Bauer v QBE Insurance. Brussels IA, Rome I and Rome II in Western Australia.

It is not per se unheard of for European conflict of laws developments to be referred to in other jurisdictions. In Bauer v QBE Insurance [2020] WADC 104 however the intensity of reference to CJEU authority and EU conflicts law is striking and I think interesting to report.

The context is an application to serve out of jurisdiction – no ‘mini trail’ (Melville PR at 20) therefore but still a consideration of whether Western Australia is ‘clearly an inappropriate forum’ in a case relating to an accident in Australia following an Australian holiday contract, agreed between a German travel agent and a claimant resident (see also below) in Germany but also often present in Australia – which is where she was at the time the contract was formed. Defendant contests permission to serve ia on the basis of an (arguable) choice of court and governing law clause referring exclusively to Germany and contained in defendant’s general terms and conditions.

Two other defendants are domiciled in Australia and are not discussed in current findings.

In assessing whether the German courts have exclusive jurisdiction and would apply German law, the Australian judge looks exclusively through a German lens: what would a German court hold, on the basis of EU private international law.

Discussion first turns to the lex contractus and the habitual residence, or not, of claimant (who concedes she is ‘ordinarily’, but not habitually resident in Germany) with reference to Article 6 Rome I’s provision for consumer contracts. This is applicable presumably despite the carve-out for ‘contracts of carriage’ (on which see Weco Projects), seeing as the contract is one of ‘package travel’. Reference is also then made to Winrow v Hemphill.  Melville PR holds that claimant’s habitual residence is indeed Germany particularly seeing as (at 38)

she returned to Germany for what appears to be significant and prolonged  treatment after the accident rather going elsewhere in the world and after only apparently having left her employment in Munich in 2014, is highly indicative of the fact the plaintiff’s state of mind was such that she saw Germany as her home and the place to return to when things get tough, a place to go to by force of habit.

Discussion then turns to what Michiel Poesen has recently discussed viz contracts of employment: qualification problems between contract and tort. No detail of the accident is given (see my remark re ‘mini-trial’ above). Reference to and discussion is of Rome II’s Article 4. It leads to the cautious (again: this is an interlocutory judgment) conclusion that even though the tort per Article 4(3) Rome II may be more closely connected to Australia, it is not ‘manifestly’ so.

Next the discussion gets a bit muddled. Turning to jurisdiction, it is concluded that the exclusive choice of court is not valid per Article 25 Brussels Ia’s reference to the lex fori prorogati.

  • Odd is first that under the lex contractus discussion, reference is made to Article 6 Rome I which as I suggested above presumably applies given that the carve-out for contracts of carriage does not apply to what I presume to be package travel. However in the Brussels Ia discussion the same applies: contracts of carriage are excluded from Section 4’s ‘consumer contracts’ unless they concern (as here) package travel.
  • Next, the choice of court is held to be invalid by reference to section 38(3) of the German CPR, which to my knowledge concerns choice of court in the event neither party has ‘Gerichtsstand’ (a place of jurisdiction’) in Germany.  Whatever the precise meaning of s38(3), I would have thought it has no calling as lex fori prorogati viz A25 BIa for it deals with conditions which A25 itself exhaustively harmonises (this argument might be aligned with that of defendant’s expert, Dr Kobras, at 57). Moreover,  the discussion here looks like it employs circular reasoning: in holding on the validity of a ‘Gerichtsstand’, the court employs a rule which applies when there is no such ‘Gerichtsstand’.
  • Finally, references to CJEU Owusu and Taser are held to be immaterial.

In final conclusion, Western Australia is not held to be a clearly inappropriate forum. The case can go ahead lest of course these findings are appealed.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2.

Sodmilab. The Paris Court of Appeal on lois de police, Rome I, II and commercial agency.

Thank you Maxime Barba for flagging the judgment in the Paris Court of Appeal Sodmilab et al. (Text of the judgment in Maxime’s post). The case concerns the ending of a commercial relationship. Part of the contract may be qualified as agency with lex causae determined under the 1978 Hague Convention. On this issue, the Court of Appeal confirmed French law as lex causae.

Things get messy however with the determination of that part of the contract that qualifies as distribution (a mess echoing DES v Clarins), and on the application of Rome II.

