The Dutch MH17 judgment and the conflict of laws. On civil claims anchored to criminal suits, and the application of Article 4(3) Rome II’s escape clause.

Their relevance is of course insignificant in light of the dreadful events that  triggered the judgments, however I thought I would flag the private international law elements in this week’s four Dutch judgments following the criminal prosecution of the suspects (now culprits) in the downing of MH17.

The judgment against Mr Pulatov was the  only one to respond to defence arguments actually made: he was the only one to have been represented (the other judgments were held in absentia). The judges extrapolate his arguments to the  other defendants to ensure some kind of proper representation, however they also explore further elements not raised by Mr Pulatov in the other judgments. This includes precisely the private international law elements for, it seems, no private claim was attached to the prosecution of Mr Pulatov while it was against the other defendants.

In this post I take the judgment against Mr Dubinskiy as the relevant text (structure and content of the other 2 judgments are essentially the same).

[12.4.1] discusses the possibility of judging the civil leg of a criminal suit. That the crimes could be prosecuted in The Netherlands is established on the basis of international criminal law of course, which is not the area of this blog. Jurisdiction for the civil leg is justified by reference to this being accepted international practice. Support (not: legal basis per se) is found by the court in Article 7(3) Brussels Ia:

A person domiciled in a Member State may be sued in another Member State:

as regards a civil claim for damages or restitution which is based on an act giving rise to criminal proceedings, in the court seised of those proceedings, to the extent that that court has jurisdiction under its own law to entertain civil proceedings;

and in the similar regime under the Lugano Convention. The court rejects a potential (this judgment as noted was issued in absentia) lis pendens argument vis-a-vis proceedings  in the United States. The court remarks that these judgments had already been issued before the Dutch criminal prosecution was initiated; that therefore there are no concurrent proceedings unto which a lis pendens argument could be raised; and that the US judgments reached the same conclusion.

Res judicata of the US judgments is dismissed as an element which would impact the Dutch judgments at this stage. The court does point out that res judicata may return at the enforcement stage of the damages part of the judgments, in that the victims will not be entitled to double compensation. Note that the US judgments included punitive damages which as readers will know is also a complicating factor for enforcement in the EU.

At 12.14.2 the court then turns to applicable law, for which it of course applies Rome II. With reference to CJEU C-350/14 Lazar, it dismisses the ‘extraordinary suffering’ of the relatives of the victims as ‘indirect damage’ under Rome II, instead exclusively taking the direct damage (the passing away) of the victims on Ukrainian territory as determinant for locus damni.

Dutch law is held not to be ‘manifestly more closely connected’ per A4(3) Rome II, despite the majority of the victims being Dutch. The court in this respect refers firstly to the link with Ukraine not being accidental (such as might be the case in ‘ordinary’ mass claims) but rather directly linked to the hostilities in Ukraine), moreover to the need to guard what it calls the ‘internal harmony’ of the judgment seeing as there are also non-Dutch relatives involved. This I find a touch unconvincing, particularly seeing as the court itself in the same para, with reference to Jan von Hein in Callies’ 2nd ed. of the Rome Regulations commentary, refers to the need to consider A4(3)’s escape clause individually, not collectively.

Geert.

Links to all 4 judgments:

https://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:12219

https://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:12218

https://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:12217

https://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:12216

Sweden v Serwin. (Inter alia) on lex causae for (alleged) fiduciary duty and Rome II.

Kingdom of Sweden v Serwin & Ors [2022] EWHC 2706 (Comm) concerns an attempt by Sweden to gain compensation of a number of defendants whom it alleges were parties to a substantial fraud.  The fraud resulted in the misappropriation of in excess of €115m from the pension saving accounts of some 46,222 Swedish pension savers.

I may have to think one or two things through however I wanted to collect my initial thoughts at any rate.

Of note is that the application was one for summary judgment and that quite a few of the respondents did not file an acknowledgment of service or a defence. However, Sweden obtained permission from the court to obtain summary judgment on the merits even against them, rather than entering judgment in default (ia because that makes enforcement more straightforward). Other defendants are serving prison sentences in Sweden and they did enter a defence.

I do not want to turn this post into a banking and finance one however some background is required: [20] ff

The Swedish pension system has various types of pension provision, including a compulsory premium pension (PPM), in which a percentage of a pension saver’s earnings is put into an account, which is invested in investment funds selected by the pension saver from an online platform that the Swedish Pension Authority (SPA) maintains. Each pension saver has a PPM account. Among the investments which might be made were investments in so-called UCITS funds where these had been approved by the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (SFSA). UCITS funds are those meeting the requirements of the Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities Directive 209/65/EC.

