Lange v Lange. The Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010’s equivalent of CJEU’s Webb v Webb, Schmidt v Schmidt etc.

Update 15 October 2020 many thanks Jack Wass for providing link to judgment, here.

As I seem to be in a comparative mood today, thank you Jan Jakob Bornheim for flagging [2020] NZHC 2560 Lange v Lange. The case is further discussed by Jack Wass here – at the time of writing I only have Jack’s review to go on for the actual decision appears to be as yet unpublished.

TTPA 2010 follows the model of the more recent Hague Judgments Convention: recognition and enforcement of a judgment may be refused if it infringes jurisdictional rules detailed in the Act. For the case at issue, s 61(2)(c) of the TTPA is engaged. It requires the court to set aside registration of a judgment if it was “given in a proceeding the subject matter of which was immovable property” located outside Australia.

The determining concern is whether the New Zealand property was “in issue” (the words which Jack uses and which presumably Gault J employed; the Act itself uses ‘proceeding subject matter of which is’; compare with Brussels Ia’s ‘proceedings which have as their object’) in the proceedings. Gault J, citing authority, finds that a judgment setting aside a fraudulent disposition is not rendered unenforceable simply because the debt concerned the sale of New Zealand land. (A further appeal to ordre public was refused; for that to be successful, the result of recognition must, Jack notes, “shock the conscience” of the ordinary New Zealander” (Reeves v OneWorld Challenge LLC [2006] 2 NZLR 184 (CA) at [67].

Obvious comparative pointers with EU conflicts law are Webb v Webb, Weber v Weber, Schmidt v Schmidt, Komu v Komu etc.: readers will know that Article 24(1) Brussels Ia typically involves feuding family members.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.6 . Third edition forthcoming February 2021.

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.

Bao v Qu; Tian (No 2). A reminder of the principles of enforcement and the common law in Australia.

Update 26 May 2020 Michael Douglas has abnalysis here.

Update 20 MAy 2020 see in the meantime also review by Jie (Jeanne) Huang, here.

Thank you Michael Douglas for alerting me to Bao v Qu; Tian (No 2) [2020] NSWSC 588 at the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The judgment does not require an extensive post. I report it because it is a solid application of the recognition and enforcement principles of foreign judgments under the common law of Australia. Hence good material for the comparative conflicts folder.

Geert.

 

McDonald v Broadspectrum. When does a claim by an employee against her employer ‘relate to’ the contract of employment?

[2019] QSC 313 McDonald v Broadspectrum can go straight into the comparative binder – thank you Angus Macinnis for signalling it. A teacher employed by Broadspectrum on Nauru, sues it for personal injury. Amongst other things, Ms McDonald alleges Broadspectrum failed to provide a safe place or system of work, to warn her about the mould contamination, to provide protective clothing or respirators, to prevent exposure, and to provide adequate ventilation, in each instance in Nauru.

Broadspectrum applied for a declaration at the Supreme Court of Queensland that the substantive law applicable to her claims is the law of New South Wales and for an order setting aside or staying and transferring her claims to the Supreme Court of that State.

The relevant compensation schemes, in Queensland and New South Wales, each exclude from their scheme an employer’s liability arising under the law of another country. Bradley J however held that lex loci delicti is Nauru law,  which therefore is lex causae. The argument that the employment contract contained implied term to the contrary was rejected.

As I discussed with Angus, I was confused by the court’s qualification of the facts as ‘tort’ (particularly as it also refers to claimant’s argument re forum contractus being Nauru); is this not a contractual claim rather than one in tort? (and one relating to the employment contract, for that matter). Angus however pointed out that in Australia workplace injury claims are usually brought as tortious breach of care claims rather than breach of a contractual obligation to provide a safe system of work. Comparatively speaking, the EU approach would probably be different. For a comparative (consumer contracts, health and safety) angle see e.g. [2018] EWCA Civ 1889 Committeri v Club Med.

On the issue of concurrent liabilities and  EU PIL see recently also Bosworth.

Geert.

Tiger v Morris. The Australian courts on ‘exorbitant’ aka parochial jurisdiction.

