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.

Mutton dressed as lamb. The ‘new’ proposed proportionality angle to the innovation principle.

A quick post on an issue I actively published on last year, including with Kathleen Garnett: the innovation principle. My post here is a bit of a documentation gateway on same. I just wanted to draw readers’ attention to two developments.

First, the European Risk Forum which stood at the cradle of a proposed innovation ‘principle’ has been rebranded into the ‘European Regulation and Innovation Forum’ – ERIF. This of course even more than ‘Risk Forum’ is meant to conjure up positive feelings: who could possibly be against Regulation let alone innovation? It calls itself a think tank but it is in fact a trade association – interest group.

Further, the focus of the campaign has now changed. No longer it seems is the introduction of a new innovation principle the aim of the campaign. Rather, a restrictive take on regulation using cost benefit analysis and ‘proportionality’ – both existing principles of e.g. EU environmental law and at odds e.g. with the recently proposed essential use idea within the EU’s chemicals policy. It seems ERIF looks among others to the EU’s Regulatory Scrutiny Board to keep proposed laws in check.

Worth keeping an eye on, I suggest.

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.

 

AdActive Media v Ingrouille. On the complications of recognition and enforcement outside the Brussels regime.

As I seem to be in pedagogic blog mode today, a note on AdActive Media Inc v Ingrouille [2021] EWCA Civ 313. The case shows the complications that arise in recognition and enforcement proceedings outside of the Brussels regime. The proceedings were initiated prior to the end of the Brexit transition period however seeing as they involve a judgment from outside the EU, Brussels Ia was never engaged. Even had BIa been engaged, an interesting discussion would have ensued, I am sure, as to the impact of the arbitration exclusion on the case at issue.

The consultancy agreement between the parties (AdActive Media are incorporated in Delaware, Mr Ingrouille is resident in the UK) is by its express terms governed by the law of the State of California. It contains three provisions dealing with jurisdiction, two of which confer jurisdiction on US District and State Courts in California and the other provides for arbitration. The provision for arbitration expressly excludes claims by the company under two clauses, one of which (clause 7) contains covenants against the misuse and unauthorised disclosure of confidential information. Alleged breaches of clause 7 featured prominently in the claims made in the US proceedings. The relationship between these provisions and their effect is one of the issues arising on this appeal. The company argued before the judge who was asked to confirm recognition, that they were irreconcilable, and that the arbitration clause was ineffective. Alternatively, it argued that as the US proceedings included claims in respect of the misuse and unauthorised disclosure of confidential information, they were properly brought in the US Court.

Under the common law of recognition and enforcement, if the US proceedings were properly brought in the US Court in accordance with the terms of the consultancy agreement, that court is recognised as having jurisdiction over the claim against Mr Ingrouille and its judgment will prima facie be enforceable in England. However the lack of the Brussels’ regime mutual trust and harmonisation of jurisdictional rules means the English court will second-guess US jurisdiction under section 32 of the England and Wales Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 (I have copied the relevant extract below).

What follows are 50-odd paras of discussion of the scope of clause 7, reference to Fiona Trust and Enka, and a conclusion by Richards LJ that the judgment entered against Mr Ingrouille in the US proceedings cannot be enforced in England, by reason of the application of section 32(1) of the 1982 Act. Summary judgment was entered in favour of Mr Ingrouille.

Geert.

S32:

“(1) Subject to the following provisions of this section, a judgment given by a court of an overseas country in any proceedings shall not be recognised or enforced in the United Kingdom if –

(a) the bringing of those proceedings in that court was contrary to an agreement under which the dispute in question was to be settled otherwise than by proceedings in the courts of that country; and

(b) those proceedings were not brought in that court by, or with the agreement of, the person against whom the judgment was given; and

(c) that person did not counterclaim in the proceedings or otherwise submit to the jurisdiction of that court.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply, where the agreement referred to in paragraph (a) of that subsection was illegal, void or unenforceable or was incapable of being performed for reasons not attributable to the fault of the party bringing the proceedings in which the judgment was given.

