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.

James Finlay business and human rights suit potentially puts forum non conveniens and its Brussels’ cousin to the test.

Update 3 September 2022 In [2022] CSOH 57 on 22 August Lord Braid granted an anti-suit injunction , ordering James Finlay to continue its own attempts at obtaining an anti-suit injunction in the Kenyan courts, aimed at halting the Scots collective proceedings. Lord  Braid referred ia [17] to the seminal Turner v Grovit case, of Brussels Convention fame. [42] James Finlay are found, in seeking and obtaining the Kenyan orders to have been vexatious and oppressive of the group members, whom its conduct was calculated to harass.

Update 3 February 2022 thank you Russell Hopkins for alerting us to the judgment of Lord Weir [2022] CSOH 1, [29] that the suit meets with Scottish collective action /group proceedings rules. Forum non conveniens arguments will be heard later.

I posted the Tweet below in October,  and am posting mostly to report that I do not as yet have more to go by. The suit is against James Finlay and follows in the footsteps of one brought in 2017, pre-Brexit therefore.  The 2017 action per CJEU Owusu v Jackson cannot be subject to a forum non conveniens challenge, and I am as yet not aware of an Article 33-34 Brussels IA ‘forum non light’ defence. This new, 2021 action has already been said to be met with a forum non challenge. It will be interesting to see first of all whether the forum non challenge in the latest suit will be impacted by the unavailability in principle of forum non in the 2017 suit; additionally, whether defendants are aiming to have the 2017 suit thrown out on the basis of A33-34 BIa (so far I have not seen indications that they will).

As I point out in the Tweet, had the UK been allowed to join Lugano, forum non would not be available to this newest suit.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Chapter 7.

Khalifeh v Blom Bank. On the availability of anti-suit to deter consumer contract proceedings ex-EU.

At issue in  Khalifeh v Blom Bank S.A.L. [2021] EWHC 1502 (QB) is inter alia whether an anti-suit injunction is available to  a claimant who purports to have the protection of Section 4 of the Brussels Ia Regulation. That is the section which protects consumers by granting them a forum actoris and by limiting suits against them to, in principle (limited extensions are possible) their place of domicile. The contract is one in the banking sector, for the opening of 2 USD accounts. Defendant is a Lebanon-incorporated bank. The proceedings which are to be restrained, take place in Lebanon. Current order concerns anti-suit only. Other issues, including applicable law per Rome I (where of course the consumer title also plays a role) are not addressed.

The case is part of my essay questions in a conflicts exam at Leuven today. I would expect students to refer to the discussions in Gray v Hurley and to any reasons for EU courts to exercise, or not, judicial muscle-power in upholding the jurisdiction of courts in the EU as against that of courts outside it.

Claimants calls in support upon Samengo-Turner v J & H Marsh [2007] EWCA Civ 723 and Petter v EMC Europe Ltd [2015] EWCA Civ 828. In those cases, concerning employees, anti-suit was employed viz employers’ potential action outside the EU. Defendant doubts the authority of both (and in particular of Samengo-Turner, a first instance judgment). It refers to both scholarly criticism of the position, and to the Court of Appeal’s recent finding in Gray v Hurley, referred to the CJEU but unfortunately (for reasons of legal certainty) since dropped.

At [38] Freedman J holds he need not make a ‘binary’ decision at this stage, and refuses the application for anti-suit, leaving the discussion for full debate at trial. Part of his reason for doing so is defendant’s commitment not to take the case in Lebanon any further at this stage (no commitment has been made of it to be dropped). At that trial, the ATI debate may continue (this, one imagines, will depend on defendant’s actions in Lebanon), as of course will the applicability of Rome I’s protected categories of consumers.

A trial to look out for.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 2.24.

Axis Corporate Capital v Absa. On poorly worded choice of court and the possibility of anti-suit to protect Brussels Ia jurisdiction against non-European proceedings.

Axis Corporate Capital UK Ltd & Ors v Absa Group Ltd & Ors [2021] EWHC 225 (Comm) is a good illustration of choice of court and law clauses that are a gift to conflict of laws practitioners. Choice of law and in particular choice of court was as Calver J put it [35] ‘somewhat poorly worded’. This is what the clauses look like in the various (re)insurance agreements [36 ff]

The primary reinsurances contain the following provision: “Any disputes concerning the interpretation of the terms, conditions, limitations and/or exclusions contained in this policy is understood and agreed by both the Reinsured and the Reinsurers to be subject to England Wales Law. Each party agrees to submit to a worldwide jurisdiction and to comply with all requirements necessary to give such court jurisdiction.”

The excess reinsurances contain the following provision: “Any dispute concerning the interpretation of the terms, conditions, limitations and/or exclusions contained in this policy is understood and agreed by both the insured and the insurers to be subject to England and Wales. Each party agrees to submit to the jurisdiction of England and Wales to comply with all requirements necessary to give such court jurisdiction. In respect of claims brought against the Insured and indemnified under this policy, as more fully described herein, the choice of law applicable is Worldwide and the choice of jurisdiction is Worldwide.”