The Court of Appeal first (at 59) discusses the qualification of A442-6 of the French Code du commerce, on unfair trading practices (abrupt ending of a commercial relationship), dismissing it as lois de police /overriding mandatory law under Article 9 Rome I. As I noted in my review of DES v Clarins, this is a topsy turvy application of Rome I. The qualification as lois de police is up to the Member States, within the confines of the definition in Rome I. The Court of Appeal holds that A442-6 only serves private interests, not the general economic interest, and therefore must not qualify under Rome I. Hitherto much of the French case-law and scholarship had argued that in protecting the stability of private interests, the Act ultimately serves the public interest.

Next (as noted: this should have come first), the Court reviews the application of A4f Rome I, the fall-back position for distribution contracts – which would have led to Algerian law as lex causae. It is unclear (62 ff) whether the Court reaches its conclusion as French law instead either as a confirmation of circumstantial (the court referring to invoicing currency etc.) but clear choice of law under Article 3, or the escape clause under Article 4(3), for that Article is mentioned, too.

Rome I’s structure is quite clear. Why it is not properly followed here is odd. That includes the oddity of discussing French law under Article 9 if the court had already confirmed French law as lex causae under A3 or 4.

Finally, corners are cut on Rome II, too. Re the abrupt ending of the relationship (at 66ff). French law again emerges victorious even if the general lex locus damni rule leads to Algerian law. The court does not quite clearly hold that on the basis of Article 4(3)’s escape clause, or circumstantial choice of law per A14. The court refers to ‘its findings above’ on contractual choice of law, however how such fuzzy implicit choice under Rome I is forceful enough to extend to choice of law under Rome II must not be posited without further consideration. Particularly seeing as Article 6 Rome II excludes choice of law for acts of unfair trading.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11.2, Heading 2.2.11.2.9; Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.8, Heading 3.2.8.3; Chapter 4).

 

Roberts bis (or rather, ter): undue hardship as part of ordre public.

The extensive ruling by Foster J in Roberts (a minor) v Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association & Ors [2020] EWHC 994 (QB) is clearly related to Soole J’s 2019 ruling which I reviewed here. Yet exactly how is not clear to me. No reference at all is made to the 2019 ruling (there is reference to an earlier Yoxall M 2018 ruling) in current judgment. Current ruling treats partially related issues of limitation and applicable law, Rome II is not engaged ratione temporis. The English rules’ general lex causae provision (pointing to locus delicti commissi), summarised at 112-113, Foster J finds, should not be displaced with a ‘substantially more appropriate’ rule in the circumstances. However she does find that the implications of the German statute of limitation should be set aside on ordre public grounds, for they would otherwise cause ‘undue hardship’.

Elijah Granet has extensive review here and I am happy to refer.

Geert.

 

 

Terre Neuve v Yewdale. A Lugano /Brussels I jurisdictional fest.

In Terre Neuve SARL & Ors v Yewdale Ltd & Ors [2020] EWHC 772 (Comm), Bryan J entertains almost the entire jurisdictional chapter of the Handbook.

The proceedings are concerned with the alleged misappropriation of a sum of €10.6 million paid by the First Claimant (“Terre Neuve”) to the First Defendant (“Yewdale”) between July 2009 and September 2012, and thereafter allegedly misapplied with the alleged participation of other Defendants. The sums were paid pursuant to a tax optimisation scheme ultimately for the benefit of the Third Claimant (“Mr. Zahut”), who beneficially owned Terre Neuve and the Second Claimant (“Largely”). The scheme was allegedly created by a Mr. Sasson (now deceased), who gave tax advice through his company, the Third Defendant (“GPF”) and controlled Yewdale (an English company) and the Second Defendant (“REDS”) (a New York company).

In this preliminary judgment, plenty of the defendants challenge jurisdiction, even if as discussed at 11 ff, following judgment by Hancock J in [2019] EWHC 1119 (Comm), confirmed in [2019] EWHC 1847 (Comm), the action is already proceeding in England against Yewdale (which has been found to be a valid anchor defendant per Article 4 Brussels Ia) as well as a number of the overseas defendants: both those domiciled in Switzerland, and elsewhere. Co-defendants in current case were not involved in those earlier hearings.

Firstly, GPF, third defendant, challenges jurisdiction under Article 23 Lugano, more or less but not quite the same as Article 25 BIa. At 22 ff Bryan J cuts too many corners in my view. He extends CJEU precedent on Brussels I and Ia without question to Lugano construction. He unhesitatingly adopts English law (with Fiona Trust in the authority driver’s seat and with reference to the recent Etihad case) as the lex causae for the choice of court agreement. This is as lex fori additi I assume; the actual text of the choice of court agreement is not included in the judgment lest I looked over it however one can deduct the choice points to Switzerland. He is right in holding that the answer to the contractual construction of the choice of court agreement cannot be found in either Lugano or Brussels itself.