(3) In determining whether a judgment given by a court of an overseas country should be recognised or enforced in the United Kingdom, a court in the United Kingdom shall not be bound by any decision of the overseas court relating to any of the matters mentioned in subsection (1) or (2).”

 

 

Rokkan v Rokkan. An excellent primer on the concept and consequences of characterisation in the conflict of laws.

Rokkan v Rokkan & Anor [2021] EWHC 481 (Ch) is most excellent material for anyone looking to teach and /or understand the concept of ‘characterisation’ in private international law /the conflict of laws.

It also of course shows how qualification may be used (albeit here unsuccessfully) to try and reverse the unfortunate consequences of a particular action. In essence, claimant is a son of the deceased (she died in 2016 domiciled in the UK having lived there for a long time) who in her  2012 testament had been given the funds in two Norwegian bank accounts of the deceased, which she had emptied in 2014 via transfers to the UK.

Upon the 1979 death in Norway of her husband, the surviving spouse had applied for “uskifte” or “deferred probate” by which, in broad terms, the surviving spouse may apply to the court for an order by which (s)he is allowed to possess the whole of the joint estate of the deceased and the surviving spouse, and becomes subject to various obligations. The law provides that when the surviving spouse dies the joint estate is divided in two and each half passes to the heirs of the deceased spouse and the surviving spouse respectively (who may of course be the same).

Under England and Wales inheritance laws there is no reserved share. For claimant to obtain part of the estate, he must qualify his claim as something else than one in inheritance. The routes he opts for, are contractual (the argument here being that by exercising the right of deferred probate, the now deceased undertook obligations which were contractual and are governed by Norwegian law) or in trust (applying for and being granted deferred probate gave rise to a trust, whereby the now deceased held the joint assets on trust for herself but also for the first deceased heirs. It is alleged that the trust is governed by Norwegian law).

The characterisation principles are laid out at 33 ff, with focus mostly on characterisation following lex fori. Miles J does not discuss the role of the Rome Regulations (one imagines parties had not done so either) and under Rome I in particular, plenty of exceptions (family relationships, constitution of trusts) might well kick in. At 39 ff for the contract claim and at 49 ff for the trust claim under the Hague Convention, he rather swiftly decides the arguments are contrived: the Norwegian regime is near-entirely determined by Statute and that the initial kick-off requires the surviving spouse to apply for it, does not in and of itself render the whole regime a contractual one.

Good teaching material. Geert.

EU private international law 3rd ed. 2021, ia para 1.13

 

Mittelbayerischer Verlag: determining centre of interests for jurisdiction in online defamation cases. The AG suggests this is not the case for big changes.

What I said in my post on Markt24 this morning, also goes for the Opinion of Bobek AG in C-800/19 Mittelbayerischer Verlag KG v SM: others have in the meantime posted analysis on it, in this case Tobias Lutzi whose scholarship was cited by the AG.

Claimant is a Polish national who had been a former Auschwitz prisoner. He brought a civil claim against a German newspaper before the Polish courts for having used the expression ‘Polish extermination camp’ in an online article to refer to a Nazi extermination camp built on the territory of (then) occupied Poland. The camp in Treblinka was a Nazi extermination camp built within the territory of occupied Poland. Not a ‘Polish’ or indeed even a ‘German’ concentration camp: a Nazi or fascist camp. But I stray.

Although the article had been online for only a few hours before it was corrected, the applicant maintains that the online publication has harmed his national identity and dignity.

Do Polish courts have international jurisdiction to hear such claim? In the main proceedings, the applicant is not only seeking monetary compensation, but also other remedies: a court order prohibiting the publisher from using the expression ‘Polish extermination camp’ in the future and the publication of an apology. (For related issues on the nature of the remedy, see prof Hess’ post on the blog here). Bolagsupplysningen is the most recent relevant CJEU authority. Some of the complications of that case recently featured in Napag Trading and in  Saïd v L’Express.