A company that wished to participate in the PPM was required to
enter into a cooperation agreement with the SPA. This case arises from two UCITS funds which were listed on the PPM online platform:

i)            the Optimus High Yield Fund (Optimus), managed by Optimus Fonder which entered into a co-operation agreement with the SPA on 26 March 2012; and

ii)          the Falcon Funds SICA V plc (Falcon) which entered into a co-operation agreement with the SPA in relation to three funders under its management.

The events concerning these two separate funds have been described in the evidence as the Optimus phase and the Falcon phase..

There was consensus ([38]) that the law applicable to the Swedish claims so far as they concerned the Optimus phase was Swedish law, whether by virtue of Article 4(1) or (3) Rome II. That Sweden’s claims relating to the Optimus phase were barred by the doctrine of res judicata, merger, cause of action estoppel or the allied doctrine in Henderson v Henderson, was dismissed by Foxton J [44].

Falcon then was incorporated and authorised by the Maltese Financial Services Authority as a UCITS fund on 22 November 2013. Sweden’s summary judgment claim in relation to the Falcon phase argued that its claims in delict and for breach of fiduciary duty relating to that phase are governed by Maltese law and not Swedish law.

As far as the delict issue is concerned (misappropriation), application of A4(2)  to some of the defendants was clear, and Sweden argued application of A4(1) for the remainder, seemingly arguing (judgment is a bit unclear on this point) that the damage was suffered in Malta when funds held in Falcon were applied to the various classes of loss-making investments.  Reference was made by counsel and judge to Dicey 16th ed. 35-027: “in misappropriation cases … it seems appropriate to locate damage at the place where an asset … is taken from the control of the claimant or another person with whom the claimant has a relationship” – the judge held that it is strongly arguable that this happened when Sweden’s funds became subject to the control of Falcon and the powers of its directors or those operating behind the scenes; the judge seems to locate this in Sweden, not Malta, and to some degree it does not matter for with reference ia to Avonwick and reasons listed [81] it is held that A4(3) arguably is engaged to make the lex causae Swedish law.

[86] reference is again made to Dicey for the applicable law issue as far as breach of fiduciary duties is concerned: Dicey, Morris & Collins [36-069]-[36-070]:

i)                 If equitable obligations of a fiduciary character arise in the context of a contractual relationship, there is a strong argument that the law applicable to the parties’ contractual relationship under Rome I determines whether a fiduciary relationship exists and the nature and content of the duties imposed.

ii)               If, however, the equitable obligations are characterised as incidents of a company law relationship rather than as “contractual”, common law principles determine the applicable law ( company law matters are excluded from Rome I and Rome II).

iii)             If a fiduciary duty arises where the parties were not in a prior relationship, such as in the case of a recipient of trust property, then the “better view” is that the obligation is non- contractual in nature and falls within the ambit of Rome II.

Unlike Sweden, the judge holds there are strong arguments that Swedish law applies, by reference it seems to Dicey, above, i) and with the ‘anchor’ agreement being the one by which Falcon becomes eligible to received PPM funds. Rule ii) seems to be moved aside by the judge here, and at any rate the extent of that rule is not clear-cut (see the CJEU itself recently). It is clear and it was correct to hold that the discussion is not one for summary judgment material.

An interesting final, obiter point comes [91] ff re the ‘reflective loss’ rule (a shareholder (and some others) cannot claim for a fall in the value of their holdings due to loss suffered by the company, if and when the company has a cause of action against the same wrongdoer) under Maltese law. Falcon itself is currently asserting claims against some of the alleged wrongdoers in relation to those same misappropriations, however Sweden argues an exception to that rule on the basis of Maltese expert evidence that was not considered to be robust enough for the summary judgment stage.

I wonder though whether the suggested relevance of the reflective loss rule, does not serve as ammunition for the suggestion that Rome I and II’s corporate carve-out is engaged viz the breach of fiduciary duties claim. For is the DNA of the rule not one of clear lex incorporationis?

To be further pondered.

Geert.

The CJEU confirms a corporation’s general duty of care is not caught by the corporate carve-out. Judgment in ZK v BMA (Peeters Gatzen suit) impacts on business and human rights litigation, too.

The CJEU a little while back held in C‑498/20 ZK v BMA on the applicable law for the Dutch ‘Peeters Gatzen’ suit, for which I reviewed the AG Opinion here. The suit is  a tortious suit brought by a liquidator. In Nk v BNP Paribas the CJEU held at the jurisdictional level it is covered by Brussels Ia, not by the Insolvency Regulation.