At 44 ff he decides that Claimants’ claims do not fall within the scope of any of the jurisdiction clauses in the Written Agreements, pointing away from England.

Next, a group of co-Defendants, who the Claimants allege were involved in and/or benefited from the misappropriation, challenge the jurisdiction of the English Court on various grounds, inter alia: that the claims against them are not sufficiently closely connected to be heard with the claims against the other Defendants in this jurisdiction, pursuant to Article 6(1) Lugano, and should instead be tried in Switzerland pursuant to Article 2 Lugano; that the claims against them would be more conveniently heard in Switzerland; that bringing proceedings against them in England is an abuse of process; that they should be tried in Switzerland pursuant to Article 5 Lugano; that proceedings against them in England are a breach of their rights under Article 6 ECHR; and that various agreements contain jurisdiction clauses which prevent the English Court from hearing the case against them.

In short (note all the authority he employs has been reviewed on this blog, both CJEU (e.g. Melzer) and English) Bryan J finds the cases are clearly related under Article 6 Lugano; forum non conveniens must not be entertained; and there is no abuse of EU law (a popular part of jurisdictional challenge following Vedanta); some of the defendants have submitted; Article 5 Lugano’s forum contractus is irrelevant for it only brings additional, not exclusive jurisdiction; Article 6 ECHR is clearly not breached (practical difficulties of attending, for instance, may be solved by modern means); arbitration in New York first of all does not engage an EU court and secondly of course arbitration is exempt from Lugano.

Finally the one co-defendant domiciled in Israel is nevertheless pulled into the English jurisdictional bath by application of residual English rules (serious issue to be tried; necessary and proper party).

Quite a lot to discuss by way of preliminary jurisdictional issue…

Geert.

 

Gray v Hurley. Court of Appeal refers to Luxembourg on anti-suit to support EU jurisdiction against ex-EU action.

Update 2 October 2020 the case is know at the CJEU as C-946/19 MG v HH, the questions referred are also here, and Marta Isidro now reports that the request has been retracted following settlement.

Update 6 July 2020  for a case-note by Mukarrum Ahmed see here.

Update a few hours after posting. For the New Zealand perspective see Jan Jakob Bornheim’s thread here.

I reviewed the High Court’s decision (refusal of anti-suit) in Gray v Hurley here. The Court of Appeal [2019] EWCA Civ 2222 has now referred to Luxembourg.

As I noted at the time, the High Court discussed the matrimonial exception of Brussels Ia, as well as the exclusive jurisdictional rule of Article 24(1), and (briefly) Article 25’s choice of court. The appeal however only concerns the application of Article 4’s domicile rule. Was Mr Hurley domiciled in England on 26 March 2019, when the court was seized?  Article 62(1) Brussels Ia refers to the internal law. Lavender J decided that Mr Hurley was not domiciled in England, however that Lindner should be read as extending to the defendant’s last known domicile in a case where the Court: (1) is unable to identify the defendant’s place of domicile; and (2) has no firm evidence to support the conclusion that the defendant is in fact domiciled outside the European Union. I suggested at the time that this is a very relevant and interesting reading of Lindner, extending the reach of Brussels Ia as had been kickstarted by Owusu, with due deference to potential New Zealand jurisdiction (New Zealand domicile not having been established).

Note also that Mr Hurley had initially also relied on A34 BI1 however later abandoned this line. Article 34 is however cross-referenced in the discussion on Article 4’s domicile rule.

The Court of Appeal has concluded that the meaning of Article 4(1) and its applicability in this case is not acte clair and has referred to Luxembourg. The focus of the discussion was not whether or not Ms Gray was domiciled in England (see however my doubts as to the extension of Linder in the case at issue). Rather, the focus is on anti-suit and Article 4: Ms Gray submits that Article 4(1) provides her with a right not to be sued outside England, where she is domiciled, and that the court is obliged to give effect to this right by the grant of an anti-suit injunction to restrain proceedings in a third State.

As the Court of Appeal notes, the consequences of her arguments are that an EU-domiciled tortfeasor who was being sued only in a third State could require the court of his domicile to grant an anti-suit injunction – in contrast to the ‘flexible mechanism’ under Articles 33 and 34 in cases where the same or related proceedings exist in both jurisdictions. By the same token, if there are proceedings in a Member State, the defendant could seek an anti-suit injunction to prevent the claimant from taking or continuing unrelated proceedings in a third State. And, as appears from the present case, it is said that it makes no difference that the claimant’s case is not one that the courts of the Member State could themselves entertain, meaning that the ‘right’ said to be conferred on the claimant by Article 4(1) would have no content.

