriguez says it all here and I am happy to refer. The guillotine fashion in which the courts rejected application of Lugano 2007 even for a procedure that was initiated before Brexit date 1 January 2021 leaves much to be discussed. As does the question whether the demise of Lugano 2007 might not resurrect Lugano 1988 (Rodrigo points ia to the dualist nature of the UK in his discussion of same).

Whether correct or not in the specific case at issue, the judgment does show the clear bumpy ride ahead for UK judgments across the continent, following the Hard Brexit in judicial co-operation.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed., 2021, Chapter 1, Heading 1.7.

 

Suing ‘Norsk Hydro’ in The Netherlands. No engagement it seems of Article 33-34 BIa ‘from non conveniens light’.

A quick note on the suit in The Netherlands against “Norsk Hydro” of Norway, for alleged pollution caused by aluminium production in Brasil. No court decisions or orders are available as yet hence I write simply to log the case. I have put Norsk Hydro in inverted commas for the suit really is against Norsk Hydro subsidiaries incorporated in The Netherlands, who are said to control the Brazilian entities. The jurisdictional basis therefore is A4 BIa. As far as the reporting on the case  indicates, there seems little likelihood of A33-34 BIa’s forum non conveniens light making an appearance seeing as no Brazilian proceedings are reported to be underway which could sink the Dutch proceedings like the High Court did in Municipio de Mariana. That is not to say of course that the defendants might not discover some.

Geert.

EU Private International Law., 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 7.3.1.

The CJEU on ‘civil and commercial’ in Obala. No panacea.

Judgment in C-307/19 Obala starts in earnest at 59 for the CJEU like the AG (see my review of his Opinion here) holds many of the questions to be inadmissible. The Court focuses its references to selected case-law, and its concluding assessment (72), on the review of the legal relationship between the parties at issue (this was the preferred route of Bobek AG) and on the foundation and modalities of the action in brought before the courts. Both have the hallmark of relationships which might as well have occurred in purely private transactions without any public law indications at all. Hence a conclusion of a ‘civil and commercial’ matter.

The Court’s selective reference to the legal relationship side of the authorities should not however in my view mean that the AG’s ‘subject-matter’ alternative should now be considered as having been rejected for all cases on the scope of Brussels Ia (and many other related PIL instruments).

Geert.

European Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, paras 2.28 ff concluding at 2.65.

 

 

 

 

PWC Landwell v LY. The French SC on the EU consumer rights Directive and arbitration agreements.

Many thanks Alain Devers for alerting us back in October to the French Supreme Court’s judgment in PWC Landwell v LY, on agreements to arbitrate and the consumer rights Directive 93/13. Apologies for late posting.

The Supreme Court held [20 ff] that the contract between a client, domicoled at France, and PWC Landwell’s Spanish offices (Landwell used to be the trading name of the law firm side of this multidisciplinary practice), fell within the consumer title of Brussels IA. The Court of Appeal’s judgment had clearly run through the CJEU-sanctioned ‘directed at’ test and found it satisfied in the case at issue (the Landwell website boasting international coverage of its services as well as international contact numbers as strong indicators).

The SC also held that the requirement to turn to arbitration was incompatible with the Consumer Rights Directive 93/13, in particular its A6 which per CJEU C‑147/16 Karel de Grote — Hogeschool Katholieke Hogeschool Antwerpen confirmed in C-51/17 OTP Bank et OTP Faktoring is of ordre public character. The SC agreed with the CA that the clause, despite the client having been in the presence of a bank employee when the contract was put to her, was not properly negotiated and qualifies as a clause abusif.

Geert.

EU Private International Law 3rd ed 2021, para 2.277.

 

NB v MI. Using English law to judge (mental) capacity to enter a Sharia marriage abroad.

NB v MI [2021] EWHC 224 (Fam) engages capacity to marriage. A marriage was formed on 1 June 2013 in Pakistan under sharia law between the parties. 18 years earlier, when she was 6, the wife was involved in a serious accident which left her among others badly neurologically damaged. She only slowly recovered from these injuries, to the extent that expert evidence suggested she does now, but did not have capacity in all the areas of life canvassed including to marry and enter sexual relations, at the time of her 2013 marriage.

Mostyn J considers the issues of whether partners understand the constituent elements of what it means to get married, starting with Durham v Durham [1885] 10 PD 80 and of course noting the changed approaches to the institute of marriage since. The core test then is to check whether at the time of marriage, the partners understood what it means to get married: financially, emotionally, sexually.