Warsaw was undoubtedly the claimant’s centre of interest per Bolagsupplysningen, yet the referring court wondered whether this was sufficient to give it jurisdiction given the range of remedies sought by the claimant (damages; prohibition to use the term in the future; public apology). Particularly seeing as the intensity of contact of the claimant with the offending material was on the lighter side: unlike eDate, the online article that formed the basis for the action did not directly concern claimant. The paper’s regional profile and readership range, and focus on regional news, the entirely German nature of the site, lack of any targeting of non-regional readers etc.. meant it was not at all directed at anything else but a local readership.

As Tobias points out, the AG reemphasises (39-44) the unfortunate consequences of Mozaik jurisdiction per CJEU Bier, as plenty of AGs and scholars have done with him. He suggests however that current case is not one suited to a wholesale revisiting of the Bier authority, specifically in an internet context (see also the phrase ‘ubiquitous nature’ of the internet in Google v CNIL, per Szpunar AG), seeing as the essence of the dispute is one on the merits. Instead, he suggests the Court exercise judicial economy and take a most narrow approach to the case: whether in a case seeking a prohibition on the use of a certain statement in the future and the publication of an apology, the applicability of centre of interests of a party allegedly harmed by online publication, be precluded by the fact that that person is not named in the publication at issue?

The case therefore will be an opportunity to specify to some extent the open questions with respect to the indivisibility of the remedies in online defamation cases (see also Gtflix TV and BVC v EWF).

Tobias maps the AG’s approach which discusses predictability yet anchors the conclusion unto the very reason (ia per recitals 15 and 16 which themselves go back to the Report Jenard) for having introduced A7 special jurisdiction: the connection of the court to the facts of the case (59):

any alternative grounds of jurisdiction, must be ‘based on a close connection between the court and the action or in order to facilitate the sound administration of justice. The existence of a close connection should ensure legal certainty and avoid the possibility of the defendant being sued in a court of a Member State which he could not reasonably have foreseen. This is important, particularly in disputes concerning non-contractual obligations arising out of violations of privacy and rights relating to personality, including defamation’.

‘the reasonable foreseeability of the centre of gravity of a dispute should not be effectively replaced by the publisher’s knowledge of the place of the victim’s domicile (62)’

A criterion of intent (69) must not be introduced for online torts, the AG suggests (cf intention expressed as ‘directing at’ in the consumer title). Applied to the case at issue, given the nature of the expressions used (the use of ‘Polish concentration camps’ can be predicted to create a fall-out in Poland, even if one does not have any specific individuals on one’s radar). At 81 ff the AG adds quasi-obiter that at the enforcement stage, any Polish judgment prohibiting in particular further use of the phrase may indeed bounce off German ordre public – as Burkhard’s post discusses re an earlier case.

What would be rather cool is for the CJEU in spite of the AG’s invite not to do so, to take the opportunity of this case to bin or radically amend Bier. That is a pipe dream: this is not going to happen [or is it 😉 ?] particularly seeing as the case will not be held in Grand Chamber.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 2.2.12.2.5, and para 2.598 in fine.

 

 

Markt24: CJEU emphasises predictability of place of habitual employment.

There is a benefit to the pace of work becoming so hectic that I cannot post on CJEU case-law swiftly: others have analysis to which I can refer. In the case of CJEU C-804/19 BU v Markt24 GmbH, Anna Wysocka-Bar has posted analysis this morning (Opinion Saugmandsgaard Øe here).

BU whose place of residence is at Salzburg (Austria) signed an employment contract for carrying out cleaning work in Munich (Germany) for Markt24 GmbH, whose registered office is also located in Munich. The contract was signed in a bakery in Salzburg, where Markt24 also had an office. BU was never allocated any work, the employment contract was terminated and BU claims outstanding wage at the Landesgericht Salzburg.