Yet again therefore interesting issues on the use of anti-suit to support EU (rather than: a particular Member State) jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal is minded not to side with Ms Gray, for comity reasons (anti-suit being a serious meddle in other States’ jurisdictional assessment) and because the use of anti-suit here would not serve the Regulation’s objectives of sound and harmonious administration of justice. At 52 it suggests the MS Gray line of reasoning would have profound consequence which would be expected to be explicit in the Regulation and not to be arrived at sub silentio – but refers to the CJEU for certainty.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2 practically in its entirety.

 

ED&F Man Capital Markets v Come Harvest Holding et al. Court of Appeal confirms Tolenado DJ’s forum analysis of Vedanta. Leaves Rome II issue undiscussed.

In [2019] EWCA Civ 2073 the Court of Appeal on Tuesday confirmed the High Court’s analysis of Vedanta. I discuss the High Court’s finding at length here. Best simply to refer to that post – readers of the CA judgment shall read Faux LJ confirming the implications of Vedanta. Note also the discussion on the limited impact of the Singaporean pre-action (particularly disclosure) proceedings: precisely because they were pre-action and not intended to at that stage launch a multiplicity of proceedings.

The Rome II argument was left untouched for appellant conceded that failure on the Vedanta point would sink the appeal.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European private international law, second ed. 2016, Chapter 8, Headings 8.3.1.1., 8.3.2; Chapter 4, Heading 4.4.

 

Sadik v Sadik. Domicile, libel tourism and the absence of party autonomy in the Defamation Act 2013.

Update 7 November 2019 for a second What’sApp defamation case under the common law see 5 November Tallha Abdulrazaq v Nibras Hassan [2019] EWHC 2930 (QB) – where jurisdiction was not an issue. 

In [2019] EWHC 2717 (QB) Sadik v Sadik, the claim is one in libel. Claimant is a businessman and philanthropist who lives in Dubai and spends 30 to 35 days in London each year. Claimant and Defendant are brother and sister in law. Defendant has a house in Kuwait with her husband. Until at least 19 September 2017 she lived in London, whilst also maintaining a house in Kuwait.

Defendant is prepared to accept for the purposes of this application that the relevant date for determining domicile is the date proceedings were commenced, ie 26 September 2017: see inter alia JSC BTA Bank v Mukhtar Ablyazov. (Upheld on Appeal). Should no domicile in the UK (or another EU /Lugano State) be upheld, forum non conveniens kicks in.

The UK Defamation Act 2013 (the DA 2013) was entered precisely to address libel tourism in the UK. It reads in relevant part (Section 9)

 Action against a person not domiciled in the UK or a Member State etc 

(1) This section applies to an action for defamation against a person who is not domiciled 

(a) in the United Kingdom; (b) in another Member State; or (c) in a state which is for the time being a contracting party to the Lugano Convention.

(2) A court does not have jurisdiction to hear and determine an action to which this section applies unless the court is satisfied that, of all the places in which the statement complained of has been published, England and Wales is clearly the most appropriate place in which to bring an action in respect of the statement.

(3) The references in subsection (2) to the statement complained of include references to any statement which conveys the same, or substantially the same, imputation as the statement complained of.

(4) For the purposes of this section –(a) a person is domiciled in the United Kingdom or in another Member State if the person is domiciled there for the purposes of the Brussels Regulation; (b) a person is domiciled in a state which is a contracting party to the Lugano Convention if the person is domiciled in the state for the purposes of that Convention.”

Defendant says that the Claimant cannot possibly satisfy the test in s 9(2). That is because Claimant in her view does not complain of any publication within this jurisdiction. She submits that s 9 implicitly requires the words complained of to have been published in England and Wales: ‘of all the places in which the statement complained of has been published…’. In effect, she says that s 9 means that this court does not have jurisdiction to hear a claim against a defendant not domiciled in the jurisdiction (or within a Brussels/Lugano state) for a claim in respect of solely foreign publication. In the alternative, if is necessary for the court to compare jurisdictions to determine which is the most appropriate forum for trial Defendant submits that the burden is on the Claimant to demonstrate that England and Wales is clearly the most appropriate forum, and there is no realistic prospect of him being able to discharge that burden. She points in particular to the fact that both of the parties are based in the Middle East, as are all of the publishees of the What’sApp Messages concerned, save for one, who is based in the United States.