Thirdly, the ARR [aggregate retention reinsurance, GAVC] contains the following two provisions: “Supplemental Clauses … “Policy Interpretation, Jurisdiction and Service of Suit Clause.” And then: “Choice of Law and Jurisdiction. “Any dispute concerning the interpretation of the terms, conditions, limitations and/or exclusions contained in this policy is understood and agreed by both the (re)insured and the (re)insurers to be subject to England and Wales. Each party agrees to submit to the jurisdiction of Worldwide to comply with all requirements necessary to give such court jurisdiction.”

The policy interpretation, jurisdiction and service of suit clause, which is specifically referred to as a supplemental clause, provides as follows and was contained in a schedule: “Any dispute between the Reinsured and the Reinsurer alleging that payment is due under this reinsurance shall be referred to the jurisdiction of the courts of the England and Wales and the meaning of this reinsurance policy shall be decided by such courts in accordance with the law of England and Wales.”

Claimant submits that, on the proper construction of the reinsurance contracts, the defendants were obliged to submit to and to submit any dispute arising under or in connection with any of the reinsurances contracts to the exclusive (A25 BIa imposes exclusive choice of court in principle: [56]) jurisdiction of the English courts. Calver J agrees that that is the case with a high degree of probability (this is an interlocutory stage). Generali Italia v Pelagic features as authority. Note the ‘worldwide’ reference in some of the clauses means that parties agree that all courts worldwide should ensure that the dispute be referred to the English courts.

The formulation in the excess reinsurance agreements, include what is construed as a carve-out of worldwide jurisdiction, which is non-exclusive, for claims brought against the insured and indemnified under the excess reinsurance. This is taken by the judge to mean that for all other claims, choice of court for E&W is, a contrario, exclusive.

At 81 ff, the judge grants an interim anti-suit injunction against proceedings in South Africa. The very possibility for this is not discussed at all (possibly as a result of the nature of the proceedings). It is not established that anti-suit to protect jurisdiction of a court in the EU, against that of courts outside the EU, is at all possible. In Gray v Hurley the Court of Appeal suggested it is not possible within the context of A4 BIa, yet referred to the CJEU where the case was withdrawn. This might become a contested issue.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 2.24, para 2.296 ff.

Anti-suit and arbitration. Court of Appeal overturns in Enka v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al.

Update 04 July 2020 the Supreme Court will hear appeal in this case in July, as reported by Milbank.

The Court of Appeal in [2020] EWCA Civ 574 Enka Insaat Ve Sanayi AS v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” & Ors has overturned Baker J in [2019] EWHC 3568 (Comm) Enka Insaat ve Sanayi v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al. which I reviewed here.

The case is mostly about the proper law of the arbitration agreement (Flaux J using the shorthand the ‘AA law’) aka the lex arbitri. Given that this is excluded from Rome I, residual rules apply which of course under English common law has Sulamerica as its main authority. In this case Enka contends that the AA law is English law, and Chubb Russia that it is Russian law. It is common ground that the lex contractus is Russian law, but the route to that conclusion is also in issue.

The dispute in this case raises the question of the relative weight to be given to the curial law (that is, the law of the seat, GAVC) of the arbitration agreement and the main contract law, where they differ, in determining the AA law. At 69:  ‘It is a question on which it would be idle to pretend that the English authorities speak with one voice. It would appear that there are also differences of approach between other jurisdictions in international arbitration generally’.

At 109 Flaux J concludes that parties have impliedly chosen that the proper law of the arbitration agreement should coincide with the curial law and be English law, and further, at 119 that ‘there has been no delay by Enka in this case which provides any good reason for not granting injunctive relief. I would treat this as a classic case, like The Angelic Grace, in which the court should grant an injunction to restrain the further conduct of proceedings brought in breach of an English law arbitration agreement.’

Anti-suit therefore granted.

For those interested in choice of law in arbitration, the judgment is required reading.  None of the Rome I (let alone Brussels Ia) issues discussed at the High Court are further discussed here, hence for the purposes of this blog I shall leave the analysis here.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1. 

Two negatives a positive make? A brief report on anti anti-suit in (among others) continental courts.

A flag on anti anti-suit. Steve Ross reports here on the Paris Court of First Instance (Tribunal de Grande Instance) judgment in RG 19/59311 IPCom v Lenovo /Motorola granting a preliminary injunction.  IPCOM GmbH & Co. KG is an intellectual property rights licensing and technology R&D company. Lenovo/Motorola a telecommunications company. As Steve writes, the French Court held that it had jurisdiction over the case with regard to a patent infringement claim and ordered Lenovo to withdraw the motion for an anti-suit injunction which that company had brought before the US District Court of the Northern District of California in so far as it concerns the French part of the patent.

Steve notes (I have not read the actual judgment) that ‘according to the French Court, the international French public order (ordre public) does not recognise the validity of an anti-suit injunction, except where its purpose is to enforce a contractual jurisdiction clause or an arbitral clause. Under all other circumstances, anti-suit injunction proceedings have the effect of indirectly disregarding the exclusive power of each sovereign state to freely determine the international jurisdictional competence of their courts.’