The CJEU refers to Holterman to define employment [25] and holds [26] that the presence of a contract of employment is relevant for triggering the protective regime: not its actual exercise, at least if the lack of performance of the contract is attributable to the employer [28].

This issue was not sub judice however reasoning mutatis mutandis I would suggest the attributability or not to the employer be subject to the putative lex loci laboris per A8 Rome I.

Having established that A21 BIa applies, the question is how a ‘‘place where or from where the employee habitually carries out his work’ may be determined if no work has been carried out. At 41:

in the case where the contract of employment has not been performed, the intention expressed by the parties to the contract as to the place of that performance is, in principle, the only element which makes it possible to establish a habitual place of work (…) That interpretation best allows a high degree of predictability of rules of jurisdiction to be ensured, since the place of work envisaged by the parties in the contract of employment is, in principle, easy to identify

In casu, that place is Munich albeit [46] Salzburg might also still be an option given as A20 BIa makes A7(5)’s branch jurisdiction applicable (“as regards a dispute arising out of the operations of a branch, agency or other establishment, in the courts for the place where the branch, agency or other establishment is situated”). Whether the conditions for that Article apply, is for the court at Salzburg to determine.

The CJEU’s emphasis on predictability in my view also means that if a place is agreed yet the employee, without agreement from the employer, de facto carries out the work elsewhere, the agreed place must take precedent.

The CJEU also holds [34] that the employment title of BIA exhaustively harmonises jurisdiction: more favourable national CPR rules (in casu granting jurisdiction to the employee’s residence and /or place of payment of the remuneration) become inoperable.

An important judgment.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 2.278 ff.

A quick note on mutual trust and judicial co-operation: Rantos AG on Brussels IIa in SS v MCP.

Last week’s Opinion of Advocate General Rantos (successor to Sharpston AG) in C-603/20 PPU SS v MCP is of note for its emphasis on the principle of mutual trust that lies at the foundation of European Private International Law. Brussels IIa is not staple diet for the blog and I shall leave more intense analysis to others. In short, the AG opined that a Member State retains jurisdiction under the Regulation, without limit of time, if a child habitually resident in that Member State was wrongfully removed to, or retained in, a non-Member State where it in due course became habitually resident.

The third country at issue is India, a non-Hague Convention State, as opposed to the UK, now also a third country but a Hague State. Note that in future A97(2) Brussels IIa Recast give clear priority to A13 Hague Convention’s lis alibi pendens rule, in cases where the conditions for that article are fulfilled: see Cusworth DJ today in AA & BB [2021] EWFC 17 at 27).

Of note to the blog is the AG’s emphasis on mutual trust, at 62 ff:

all Member States comply, in principle, with EU law justifies recognising, subject to certain conditions, the jurisdiction of the courts of the Member State to which a child was abducted and where he or she has acquired a habitual residence. By contrast, if a child has been abducted to a non-Member State, the cooperation and mutual trust provided for in EU law cannot apply. Therefore, having regard to the context of Article 10 of Regulation No 2201/2003, there is no justification for accepting the jurisdiction of the courts of that non-Member State, including in the case where the abducted child has acquired his or her habitual residence in the latter State.

and at 84

Regulation No 2201/2003 is based on cooperation and mutual trust between the courts of the Member States, which allows, subject to certain conditions, jurisdiction to be transferred between those courts. Since provision is not made for cooperation and mutual trust in the case of courts of a non-Member State, it appears to me entirely justified and consistent with that regulation for the courts of the Member State in which a child was habitually resident before his or her abduction to a non-Member State to continue to have jurisdiction for an unlimited period of time, with a view to ensuring that the best interests of that child are protected.

With this he dismissed the view of the referring court,  that A10 BIIA should be interpreted as having a territorial scope confined to the Member States because otherwise the jurisdiction retained by the Member State of origin would continue to exist indefinitely. In that court’s view, that Member State would thus be in a stronger position jurisdictionally vis-à-vis a non-Member State than a Member State.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, various places (see Index: ‘Mutual Trust’).