I am mopping up draft posts so forgive me if some of them are a touch late compared to my original report on them on Twitter. Asian Offshore Services v Self Elevating Platform ECLI:NL:RBROT:2023:34 of the Court of First Instance at Rotterdam is an interesting illustration of the positive conflicts rule of Article 4 juncto Article 63 Brussels Ia.
Article 4’s domicile rule is supplemented by Article 63’s definition of domicile for legal persons:
1. For the purposes of this Regulation, a company or other legal person or association of natural or legal persons is domiciled at the place where it has its: statutory seat [Dutch: statutaire zetel]; central administration; [Dutch: hoofdbestuur] or principal place of business [Dutch: hoofdvestiging].
2. For the purposes of Ireland, Cyprus and the United Kingdom, ‘statutory seat’ means the registered office or, where there is no such office anywhere, the place of incorporation or, where there is no such place anywhere, the place under the law of which the formation took place.
3. In order to determine whether a trust is domiciled in the Member State whose courts are seised of the matter, the court shall apply its rules of private international law.
A63 may lead to so-called positive conflicts: more than one court considering itself to be the domicile of the defendant. This is interesting nota bene in the case of business and human rights cases where claimants may want to forum shop and sue in the EU, such as in Anglo American.
In the case at issue, the court first of all [4.2] dismisses the parties’ awkward consensus [4.1] that neither Brussels Ia, nor any international Treaty determines jurisdiction. Clearly Brussels Ia does apply (claimant is domiciled at Kuala Lumpur; defendant registered in Curaçao) and the Court applies it proprio motu.
The court then points to the statutory seat in Curaçao, and [4.9] notes SEP’s lack of contestation that Sliedrecht is its ‘fixed place of business’ as testified by an extract from the local commercial register. Now I a may be a stickler for language here but a fixed place of business is not the same as the principal place of business (which implies main business activities). It is the latter which the Regulation requires.
EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, 2.131 ff.