Claimant submits that Defendant has submitted to the jurisdiction and so can no longer dispute the Court’s jurisdiction under s 9 of the DA 2013, or otherwise. Further or alternatively, he submits that provision is of no assistance because she was domiciled within the jurisdiction at the relevant time.

At 55 Knowles J holds that failure by a defamation defendant to follow the procedure in Part 11 of the civil procedure rules, for contesting jurisdiction under s 9 does not mean that her right to make a jurisdictional challenge under that section has been waived. ‘Section 9(2) is in mandatory form. Where the defendant is not domiciled within one of the specified jurisdictions then s 9(2) provides (emphasis added), ‘A court does not have jurisdiction to hear and determine an action to which this section applies unless …’. In my judgment jurisdiction under s 9 cannot be conferred by waiver, submission or consent. It is concerned with the subject matter of the suit and not with personal jurisdiction over the defendant.’ In the DA 2013 Parliament in other words inserted mandatory rules on jurisdiction which are not within the remit of party autonomy.

At 60 ff then follows the analysis of ‘domicile’ for natural persons under English law (following Article 62 Brussels Ia’s deference to national law), leading to a conclusion of domicile in the UK at the relevant time.

The remainder of the case discusses grounds for summary dismissal on the grounds of substantive English libel law.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.10

ED&F Man Capital Markets v Come Harvest Holding et al. First application of the UKSC Vedanta ruling and applicable law issues under Rome II Articles 4 and 10.

In [2019] EWHC 1661 (Comm) ED&F Man Capital Markets v Come Harvest Holding et al claimant, MCM, entered into a Master Commodities Sale and Purchase Agreements with two Hong Kong companies, Come Harvest and Mega Wealth. The Master Agreements contained English exclusive jurisdiction agreements. Subsequent agreements were then entered into for the sale and purchase of nickel. The dispute between the parties turned on whether payments had been made by MCM to Come Harvest and Mega Wealth based on forged warehouse receipts. Those receipts had been issued by a warehouse operator, Access World, to the initial order, in most cases, of a Singaporean company, Straits.

In May 2017, MCM commenced pre-action disclosure proceedings in Singapore against Straits and in December 2017 it commenced English proceedings against Come Harvest and Mega Wealth. In September 2018 MCM sought to join Straits to the English proceedings and obtained an order granting permission to serve Straits out of the jurisdiction in Singapore. Straits challenged the jurisdiction of the English court.

There is sometimes an advantage to not immediately follow-up a Tweet with a blog post: the two preceding paras are the summary of the factual and procedural background by Herbert Smith.

Of particular note is the discussion at 43 ff on the impact of the UKSC’s Vedanta ruling: particularly, the ‘multiplicity’ issue which in my review of Vedanta, I discuss at 5. At 45:

Straits contended that MCM should not be able to rely as a “trump card” on the multiplicity point and the risk of irreconcilable judgments so as to create a single forum for all claims against all parties in England, in circumstances where that outcome was the result of choices which MCM had made along the way. Straits claims that MCM exercised a choice at the outset to commence the OS 533 action against Straits in Singapore and thereby intended that any substantive proceedings would be brought there too. Straits says that MCM should be held to this choice which it says exerted and continues to exert a “gravitational pull” towards Singapore. Straits also says that MCM could have attempted to engineer a single composite forum for all claims against all parties in Singapore by requesting that Come Harvest and Mega Wealth did not insist on their rights under the English court exclusive jurisdiction clauses in the Master Agreements or by commencing proceedings against those parties in Singapore in breach of the exclusive jurisdiction clauses and then contending that strong reasons existed as to why no anti-suit injunction should be imposed against the continuation of those proceedings.

At 46 Teledano DJ dismisses the suggestion.

In Vedanta, and leaving aside the substantial justice issue, the claimants had a straightforward choice between Zambia and England for all claims against all parties. The dispute was overwhelmingly Zambian in focus and nature. Yet the claimants chose to pursue their claims in England. In the present case, MCM has never had a straightforward choice of this kind that would have enabled it to sue all parties in Singapore (or some other jurisdiction apart from England). MCM has at all material times been bound by the exclusive jurisdiction clauses in the Master Agreements to sue Come Harvest and Mega Wealth in England. There is no evidence to suggest that, had either of these parties been approached, they would have been willing to give up their rights under those exclusive jurisdiction clauses. Nor do I accept that the concept of choice as referred to by the Supreme Court can be stretched so as to require a party to act in breach of contractual promises as to jurisdiction and then to fall on the mercy of the Court so as to avoid the grant of an anti-suit injunction. MCM is entitled to say that it had no choice but to sue Come Harvest and Mega Wealth in England. Having done so, there is real force in the submission made by MCM that England is the proper place for all claims against all parties because it is the only jurisdiction where a single composite forum can be achieved.