A first issue of note, which I discuss at some length in my earlier post, is whether the liability is carved-out from Rome II as a result of the lex societatis provision. The CJEU confirms the AG’s contextual analysis, without repeating his general criterion, emphasises the need for restrictive interpretation, and specifically for the duty of care holds that liability resulting from a duty of care of a corporation’s bodies and the outside world, is covered by Rome II. This is important for business and human rights litigation, too: [55]

Pour ce qui concerne spécifiquement le manquement au devoir de diligence en cause au principal, il convient de distinguer selon qu’il s’agit du devoir spécifique de diligence découlant de la relation entre l’organe et la société, qui ne relève pas du champ d’application matériel du règlement Rome II, ou du devoir général de diligence  erga omnes, qui en relève. Il appartient à la seule juridiction de renvoi de l’apprécier.

The referring judge will have to decide whether the case engages the duty of care vis-a-vis the wider community (including the collectivity of creditors) however it would seem most likely that it does. If it does, locus damni is held, confirming the AG view, to be The Netherlands if the referring judge finds that the insolvent corporation’s seat is based there. The financial damage with the creditors is indirect only and does not establish jurisdiction.

[44] Should a judge decide that they do not have jurisdiction over the main claim, they also and necessarily have to relinquish jurisdiction over the warranty /guarantee claim against a third party under A8(2) BIa. CJEU Sovag is referred to in support.

Geert.

Sánchez-Bordona AG in ZK v BMA on applicable law for the Peeters Gatzen insolvency suit. Includes important suggestions for the corporate life (lex societatis) exception and duty of care.

Sánchez-Bordona AG opined at the end of October on the law applicable to the Peeters /Gatzen suit (of Nk v BNP Paribas fame) in Case C‑498/20 ZK, in his capacity of successor to JM, insolvency practitioner in the insolvency of BMA Nederland BV v BMA Braunschweigische Maschinenbauanstalt AG – ZK v BMA for short. An English version of the Opinion is still not available.

Peeters /Gatzen is a tortious suit brought by a liquidator. In Nk v BNP Paribas the CJEU held it is covered by Brussels Ia, not by the Insolvency Regulation. The obvious applicable law port of call is Rome II. A first point which the AG reviews is a rather important discussion on the lex societatis exception to Rome II. The extent of that exception is important e.g. also for business and human rights cases, for the Peeters /Gatzen suit essentially engages duty of care towards third parties.

The AG emphasises (35) one of my points of attention in the BIa /Rome I/II interplay: that in accepting a certain amount of consistency in interpretation, the courts must nevertheless appreciate each instrument’s autonomy and quite different subject-matter. (46) The reasoning behind the exclusion of the lex societatis from the 1980 Rome Convention is said to be the ambition at the time to harmonise company law across the EU which, as we know from CJEU Daily Mail and all its successors, has still not come true. The AG then refers to the internal /external dimension of corporate relations such as discussed in C‑25/18 Kerr and C‑272/18 Verein für Konsumenteninformation. However he then suggests (51) that the reference to the ‘internal’ dimension of the life of a corporation does not suffice to justify 2 of the examples which Rome II explicitly lists in A1(2)d as being part of the corporate exception: the personal liability of officers and members as such for the obligations of the company or body and the personal liability of auditors to a company or to its members in the statutory audits of accounting documents.

At (52-53) he then posits his way out of the conundrum, immediately acknowledging that the criterion he suggests may not be easily applicable: all contractual and non-contractual elements for which a specific solution exists which emanates from the relationship between those elements and the internal life and mechanisms of a corporation (whether they relate to the internal workings or the external relations), are covered by one statutory corpus, namely the lex societatis. Put differently, they are excluded insofar as and because their corporate law element absorbs all other. Specifically viz non-contractual obligations, if the relevant rule is so ‘drenched’ with elements specific to the corporate law context that it looses its meaning outside that context, that rule qualifies as being part of the lex societatis exception.

He immediately acknowledges (56) that this kind of litmus test is not easy to apply in practice and suggest (57 ff) to employ the ratio legis of the liability at stake to assist with the exercise. If that ratio lies in the general neminem laedere rule, Rome II is engaged. If that ratio however immediately follows from corporate law considerations, such as a director’s loyalty to the corporation, the exception is engaged. The AG lists examples (63), including the scenario at stake in CJEU OFAB. At (66) the AG concludes, albeit not directly, that the Peeters Gatzen suit in all likelihood is not covered by Rome II and he discusses the other questions in subsidiary fashion.

