Chep Equipment. Brussels Ia’s forum prorogati (with renvoi) rule once again does not make the cut.

In Chep Equipment Pooling BV v ITS Ltd & Ors [2022] EWHC 741 (Comm), Salter DJ untangles a myriad of jurisdictional gateways, partially tortious (with reference to UKSC Brownlie, and to CJEU Bier etc where relevant), partially contractual and subject to choice of court. A forum non challenge is rejected.

The choice of court discussion is interesting in particular for at 48 the judge mixes the forum prorogati rule of Article 25 BIa juncto its recital 20. One of the defendants claims the privilege of an A25 choice of court to establish compulsory Belgian jurisdiction. The judge notes that the agreement of which the clause is part, is governed by Belgian law and

The Audit Agreement, although in the English language, is governed by Belgian law. Rightly, neither party had tendered evidence of the principles of interpretation of jurisdiction clauses under Belgian law. At this stage of the proceedings, reliance on the presumption of similarity with English law is sufficient: see Brownlie (supra) at [157], per Lord Leggatt. In those circumstances, I must simply apply to this provision the principles of interpretation articulated in Fiona Trust and Holding Corpn v Privalov [2007] UKHL 40[2007] Bus LR 1719.

This is a touch incorrectly formulated. Per BIa, the existence of consent and its expression are governed by A25, not by reference to any national law. The validity of consent by contrast does rely on national law however it is not the lex contractus of the underlying agreement which is relevant but rather the lex fori prorogati (also Belgian law), with renvoi. The judge in my view cannot rely on English law to judge the validity of choice of court at good arguable case level: once jurisdiction settled, it will not be allowed to be revisited. Even at this stage, therefore, per BIa the enquiry arguably must be made under Belgian law. Whether there was actually any suggestion that under Belgian (and subject to renvoi) law consent may not have been given, is not clear from the judgment.

Claimants tried to argue that the claim does not arise ‘out of or in connection with’ the Audit Agreement that contains choice of court however the judge disagrees. This part of the claim therefore must be litigated in Belgium (and an A8(1) anchor would of course not assist to keep the proceedings in England).

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 2.2.10.4.

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