Peter Bert also reports last week a German anti anti-suit injunction at the Courts in Munchen, also for IPR cases.

For progress in the US anti-suit (one ‘anti’ only) application see order here.

Juve Patent report (as does Peter) that the High Court, too, has issued a (partial) anti anti-suit in the case however I have not been able to locate the judgment.

Note that continental courts (see in the French case) finding that anti-suit in general infringes ordre public is an important instruction viz future relationships with UK court orders post Brexit (should the UK not follow EU civil procedure).

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1.

Anti-suit and arbitration. Enka Insaat ve Sanayi v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al.

[2019] EWHC 3568 (Comm) Enka Insaat ve Sanayi v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al. is the very swift follow-up to [2019] EWHC 2729 (Comm) which I review here. I flag the case mostly for:

  • at 8, Baker J siding with Males J (and myself) per Nori Holding, that West Tankers is still good authority following Brussels Ia despite Wathelet AG’s suggestions in Gazprom;
  • the brief reference at 9, as to whether under Rome I injunctive relief for threat of contractual breach is covered by lex fori or lex contractus. Baker J concludes that issue simply by reminding us that Rome I does not apply to arbitration agreements;
  • At 47 ff the discussion of choice of law in spite of no express clause having been included to that effect. Specifically, with reference to Sulamerica, whether choice of seat may imply choice of law.

Anti-suit was denied.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1. 

A v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” et al. Anti-suit pro arbitration does have its limits.

In A v OOO “Insurance Company Chubb” [2019] EWHC 2729 (Comm), Carr J refused an ex parte application for interim relief seeking (i.a.) anti-suit and discontinuation of Russian proceedings, pro agreed arbitration in London. Defendants are domiciled at Russia, France and Switserland. At 33 ff Carr J lists five reasons for refusal, despite as readers will know the English courts’ general willingness to assist arbitration. Three of her reasons jump out: the lack of full and frank disclosure (ia relating to contractual provisions); the lack of immediate urgency requiring ex parte application; and some of the measures sought being more than just interim measures (assessment of that nature required evidence by a Russian law expert on the further continuation, if any, of Russian proceedings following anti-suit).

A good reminder that these applications are neither straightforward nor should be taken for granted.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1.

Clearlake Shipping: anti-suit to support choice of court alive and well outside Brussels Ia.

In Clearlake Shipping Pte Ltd v Xiang Da Marine Pte Ltd [2019] EWHC 2284 (Comm) Andrew Burrows QC essentially halted an attempt by Xiang Da Marine to construct third party proceedings in Singapore so as to avoid choice of court pro England following a series of contracts relating to the chartering of a vessel.

The proceedings, which the interim anti-suit injunctions are restraining, are third party proceedings brought in Singapore by Xiang Da against Clearlake and Gunvor. Those third party proceedings have arisen in relation to an action in Singapore against Xiang Da brought by China-Base Ningbo Group Co Ltd (hereinafter ‘China-Base’). In so far as Xiang Da is liable to pay damages or otherwise suffers loss by reason of the claim brought against it by China-Base, it seeks an indemnity or contribution from Clearlake and Gunvor as third parties. (The claim by China-Base against Xiang Da in Singapore in the meantime has been discontinued. But the third party proceedings remain extant; and those third party proceedings could still be used by Xiang Da to seek to recover loss suffered by reason of the claim brought against it by China-Base.)

The judgment is best consulted for further context; RPC have analysis here, 22 Essex Street here. The judgment is a good reminder of the law on anti-suit injunctions. One can also appreciate that given privity of contract, anti-suit granted viz-a-vis third party proceedings must be treated with caution. Yet restrained application of same is a good way to discipline overly creative proceedings designed simply to circumvent choice of court (and which with respect to the third party involved are vexatious or oppressive).

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1.

Hiscox v Weyerhaeuser. The High Court is not easily impressed by pending foreign proceedings in anti-suit application (pro arbitration).

A quick note on Hiscox v Weyerhaeuser [2019] EWHC 2671 (Comm), in which Knowles J was asked to continue an anti-suit injunction restraining Weyerhaeuser from continuing proceedings in the US courts and ordering parties to turn to arbitration. He obliged.

In April 2018 Weyerhaeuser filed proceedings in the US District Court (Western District of Washington at Seattle)for a declaratory judgment in respect of certain of its insurance excess policies in the tower of excess liability. Weyerhaeuser sought, among other things, a declaration that there is no valid arbitration agreement applicable to any coverage disputes between itself and various defendant insurers and that the US District Court is the appropriate forum for any such disputes.

Knowles J lists the various proceedings pending in the US however particularly in the light of all parties being established businesses, is not impressed by arguments of comity or fairness to restrain the English courts from further involvement in the matter. He expresses the hope and expectation that the US courts will come to the same conclusion as himself, in light of the contractual provisions.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1.

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