(67ff) with reference ia to CJEU Lazar the CJEU refers to the tricky characterisation of damage as (in)direct and opts in cases such as these that the direct damage occurs in the insolvent (or otherwise facing liquidity issues) corporation: the diminishing impact on the creditors is indirect, ricochet. Locus damni therefore is The Netherlands if the referring judge finds that the insolvent corporation’s estate is based there. (76) Whomever initiates the suit (the insolvency practitioner and /or the creditors) is irrelevant, as is (80) the fact that some of the creditors are located outside the EU.

(83ff) then follows the discussion of A4(3) Rome II’s escape clause (most recently discussed in Scott v AIG). A pre-existing contractual relationship (which the AG suggests (95ff) may also be called upon by claimants that are not party to that relationship) is just one among many factors that may play a role – not a particularly dominant one: (93-94) particularly where such relationship (such as here, taking the form of a credit facility) is one where choice of law was made: A4(3) RII is directed at situations where the non-contractual relationship has a closer connection to a law other than the locus damni. Lex voluntatis does not necessarily reflect the tort’s closer relationship but rather the parties’ voluntary expression.

An important Opinion.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed 2021, para 4.22.,  para 4.39 ff.

O’Loan and Scott v MIB and AIG. On the meaning of ‘the tort’ in Article 4(3) Rome II’s displacement rule.

O’Loan and Scott v MIB and AIG (Fintan O’Loan and Elisabeth Scott v Motor Insurance Bureau and AI Europe SA) involves the same Loi Badinter that was also the subject of Marshall v MIB. I was alerted to the case buy Ian Denham’s post. Judgment is as yet unreported and I am grateful to Ian for having sent me copy.

The contested claim is the one of Ms Scott v AIG. She was the front seat passenger of the hire car, insured by AIG and driven by Mr O’Loan, her partner, when the car was driven into by an uninsured, French registered car. Ms Scott therefore turns to the driver, her partner (in reality, the insurer of the hire car), to have her damage covered under the strict liability (no need to show fault) rule of the French Loi Badinter.

To get to French law however she needs to overcome Article 4(2) Rome II’s provision that in case victim and party claimed to be liable are habitually resident in the same country at the time the damage occurs, the laws of that country apply. A4(3) is the portal to that escape route:

(3) Where it is clear from all the circumstances of the case that the tort/delict is manifestly more closely connected with a country other than that indicated in paragraphs 1 or 2, the law of that other country shall apply. A manifestly closer connection with another country might be based in particular on a pre-existing relationship between the parties, such as a contract, that is closely connected with the tort/delict in question.

It was conceded by both parties [12] that the district judge cut quite a few corners on the A4(3) analysis and Platts J therefore started afresh. Winrow v Hemphill of course was referred to, as was Owen v Galgey (the conclusions of which I disagreed with).

The judge notes (as does the Handbook: para 4.39) that it is important to identify what is meant by “the tort/delict’ in A4(3) before considering whether that tort/delict is more closely connected with a country other than England. A4(3) holds that ‘the tort’ (not individual elements of the tort, such as the event and/or the damage and /or anything singular at all) needs to be ‘more closely connected’.

I disagree with the judge [23] that ‘the tort’ or ‘delict’ clearly refers to the event which caused the damage, or ‘the incident’ [24]. In the case of a tortious obligation ‘the tort’ arguably refers to the classic 3 elements of event, damage, and causal link between the two (all three here clearly referring to France). I do agree it does not refer to the cause of action which arises from the incident [24]. While linguistically speaking that may be caught be ‘the tort’ for it would be one of its consequences, it would also mean that remedies available, or not, for instance would play a role in determining lex causae. Where Rome II envisages such assessment, it says so explicitly: such as in Article 7’s environmental damage rule.

The judge’s reasons for opting for displacement are [30]

I therefore consider the connection with France to be manifestly closer than the connection with England: the collision was in France; it was between two vehicles registered in France; the damage was caused in France in that the initial injury was suffered in France. Further, the circumstances were such that the claim of first claimant is to be dealt with under French law.

That last element is in slight contradiction I find to the judge’s consideration signalled above, that an advance on (remedies available or not under the) lex causae, must not play a role. If that is the case for claimant seeking to overturn A4(2)’s presumption, arguably there must not be a role either for the lex causae of other claims involved in the case.

Of note is the judge’s emphasis on the vehicles both being registered in France. If that is an element, travellers of countries without strict liability rules, might have a strong incentive indeed to hire cars rather than drive their own when driving in EU Member States with strict liability rules such as the Loi Badinter.

Appeal dismissed, for the result is the same (French law applies) even if the route to it was quite different from the first judge.

I do not think the analysis on ‘the tort’ is quite there yet.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 4.5.2 (para 4.39 ff).

 

Silverman v Ryanair. The High Court unconvincingly on the Montreal Convention, lex fori as lex causae for the interpretation of ius gentium, qualifying air carriage claims under Rome I, II, and displacing lex loci damni under the latter.