Turning then at 59 ff to applicable law, the issue is particularly how to define ‘direct damage’ (Article 4 Rome II) in the case of unlawful means conspiracy. Straits contends that the direct damage occurred where MCM was unable to obtain the metal it had purchased. That would be at the warehouses in Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea. By contrast, MCM contends that the direct damage occurred in England. This was the place from which MCM paid out funds to purchase the metal and it is also the place in which MCM received the Receipts that it alleges were forged. Teledano DJ at 62:

The key to ascertaining where the direct damage occurred in the present case is to keep in mind that, under the Master Agreements, MCM was only required to make payment upon receipt of the Receipts. MCM suffered direct damage when it made payment upon receipt of what are alleged to have been forged Receipts. Both the payment out, and the obtaining of the Receipts, occurred in England. If the Receipts were forged, the warehouse operators will not have been required to hand over metal from the warehouses upon presentation of the Receipts. However, it seems to me that this is a consequence of the damage that on MCM’s case it had already suffered rather than the direct damage itself.

English law, therefore, applies, as it does (at 70 ff) to the knowing receipt and equitable proprietary claims (see discussion re Article 4 cq 10 (unjust enrichment) Rome II, at 70 ff).

Geert.

(Handbook of) European private international law, second ed. 2016, Chapter 8, Headings 8.3.1.1., 8.3.2; Chapter 4, Heading 4.4.

 

Gray v Hurley [2019] EWHC 1636 (QB). Engages big chunks of Brussels Ia and eventually relies on Lindner to uphold Article 4 jurisdiction.

Thank you Jan Jakob Bornheim for flagging Gray v Hurley [2019] EWHC 1636 (QB), in which as he puts it, ‘there is a lot going on’. Judgment is best referred to for facts of the case. On 25 March 2019 Mr Hurley commenced proceedings against Ms Gray in New Zealand. On 26 March 2019 Ms Gray issued the claim form in the present action and obtained an order for alternative service.

Of interest to the blog is first of all the matrimonial exception of Brussels Ia, nota bene recently applied by the CJEU in C-361/18 WeilArticle 1(2)(a) Brussels Ia (Lavender J using the English judges’ shorthand ‘Judgments Regulation’) provides that it does not apply to matters relating to: “…rights in property arising out of a matrimonial relationship or out of a relationship deemed by the law applicable to such relationship to have comparable effects to marriage.”

There is no EU-wide harmonisation of the conflict of law rules for matrimonial property. The UK is not party to the enhanced co-operation rules in the area and Lavender J did not consider any role these rules might play in same. Rome I and Rome II have a similar exception as Brussels Ia and at 111 Lavender J takes inspiration from Recital 10 Rome II which states that this exception “should be interpreted in accordance with the law of the Member State in which the court is seised.” Discussion ensues whether this is a reference to the substantive law of the court seized (Ms Gray’s position; English law does not deem their relationship to have comparable effects to marriage) or the private international law rules of same (Mr Hurley’s position; with in his view residual English private international law pointing to the laws of New Zealand, which does deem their relationship to have comparable effects to marriage). Lavender J does not say so expresses verbis but seems to side with the exclusion of renvoi: at 115: ‘I do not consider that the relationship between Ms Gray and Mr Hurley was a relationship deemed by the law applicable to such relationship to have comparable effects to marriage.’ Brussels Ia’s matrimonial exception therefore is not engaged.

Next, the application of the exclusive jurisdictional rule of Article 24(1) is considered. Ms Gray’s claim here essentially aims to establish her full ownership of the ‘San Martino’ property in Italy. Webb v Webb is considered, as are Weber v Weber and Komu v Komu (readers of the blog are aware that A24(1) cases often involve feuds between family members). Lavender J concludes that Ms Gray’s claim essentially is like Webb Sr’s in Webb v Webb: Ms Gray is not seeking an order for the sale of San Martino (and it does not appear that the right of pre-emption would be triggered by a judgment in her favour, as it would be by an order for sale). Nor is she seeking to give effect to her existing interest in San Martino. Rather, she claims that Mr Hurley holds his interest in San Martino on trust for her.

Application of Article 25 choice of court is summarily dismissed at 131 ff: there was choice of court and law (pro: Italy) in the preliminary sales and purchase agreement between the seller and Ms Gray. However, this clearly does not extend to the current dispute.