Mostyn J upon review of the evidence held that the wife lacked awareness of the difference between Islamic and English marriage; or the financial consequences depending on the contract; or her husband’s potential claims against her estate; or her husband’s proposed living arrangements. Yet that these say nothing at all about her capacity to marry [37]: ‘They may say quite a lot about her wisdom in getting married, but that is not the issue I have to decide.’ Although reference is made to KC & Anor v City of Westminster Social & Community Services Dept. & Anor [2008] EWCA Civ 198 I find the conflict of laws analysis could have been made clearer: is the overpowering engagement of English law a finding of confirmation of lex domicilii (the lex patriae of the wife is not mentioned but might be British), entirely disregarding a role for the lex loci celebrationis?

This is not my core area – I imagine others may have a more expert insight.

Geert.

Jamieson v Wurttemburgische Versicherung. On being seized for lis alibi pendens purposes, and on whether the protected categories regimes ought to gazump torpedo actions.

Jamieson v Wurttemburgische Versicherung AG & Anor [2021] EWHC 178 (QB) has been in my draft folder for a while – Master Davison refused an application for a stay on the basis of A29 Brussels I’a’s lis alibi pendens rule, holding that the issue of which court was being seized first, was properly sub judice in the German courts, as is the issue whether litigation subject to the protected categories, should rule out a stay in cases where the weaker party is being disadvantaged.

James Beeton has the background to the case here. Claimant was injured in a road traffic accident in Munich. He was working as a commodities broker for the second defendant. He was attending the Oktoberfest with clients, whom he was entertaining. He was walking from the beer hall to his hotel. He crossed a busy highway and was struck by a taxi, sustaining very severe injuries. The precise circumstances of the collision are in dispute. The taxi was insured by the first defendant, against whom the claimant has a direct right of action.

I tell students and pupils alike that too strong a hint of judicial action in pre-litigation action may trigger a torpedo suit in a court not preferred by client. That is exactly what happened in this case. In pre-action correspondence the insurers for the taxi were asked to confirm that they would not issue proceedings in another jurisdiction – to which they never replied other than by issuing proceedings in Germany for a negative declaration, i.e. a declaration that they were not liable for the accident. Those proceedings had been issued on 18 July 2017. Claimants then issued protectively in England on 10 May 2018. The to and fro in the German proceedings revealed that the correct address for the English claimant was not properly given to the German courts until after the English courts had been seized. 

Hence two substantive issues are before the German courts: when were they properly seized (a discussion in which the English courts could formally interfere using A29(2) BIa); and if they were seized first, is A29 subordinate to the protected categories’ regime: for if the German torpedo goes ahead, claimant in the English proceedings will be bereft of his right to sue in England.

The suggestion for the second issue is that either in Brussels Ia, a rule needs to be found to this effect (I do not think it is there); or in an abuse of EU law (per ia Lord Briggs in Vedanta) argument (CJEU authority on and enthusiasm for same is lukewarm at best).  Despite Master Davison clear disapproval of the insurer’s actions at what seems to be an ethical level, he rules out a stay on the basis of comity and of course CJEU C-159/02 Turner v Grovit: the English High Court must not remove a claim from the jurisdiction of the German courts on the basis of abuse of EU law before those courts.

A most interesting case on which we may yet see referral to the CJEU – by the German courts perhaps.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed 2021, Heading 2.2.9.4, 2.2.15.1.

Koch Films v Ouragan Films et al. The French SC on provisional measures under Brussels IA.

Gilles Cuniberti  discusses Koch Films v Ouragan Films et al at the French Supreme Court, a case which as also signalled by Hélene Péroz. The judgment is an important one for it signals the continuing uncertainty of interpreting ‘provisional’ under Brussels Ia. In its earlier case-law (Ergo; Haras de Coudrettes) the SC took a more relaxed approach than a strict reading of CJEU St.Paul Dairy might suggest. Unlike Gilles I do not think the SC’s judgment here necessarily signals a return to orthodoxy. In rebuking the Court of Appeal for having too readily dismissed the measures as not being provisional, and in demanding it review whether the measures might not (also) be meant to preserve evidence, it could be said that the opposite might be true: as long as the measure at least in part preserves evidence, other motives do not endanger its provisional character.

En se déterminant ainsi, par une affirmation générale, sans rechercher si ces mesures, qui visaient à obtenir la communication de documents en possession des parties adverses, n’avaient pas pour objet de prémunir la société Koch contre un risque de dépérissement d’éléments de preuve dont la conservation pouvait commander la solution du litige, la cour d’appel a privé sa décision de base légale au regard des textes susvisés [7]

One will have to await future direction.

Geert.

EU Private International Law 3rd ed 2021, 2.559.