In Silverman v Ryanair DAC (Rev1) [2021] EWHC 2955 (QB), claimant was injured whilst going down stairs at an airport terminal in England. The claim is subject to EU private international law. Jurisdiction for the English courts in this personal injury claim is not disputed.

Under A5 Rome I, contracts for carriage of goods are subject to the ordinary lex voluntatis rule, while for carriage of passengers, parties can only choose from a limited selection of leges contractus. The standard approach is for  general terms and conditions to select the law of the carrier’s habitual residence or his place of central administration, which is entirely kosher under Rome I. Unless the booking qualifies as package travel, it essentially means that passengers are generally less protected than ordinary consumers under A6 Rome I.

In the case of Ryanair, the default choice inevitably leads to Irish law, except in this case (because Irish law would lead to higher damages), the airline unusually seeks to divert from its default choice of law.  The airline’s relevant clause, reads

8.2.4: Governing Law: “Except as otherwise provided by the Convention or applicable law, your contract of carriage with us, these Terms and Conditions of Carriage and our Regulations shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Ireland and any dispute arising out of or in connection with this contract shall be subject to the jurisdiction of the Irish Courts.”

The Montreal Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air 1999 is unaffected by Rome I as a result of the Regulation’s A25, which gives clear priority to multilateral Conventions at least if the Convention concerned also includes non-EU Member States. The Convention also operates to make the choice of court provision invalid, as discussed ia in CJEU  C-213/18 Adriano Guaitoli et al v Easyjet.

Claimant however argues that assessment of quantum of damages is not regulated by Montreal and therefore remains subject to the lex voluntatis. This is where the second line of Ryanair’s defence comes in, namely an attempt to qualify the claim as one in tort, subject to Rome II’s lex loci damni rule, rather than Rome I’s lex voluntatis.

In essence therefore the question is a matter of Treaty interpretation viz the Montreal Convention (what does it mean to regulate in its provisions on liability and damages), subsequently secondary EU law interpretation viz Rome I and II (qualification: is it a claim in contract or tort, and once that held, does the lex casuae indicated by the relevant Regulation, cover quantum of damages).

Master McCloud turns to international comparison not by way of binding authority but pro inspiratio seeing as the case concerns an international Convention [52]. Scalia J’s ‘Pass-through’ approach to the lex fori’s choice-of-law rules in Zicherman (1996) is the approach also followed in this judgment. The judge uses the formulation by Bader Ginsburg J in El Al Israelthat Warsaw drafters intended to resolve whether there is liability, but to leave to domestic law (the local law identified by the forum under its choice-of-law rules or approaches) determination of the compensatory damages available to the suitor.”

Comparative case-law analysis makes sense. However one would have thought a starting point should have been analysis of the Convention and its travaux itself. Master McCloud does get to that when considering the rather awkward , counsel-inspired idea that there needs to be a discussion of the law that applies to the interpretation of the Convention. Determining the ‘Applicable law to matters of interpretation of the Convention’ might perhaps make sense in a dualist jurisdiction like the UK?

At [59] the judge holds the lex causae for interpretation of the Convention is the lex fori, English law therefore. At [61] he calls this

Convention law as understood by this court, ie the lex fori in that rather special international sense.’

Here I am lost.

The judge then employs the ‘natural language’ approach to determine what parts of the Montreal liability scheme parties can and cannot contractually be negotiated away.

Only the liability issues that have ‘passed through’ to the lex fori are then considered with a view to determining the qualification exercise: is the claim one in contract or one on tort. The judge raises the possibility that the claimant could have construed the claim as being a ‘Convention claim incorporated in the contract’ [64] however he holds that claim is not brought on that footing:

‘the Claim and Particulars are clear: they plead a claim for damages for breach of the Convention, they do not plead a claim in the law of contract’ [64].

That, I would submit, is wrong. The claim is subject to European conflict of laws rules. These require the judge to qualify the claim subject to the autonomous interpretation of ‘contract’ and ‘non-contractual obligation’ as most recently discussed by the CJEU in Wikingerhof. While I am the first to acknowledge claim formulation is a powerful tool to manage qualification (indeed Wikingerhof confirms as much), I do not think deference to claimant may be as large as suggested here.

The judge proceeds with the non-contractual nature (causing injury to the claimant through negligence [65]), points out that the Convention covers both contractual and non-contractual claims [66] and seeks support in his analysis on tort and contract in Prof. Thomas Kadner Graziano’s 2016 paper in the Yearbook of Private International Law. With respect, I do not think Thomas’ paper supports the conclusions in this case.