Next comes the application of Article 4’s domicile rule. Was Mr Hurley domiciled in England on 26 March 2019, when the court was seized?  Article 62(1) Brussels Ia refers to the internal law. Application is made by Lavender J of inter alia [2018] EWHC 160 (Ch), Shulman v Kolomoisky which I also included here; he also considers the implications of CJEU C-327/10 Lindner, and eventually decides that Mr Hurley was not domiciled in England, however that Lindner should be read as extending to the defendant’s last known domicile in a case where the Court: (1) is unable to identify the defendant’s place of domicile; and (2) has no firm evidence to support the conclusion that the defendant is in fact domiciled outside the European Union. This is a very relevant and interesting reading of Lindner, extending the reach of Brussels Ia as had been kickstarted by Owusu, with due deference to potential New Zealand jurisdiction (New Zealand domicile not having been established).

Final conclusion, therefore, is that Ms Hurley may rely on Article 4 Brussels Ia. Quite what impact this has on the New Zealand proceedings is not discussed.

Interesting judgment on many counts.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2 practically in its entirety.

 

Danilina v Chernukin: how a very Russian case triggers the proper law of the contract under the Rome Convention.

A little bit of factual background is required to understand [2019] EWHC 173 (Comm) Danilina v Chernukin. It concerns a valuable site in Central Moscow (readers of the blog and students of mine will now no longer wonder why this is being litigated in England) which is, indirectly, the subject of a Shareholder Agreement dated 31 May 2005 (the “SHA”). The issue is whether Vladimir Chernukhin, who is not named as a party to the SHA is in fact party to the SHA as a disclosed principal of Lolita Danilina, who is named as a party to the SHA. Mr. Chernukhin and Mrs. Danilina had been in a relationship; it is Mr. Chernukhin’s case that she was a named party because she was acting as his nominee or agent.

That is the purely business side of the litigation – there is also a family assets angle: Ms Danilina has a claim arising out of what she argues to have been an agreement between her and Mr. Chernukhin in 2007 for the division of their assets after their relationship had come to an end.

The latter issue is the ‘2007 Agreement’ and it is this which is of interest to the blog: Teare J at 324: Mrs. Danilina seeks to prove alleges the following, quite detailed, agreement: a) TGM would remain (as it always was) as an asset belonging to Mrs. Danilina and her alone; b) the assets accumulated between them jointly and which they regarded as family assets would be distributed between them on an effectively equal basis with: i) Mrs. Danilina retaining and/or taking those residential real property assets located within Russia, ii) Mr. Chernukhin having those residential real property assets located outside of Russia and iii) save for certain chattels such as cars and the weapon collection (which were to be owned by Mr. Chernukhin) and jewellery and artwork in Russia (which were to be owned by Mrs. Danilina), the balance of their assets would be split equally and Mrs. Danilina’s 50% share held in a trust for her benefit; c) a new structure would be required to reflect these agreements; and d) Mr. Chernukhin would be responsible for taking the necessary steps to give effect to the agreement.

Teare J starts with the bootstrap /von Munchausen: at 325: it is necessary to begin by considering what would be the governing law of the 2007 agreement, if it was made on the terms alleged by Mrs. Danilina. The reason for this is that it is submitted on behalf of Mr. Chernukhin that the agreement, if made, would be governed by Russian law, and that there are provisions of Russian law that affect the admissibility of witness testimony in proving the existence of an oral agreement. Being a contract entered into prior to 16 December 2009, the proper law of the 2007 Agreement would be determined under the Rome Convention on the law applicable to contractual obligations – not the later Rome Regulation.

Was there choice of law “expressed or demonstrated with reasonable certainty by … the circumstances of the case’ (per Article 3(1) Rome Convention? [I have included Articles 3 and 4 in relevant part below]

At 327 are cited (i) the fact that “Mr. Chernukhin had fled Russia in 2004 in an effort to make a clean break from Russian law and jurisdiction”; (ii) that Mrs. Danilina assisted him in moving to England, including by sending legal documents there; (iii) in 2007 Mr. Chernukhin was seeking English matrimonial law advice in relation to his assets, prior to his marriage to Mrs. Chernukhin. With Teare J I do not think this is sufficient to amount to a choice for the purposes of article 3. They do not amount to a positive choice of law “expressed or demonstrated with reasonable certainty.”

Consequently Article 4 is engaged.