A bit of a late note on an interesting case for the comparative binder. Thank you very much indeed Sarah McKibbin for flagging Tiger Yacht Management Ltd v Morris [2019] FCAFC 8.  See further review in the meantime by Michael Douglas here. The Court dismissed Tiger’s appeal from orders made providing for it to be served out of the jurisdiction: The case involves a shareholders’ dispute concerning individuals and companies incorporated outside Australia – where appellant is a shareholder in a foreign company which wholly owns Australian subsidiary. At 100 the relevant points are well summarised.

The discussion essentially concerns ‘exorbitant’ jurisdiction under English and Australian law in a modern context, considering principles of comity and forum non conveniens. At 89, reference is made to Lord Sumption in Abela v Baadarani [2013] 4 All ER 119, a quote worth reciting in full:

This characterisation of the jurisdiction to allow service out is traditional, and was originally based on the notion that the service of proceedings abroad was an assertion of sovereign power over the defendant and a corresponding interference with the sovereignty of the state in which process was served. This is no longer a realistic view of the situation. The adoption in English law of the doctrine of forum non conveniens and the accession by the United Kingdom to a number of conventions regulating the international jurisdiction of national courts, means that in the overwhelming majority of cases where service out is authorised there will have been either a contractual submission to the jurisdiction of the English court or else a substantial connection between the dispute and this country. Moreover, there is now a far greater measure of practical reciprocity than there once was. Litigation between residents of different states is a routine incident of modern commercial life. A jurisdiction similar to that exercised by the English court is now exercised by the courts of many other countries. The basic principles on which the jurisdiction is exercisable by the English courts are similar to those underlying a number of international jurisdictional conventions, notably the Brussels Convention … and the Lugano Convention…The characterisation of the service of process abroad as an assertion of sovereignty may have been superficially plausible under the old form of writ (We command you …). But it is, and probably always was, in reality no more than notice of the commencement of proceedings which was necessary to enable the defendant to decide whether and if so how to respond in his own interest. It should no longer be necessary to resort to the kind of muscular presumptions against service out which are implicit in adjectives like ‘exorbitant‘. The decision is generally a pragmatic one in the interests of the efficient conduct of litigation in an appropriate forum.

The High Court then notes a difference in the approach of forum non between the English and the Australian common law: at 90: ‘The test in the [UK] focuses upon a consideration of the ‘more appropriate forum’: Spiliada Maritime Corporation v Cansulex Ltd [1986] 3 All ER 843. Whereas, Voth (1990) 171 CLR 538 establishes the clearly inappropriate forum test as the test to be applied in Australia.’ Arguably the Australian test leads to a more ‘parochial’ outcome: it is more likely than the English test to lead to jurisdiction being established.

As Michael notes, the core business of the foreign parent, MC2, was to manage the affairs of its subsidiaries, including the Australian company, MA. That involved the management supervision of boatbuilding activities in Australia through Mr Morris, who was resident in Australia. Connections with Australia are strong, therefore. Michael also makes an important point on the current era of globalisation (and, I would add, special purpose vehicles): jurisdictions’ reach over corporations set up outside of the jurisdiction, often to avoid some of its laws (whether tax laws or otherwise) but with strong links to it, is likely to have to be entertained increasingly. That is the case for Australia. It is also the case for the EU and elsewhere, among others under the corporate social responsibility and human rights due diligence agenda.

Geert.

 

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Liu v Ma. NSW (Australian) PIL happy to enforce foreign judgments where jurisdiction is based simply on nationality.

Another case in my backlog for some time, and thank you Sarah McKibbing for flagging, some time back, [2017] VSC 810 Liu v Ma,

 

At 6 Mukhtar AJS notes ‘There is sufficient authority for the view that Australian Courts will enforce a foreign judgment where the defendant is a subject of the foreign country in which the judgment was obtained.  That view has its critics (footnote omitted, GAVC) and it may have its difficulties especially if the citizenship is inactive.  Nevertheless, it is founded on a line of English authority exemplified by the statement of Buckley LJ in Emanuel v Symon‘.

Many would argue that at the very jurisdictional level nationality as a ground is parochial /exorbitant. At the same time that at the level of recognition, one should show restraint in refusing to recognise judgments based on such flimsy jurisdictional grounds.