At [72][73] the judge then rather summarily and using A4(3) Rome II displaces the lex loci damni for the ‘passed through’ claim, in favour of Irish law, the lex contractus to the contract of carriage. Once the Rome II path chosen (of which, per above, I am not convinced), I do not think the lex loci damni may be pushed aside quite as concisely as this.

The relationship between international Conventions and European conflicts rules is not always straightforward. Yet here I think it has been presented a touch too convolutedly.

Geert.

Lakatamia Shipping. On (in)direct damage, applicable law (A4(3) Rome II) and conspiracy.

Lakatamia Shipping Co Ltd v Su & Ors [2021] EWHC 1907 (Comm)  discusses i.a. [840 ff; this is a lengthy judgment] the applicable law in the case of conspiracy. Lakatamia advance two claims against the Defendants, the first re dissipation of two assets (net sale proceeds of two Monegasque villas – the Monaco conspiracy and a private jet – the Aeroplane conspiracy)  in breach of a World Wide Freezing Order (“WFO”)  and secondly re intentional violation of rights in a judgment debt.

Lakatamia’s case as claimants is that English law applies to the claims regarding both conspiracies, whilst Madam Su’s case is that Monaco law applies to the claim regarding the Monaco Sale Proceeds and that an unspecified law (but not English law) applies to the Aeroplane Conspiracy.

None of the specific categories of torts in the Rome II Regulation are said to apply, bringing the focus therefore on the general rule of Article 4(1), with firstly its insistence that only direct damage determines lex causae, not indirect damage.

At 843 Bryan J, like claimants, focuses on the judgment:

the focus being on the freezing order and judgment, with the damage to Lakatamia being suffered in England as that is the situs of the Judgment Debt arising out of the Underlying Proceeding in England, policed by the… Freezing Order, and that is where the Judgment Debt stands to be paid, and where Lakatamia suffers damage if it is not paid or the ability for it to be paid is impaired – put another way England is the country where the Judgment Debt should have been paid, and the damage has accordingly occurred here.

To support the point, at 845 ff English and CJEU authority (much of it also reviewed on this blog) under A7(2)BIa is discussed albeit the judge correctly cautions ‘Authorities on the Brussels Regulation are “likely to be useful” but are not of direct application’. Core reference is Pan Oceanic,

(6)  There is a difference between a case in which the claimant complains that he has lost his money or goods (as in the Marinari case [1996] QB 217 or the Domicrest case [1999] QB 548 ) and a case in which the claimant complains that he has not received money or goods which he should have received. In the former case the harm may be regarded as occurring in the place where the money or goods were lost, although the loss may be said to have been consequentially felt in the claimant’s domicile. In the latter case the harm lies in the non-receipt of the money or goods at the place where they ought to have been received, and the damage to him is likely to have occurred in the place where he should have received them: the Dolphin case [2010] 1 All ER (Comm) 473 , para 60 and the Réunion Européenne case [2000] QB 690 , paras 35-36. (emphasis in the original).

I am not entirely convinced. While it is true that the conspiracy clearly impacts on the receipts, this is the consequence of actual behaviour by defendants elsewhere, with actual impact of that behaviour in that same place abroad. I do not think it is inconceivable to qualify the damage in England as ricochet hence indirect damage. The discussion here leads to CJEU Lazar which, it would seem, was not discussed in the proceedings.

At 860 at any rate, the judge lists his reasons for picking English law as the ‘proper law of the tort’ per A4(3) Rome II. This may be a more solid decision than the A4(1) decision.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 4.30, para 4.39 ff.

Owen v Galgey. Applying A4(2) Rome II to multiparty claims (following Marshall), and a rare, if in my view uncertain, reversal using A4(3)’s ‘manifestly more closely connected’ escape clause.

Update 29 January 2021 today posted additional critical analysis here.

In Owen v Galgey & Ors [2020] EWHC 3546 (QB), Linden J yesterday dealt with the application of Rome II’s common habitual residence exception to A4(1) lex loci damni rule, and with the general escape clause of A4(3).

These cases often involve tragic accidents and injuries and the sec conflict of laws analysis below in no way of course mean any disrespect to claimant and his loved ones.

Claimant is a British citizen who is domiciled and habitually resident in England. He brings a claim for damages for personal injury sustained by him as result of an accident in France (3 April 2018), when he fell into an empty swimming pool which was undergoing works at a villa in France, a holiday home owned by the First Defendant, whose wife is the Second Defendant. They are also British citizens who are domiciled and habitually resident in England, Third Defendant is a company domiciled in France, and the public liability insurer of the First and Second Defendants. Fourth Defendant is a contractor which was carrying out renovation works on the swimming pool at the time of the accident. Fifth Defendant is the public liability insurer of the Fourth Defendant. Fourth and Fifth Defendants are both companies which are domiciled in France.