Presumption of characteristic performance. It was submitted on behalf of Mrs. Danilina (at 328) that England is the “most closely connected” country, under the presumption in article 4(2). It is said that the characteristic performance under the agreement was to create the relevant trust structure for dividing, managing and investing the assets. The performer of these obligations was Mr. Chernukhin, who was and is resident in England. Teare J agrees: at 330: the characteristic performance of the agreement was primarily to be performed by Mr. Chernukhin. On Mrs. Danilina’s case, Mr. Chernukhin was entrusted to divide, invest and structure significant liquid and illiquid assets, of which Mrs. Danilina was in large part unaware.

Displacement of the presumption? Mrs. Danilina then submits that this presumption should not lightly be displaced.

This section discusses a core challenge to Article 4, which is the continental European but mostly EU-driven quest for predictability, with the more common law oriented search for the ‘proper’ law of the contract. In Article 4 terms (similarly under the current Article  Rome I): per Samcrete Egypt Engineers v Land Rover Exports Ltd [2001] EWCA Civ 2019, at [41], “unless art.4(2) is regarded as a rule of thumb which requires a preponderance of contrary connecting factors to be established before that presumption can be disregarded, the intention of the Convention is likely to be subverted.” Nonetheless, “the presumption may most easily be rebutted in those cases where the place of performance differs from the place of business of the party whose performance is characteristic of the contract” (See Bank of Baroda v Vysya Bank Ltd. [1994] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 87, 93, in the context of a bank’s place of central administration).

Teare J leans on Samcrete Egypt Engineers and rejects the suggestions made (at 329) to displace the presumption. There were that “the principal subject-matter was assets based in Russia / assets acquired using money generated in Russia and while the parties were resident in Russia.” Further, the Agreement is said to be “akin” to a divorce arrangement pursuant to the Russian Family Code, and of a relationship which occurred primarily or exclusively in Russia. Finally, the Agreement as alleged would have involved performance by both Mrs. Danilina and Mr. Chernukhin, distributing (including, where relevant, by re-registration of shares and real property) their various assets. However (at 330) ‘there are indeed some factors that might otherwise point to Russia being “most closely connected” (and other factors pointing to other jurisdictions, such as the use of Channel Islands trusts and the fact that the agreement was allegedly concluded in Zurich), these factors are not, in my judgment, sufficient to displace the presumption in article.4(2).’

Proper law of the contract is English law (discussion of the Russian oral evidence issue is made obiter at 332 ff). Tear J does signal at 331 that per Article 4(3) at the merits stage, provision may have to be made for Russian law as the lex rei sitae, for some parts of the agreement. Eventually the High Court finds on the basis of English law that there was no 2007 Agreement – although there is an issue of breach of a trust agreement and that may be litigated.

Fun with Rome.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.4, Heading 3.2.6.

 

 

Article 3 Freedom of choice

1. A contract shall be governed by the law chosen by the parties. The choice must be expressed or demonstrated with reasonable certainty by the terms of the contract or the circumstances of the case. By their choice the parties can select the law applicable to the whole or a part only of the contract.

2. …

3. The fact that the parties have chosen a foreign law, whether or not accompanied by the choice of a foreign tribunal, shall not, where all the other elements relevant to the situation at the time of the choice are connected with one country only, prejudice the application of rules of the law at the country which cannot be derogated from by contract, hereinafter called ‘mandatory rules`.

4. …

Article 4 Applicable law in the absence of choice

1. To the extent that the law applicable to the contract has not been chosen in accordance with Article 3, the contract shall be governed by the law of the country with which it is most closely connected. Nevertheless, a separable part of the contract which has a closer connection with another country may by way of exception be governed by the law of that other country.

2. Subject to the provisions of paragraph 5 of this Article, it shall be presumed that the contract is most closely connected with the country where the party who is to effect the performance which is characteristic of the contract has, at the time of conclusion of the contract, his habitual residence, or, in the case of a body corporate or unincorporate, its central administration. However, if the contract is entered into in the course of that party’s trade or profession, that country shall be the country in which the principal place of business is situated or, where under the terms of the contract the performance is to be effected through a place of business other than the principal place of business, the country in which that other place of business is situated.

3. Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraph 2 of this Article, to the extent that the subject matter of the contract is a right in immovable property or a right to use immovable property it shall be presumed that the contract is most closely connected with the country where the immovable property is situated.

4. …

5. Paragraph 2 shall not apply if the characteristic performance cannot be determined, and the presumptions in paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 shall be disregarded if it appears from the circumstances as a whole that the contract is more closely connected with another country.