For those wanting to dig deeper, prof Andrew Dickinson has critical review of the relevant case-law in (2018) 134(July) LQR 426-449 (‘Schibsby v Westenholz and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in England’).

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.4. for a discussion of ‘parochial’ jurisdiction in the EU context).

 

Looking over the fence in re B.C.I Fins. Pty Ltd. (In Liquidation). The rollercoaster world of conflict of laws.

In re B.C.I Fins. Pty Ltd. (In Liquidation) (thank you Daniel Lowenthal for flagging) illustrates to and fro exercise, hopping between laws, and the use of choice of law rules to establish (or not) jurisdiction. This method is often called the ‘conflicts method’ or ‘looking over the fence’: to establish whether one has jurisdiction a judge has to qualify his /her district as a place of performance of an obligation, or the situs of a property, requires the identification of a lex causae for the underlying obligation, application of which will in turn determine the situs of the obligation, property etc.

As Daniel points out, Bankruptcy Code section 109(a), says that “only a person that resides or has a domicile, a place of business, or property in the United States, or a municipality may be a debtor under this title.” Lane J considers the issue in Heading B and concludes that the Debtors’ Fiduciary Duty Claims against Andrew and Michael Binetter constitute property in the United States to satisfy Section 109(a).

There is no federal conflicts rule that pre-empts.  New York conflict of law rules therefore apply. New York’s “greatest interest test” pointed to Australian substantive law to determine the situs of the fiduciary duties claims: “[t]he Liquidators were appointed by an Australian court, and are governed by Australian law, and Andrew Binetter is an Australian citizen.  Perhaps even more importantly, the Fiduciary Duty Claims arose from acts committed in Australia and exist under Australian law, and any recovery will be distributed to foreign creditors through the Australian proceeding.’

Lane J then applies Australian substantive law eventually to hold on the situs of the fiduciary duty: considering the (competing) Australian law experts, he is most swayed by the point of view that under Australian law ‘not only debts, but also other choses in action, are for legal purposes localised and are situated where they are properly recoverable and are properly recoverable where the debtor resides.’ The Binetters reside in New York.

In summary: New York conflict of law rules look over the fence to locate the situs of a fiduciary debt to be in New York, consequently giving New york courts jurisdiction. A neat illustration of the conflicts method.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, Chapter 3, Heading

 

Sinocore International Co Ltd v RBRG Trading: The commercial court on fraus, ordre public and arbitration.

Fraus omnia corrumpit (fraud corrupts all; alternatively formulated as ex turpi causa non oritur actio) is not easily applied in conflict of laws. See an earlier post here.  In [2017] EWHC 251 (Comm) Sinocore International Co Ltd v RBRG Trading , the Commercial Court granted permission for the enforcement of a foreign arbitral award despite allegations that the transaction in question had been “tainted” by fraud: this is how the case is summarised by Mayer Brown and I am happy broadly to refer to their overview and analysis.

The Commercial Court’s relaxed attitude is another sign of strong support of the English courts for the New York Convention and its narrow application of ordre public.

An interesting case for comparative conflicts /arbitration classes.

Geert.

Hooley: Modified universalism outside the EU’s Insolvency Regulation.

Update 25 January 2019 Rubin v  Eurofinance was incorporated as precedent by the Australian Federal Courts in King (Trustee), in the matter of Zetta Jet Pte Ltd v Linkage Access Limited [2018] FCA 1979, as explained by David Walter here.

Hooley [Hooley v The Victoria Jute Company Ltd and others [2016] CSOH 14] has been sitting in my in-box for a few months. It concerns the liquidation (particularly: selling of companies’ assets by liquidators under Scots law) of companies incorporated in Scotland but with COMI (centre of main interests) outside the EU. In particular, India.

Given the presence of COMI outside the EU, the Insolvency Regulation does not apply. Indeed the Court of Session (Lord Tyre) does not refer to it at all.Findings would have been very different were the Regulation to apply: place of incorporation has to give way to COMI, where these two do not coincide, in which circumstance the place of incorporation at best may open secondary proceedings.