That French law applies to the claims against Fourth and Fifth Defendant is undisputed. There is however a dispute as to the applicable law in relation to his claims against the First to Third Defendants. These Defendants contend that, by operation of A4(2) Rome II, English law applies because the Claimant and the First and Second Defendants are habitually resident in England. Claimant contends that French law applies by operation of A4(3) Rome II: the ‘manifestly more closely connected’ rule.

Textual argument suggest that on the basis of the text of Recital 18 and A4(2) itself, A4(2) only applies to two party cases and does not apply in multi-party cases. Linden J at 29 notes that this would also correspond with the narrow reading required of A4(2). However he follows of course the authority of Marshall, which I approved of at the time (if only because, if multi-party claims were outside the scope of A42(), it would suffice for either claimant artificially to add a defendant to the claim, or for a defendant similarly to manoeuvre in a second defendant, for A4(2) to become inoperable). A4(2) also applies if more than one party is involved.

On A4(3), then, Marshall, too, is authority and Winrow v Hemphill another rare case that seriously engaged with the issue. In the latter case, Slade J held that the balance was in favour of not applying the escape clause, particularly in view of the period of time of habitual residence in Germany, and subsequent continuing residence in that country (inter alia for follow-up treatment). In the former, Dingemans J did reach a conclusion of applying A4(3) hence lex causae being French law on the grounds I discuss in my post on the case. Here, Linden J discusses the various factors at issue in Winrow v Hemphill and in Marhsall and reaches a conclusion of French law:

In my view it is clear that the tort/delict in the present case is manifestly more closely connected with France. France is where the centre of gravity of the situation is located and the preponderance of factors clearly points to this conclusion. This conclusion also accords with the legitimate expectations of the parties.

The reasons for that are essentially listed at (75  ff)

The tort/delict occurred in France, as I have noted. This is also where the injury or direct damage occurred. The dispute centres on a property in France and it concerns structural features of that property and how the First, Second and Fourth Defendants dealt with works on a swimming pool there. Although these defendants deny that there was fault on the part of any of them, the First and Second Defendants say that the Fourth Defendant was responsible if the pool presented a danger and the Fourth Defendant says that they were. The allegations of contributory negligence/fault also centre on the Claimant’s conduct whilst at the Villa in France.

The First and Second Defendants also had a significant and long-standing connection to France, the accident occurred on their property and the works were carried out by a French company pursuant to a contract with them which is governed by French law. Their insurer, the Third Defendant, is a French company and they are insured under a contract which is governed by French law. The contract was to insure a property in France albeit one which, I accept, applied to claims under English and French law. It is also common ground that the claim against the Fourth Defendant, and therefore against the Fifth Defendant, also a French company, is entirely governed by French law and will require the court to decide whether the Fourth Defendant or, at least by implication, the First and Second Defendants were “custodians” of the property for the purposes of French law.

Whilst it cannot be said at this stage that, by analogy with Marshall, the accident was entirely caused by the Fourth Defendant in particular, the situation in relation to the swimming pool which is said to have been the cause of the accident was firmly rooted in France and it resulted from works which were being carried out by the Fourth Defendant as a result of it being contracted to do so by the First and Second Defendants. The liability of the First and Second Defendants, if any, will be affected by how they dealt with that situation, including by evidence about their dealings with the Fourth Defendant. That situation had no significant connections with England other than the nationality and habitual place of residence of the First and Second Defendants.

The core counterarguments which were dismissed, are (78 ff)

I take the point that the Claimant and the First and Second Defendants were habitually resident in England at the relevant time, that there was a pre-existing relationship between them, and that the Claimant and his family came to be at the Villa as a result of an agreement which was made in England. But, applying an objective test (see Chitty on Contract Volume 1 at paragraph 2-171 in particular), I am not satisfied that this agreement, on the information available at this stage, was contractual in nature. Part of the difficulty in relation to this aspect of the First to Third Defendants’ argument is that there is very little information before the court as to what precisely happened. Looking at the agreed facts in the context of the statements of case and the other materials which I have been shown, however, it appears that the agreement resulted from a casual conversation between social acquaintances in the context of mutual favours having been done in the past. It was informal in nature and it appears that the Claimant offered to do the work as a favour and the First and Second Defendant invited him and his family to the Villa to return that favour.

If I had found that there was a contract, I would also likely have found that it was governed by French law. Although it was entered into in England between British parties, it related entirely to a property in France. Performance of the contract on both sides could only be effected at a particular property in France and was very strongly connected to France in that it involved work on a villa there and a family holiday there. This and the other features of the case would have led me to conclude that [A4(3) Rome I] indicated that there was a manifestly closer connection between the contract and France, although I acknowledge that there is a degree of circularity in this approach. ….

Mr Doherty understandably emphasised that, even if there was no contract with the Claimant, the relationship and the agreement which led to the Claimant and his family being in France were based and made in England. I was also initially attracted by his argument that in effect the Claimant’s complaint is about the way in which the First and Second Defendants fulfilled their side of that agreement. But that is not the claim which he makes, and, in any event, their performance of the agreement was in the form of allowing the Claimant and his family to occupy a villa in France. Nor is this a case in which, for example, the injury occurred whilst the Claimant was carrying out work on the Villa and potential tortious and contractual duties (if the relationship was contractual) therefore arose directly out of the relationship between the parties.

To my mind the tort/delict in this case is much more closely connected to the state of the swimming pool which, as I have said, was part of a property in France and resulted from the French law contract between the First and Second Defendants and the Fourth Defendant. If any of the Defendants is liable, that liability will be closely connected with this contract. This point, taken in combination with the other points to which I have referred, in my view clearly outweighs the existence of any contract with the Claimant relating to the Villa, even if I had found there to be a contractual relationship and even if it was governed by English law.

Similarly, although I have taken into account the nationality and habitual place of residence of the Claimant and the First and Second Defendants, these do not seem to me to alter the conclusion to which I have come. I have also taken into account the fact that the consequences of the accident have to a significant extent been suffered by the Claimant whilst he was in England, but in my view the other factors to which I have referred clearly outweigh this consideration.

Of particular note for future direction on Rome II, is the discussion on existing pre-contractual relations.

This is of course a fact-specific and to a certain extent, discretionary assessment. I also agree there is no limit to the kinds and amount of factors which a judge may take into account when applying the A4(3) exception.

I am minded to disagree with the conclusion reached here, however.  The judge’s assessment is one that echoes a proper law of the tort approach, starting from scratch. But that is not what A4(3) is about: it does not start from scratch; it starts from the clearly stated rule of A4(1) or A4(2), which require a lot of heavy lifting to be dislodged. The arguments pro upholding the A4(2) presumption listed in 78ff in my view give the finding for sustaining its consequence and hence English law as lex causae, strong foundations indeed which I believe, respectfully of course, the judge did not show enough deference to.

Geert.

European Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 4.5.

 

Avonwick Holdings. The High Court awkwardly on locus damni, and on ‘more closely connected’ in Rome II; more solidly on ‘implied’ choice of law in the Rome Convention.

In Avonwick Holdings Ltd v Azitio Holdings Ltd & Ors [2020] EWHC 1844 (Comm), Picken J among quite a few other claims, at 146 ff discussed a suggested defrauding by misrepresentation of the best available market price for a bundle of stocks. Toss-up was between Ukranian law and English law and, it was suggested, was only relevant with respect to the issue of statute of limitation. Counsel for both parties agreed that the material differences between Ukranian and English law were minor.

They omitted, it seems, to discuss the relationship between statute of limitations and the carve-out in Rome II for procedural issues.

At 151:

It was not in dispute…that the default applicable law under Article 4(1) is the law of Cyprus in that this was the country in which the event giving rise to the damage occurred since, although Avonwick was incorporated in the BVI and its entry into the Castlerose SPA was formally authorised in Ukraine, Avonwick’s directors were based in Cyprus and the steps necessary to transfer its shares in Castlerose to Azitio and Dargamo would, therefore, have been taken by those directors in Cyprus.

Here I am simply lost. A4(1) does not suggest locus delicti commissi (‘country in which the event giving rise to the damage occurred’) rather it instructs specifically to ignore that. Even if a locus damni consideration was at play, for purely economic loss as readers will know, there is considerable discussion on that exact location. How the judgment could have ended up identifying locus delicti commissi is a bit of a mystery.

At 153 then follows a discussion of a displacement of Cypriot law by virtue of A4(3)’s ‘manifestly more closely connected’ rule, including interesting analysis of any role which Article 12’s culpa in contrahendo provision might play.

For the reasons listed at 166 ff, the judge agrees that A4(3) applies to replace Cypriot law with Ukranian (not: English) law. Those reasons do seem to make sense – yet despite this, the A4(1) analysis should have been carried out properly.

[467] ff the judge also discusses ‘implicit’ choice of law per Article 3 Rome Convention (applicable ratione temporis), concluding [509] ff that there was no such choice. The analysis in this point is quite useful.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 4, Heading 4.5.2.

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.

 

 

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