At issue was among others (and for the first time in a Scots court, I understand) the consideration of ‘modified universalism’: ie what is the practical impact of there being a company incorporated in Scotland, given Scots courts and administrators jurisdiction over the insolvencies, when the companies’ business is mainly carried out abroad and when proceedings are also pending abroad.

Per Rubin v Eurofinance, Universalism” means the “administration of multinational insolvencies by a leading court applying a single bankruptcy law.”  The principle of modified universalism was stated by Lord Sumption in Singularis Holdings Ltd v Pricewaterhouse Coopers [2015] AC 1675 (PC) at para 15 as being that “the court has a common law power to assist foreign winding up proceedings so far as it properly can” (see also Lord Collins at paragraph 33 and Lord Clarke of Stone‑cum‑Ebony at paragraph 112).

Essentially Lord Tyre had to decide whether the Scottish administrators’ powers were only exercisable to the extent that their exercise was recognised as legally valid by the law of the relevant non-UK jurisdiction. He held (at 36) that the proceedings taking place in India were ancillary to the administration proceedings in Scotland. The powers of a validly appointed administrator to a Scottish company were therefore not limited by the Indian winding up.

As often of course this judgment is but one side of the coin. Indian courts are at liberty to disregard the Scots findings. Any purchasers of Hooley assets therefore will have a compromised title. One assumes this has an impact on price.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 5, Heading 5.1, Heading 5.5.

Fraus omnia corrumpit or accidental oversight? New South Wales Supreme Court goes full throttle in Proactive Building Solutions

Fraus omnia corrumpit (fraud corrupts all) is not easily applied in conflict of laws.  Both forum shopping and choice of law ought not prima facie to be regarded with much suspicion, especially in a B2B context. States typically employ mandatory law provisions, sometimes restricted to ‘overriding mandatory law’ (such as in the EU’s Rome I Regulation for choice of law in contracts) to ring-fence parts of national law not capable of being avoided by choice of law in purely domestic situations, and ‘public order’ provisions to trump choice for foreign law even in not purely domestic contexts, but then only for the most essential parts of a State’s legal fabric.

In Proactive Building Solutions, McDougall J held ex tempore that a choice of court and choice of law clause in favour of the English courts cq English law, was void in its entirety for it negated the working of a provision of the New South Wales Building and Construction Industry (Security of Payment) Act 1999 (NSW) (SOP Act). The object of this Act is to ensure that any person who undertakes to carry out construction work (or who undertakes to supply related goods and services) under a construction contract is entitled to receive, and is able to recover, progress payments in relation to the carrying out of that work and the supplying of those goods and services.

Section 34 of that Act reads

34 No contracting out

(1) The provisions of this Act have effect despite any provision to the contrary in any contract.

(2) A provision of any agreement (whether in writing or not):

(a) under which the operation of this Act is, or is purported to be, excluded, modified or restricted (or that has the effect of excluding, modifying or restricting the operation of this Act), or

(b) that may reasonably be construed as an attempt to deter a person from taking action under this Act, is void.

Section 7(1) of the Act, not referred to in judgment, reads

Subject to this section, this Act applies to any construction contract, whether written or oral, or partly written and partly oral, and so applies even if the contract is expressed to be governed by the law of a jurisdiction other than New South Wales.

As pointed out by Leigh Duthie and his colleagues,  while Section 7(1) may have normally allowed the Court to void only the SOP relevant aspects of choice of law, the trouble in the current case was that the contract had thrown choice of court and choice of law into one clause (a very common contractual occurrence), with a foreign court adjudicating.  McDougall J found it highly unlikely that the English courts would uphold the provisions of the SOP Act, hence giving the NSWSC no choice but making the clause void in its entirety. Consequently the whole contractual arrangement became subject to choice of court and choice of law as if no express clause had been inserted, even if the workings of the SOP Act would have had only a minor impact on parties’ contractual relations.

An obvious remedy is to lift SOP relevant parts of the contract out of the choice of court clause, however even in such case some uncertainty persists: for the recalcitrant party, suing in NSW in spite of a choice of court elsewhere, could attempt to raise the SOP flag if only to delay proceedings.

An interesting case for comparative conflicts classes.

Geert.