The CJEU holds back on vis attractiva securalia in Betty Tattersal aka Seguros Catalana Occidente (re: the insurance Section).

Update 25 02 2022 see further analysis by Matthias Lehmann here.

I cross-referred to the pending preliminary review in C-708/20 Betty Tattersall aka Seguros Catalana Occidente  in my review of Flowers v Centro Medico. The CJEU held this morning in Betty Tattersall (which also means the Flowers case may now continue). I call the issue ‘vis attractiva securalia’ which is a term I made up but hopefully usefully summarises the issue. Domicile of the claimant, as readers of the blog will know, is generally of no consequence in EU jurisdictional rules. There are a few exceptions, in particular for the protected category of consumers (for employees, it is the place of habitual performance of the employment contract which is relevant, which often co-incides with their domicile), and for insurance contracts – but in the latter case, it turns out, not of benefit for the injured party.

Ms Tattersall argues that , in relation to EB, who is domiciled at Ireland and owns the holiday home which Ms Tattersall rented and in which she suffered a fall, that a claimant may bring an action against an insurer domiciled abroad under A13(3) BIa. A13 effectively piggy-backs claims of the injured party viz liability insurance, unto the by virtue of A11-12 extended forum possibilities for the insured, the policyholder or beneficiary of the insurance policy. In her view, the existence of a ‘dispute’ between the insurer and the insured regarding the validity or effect of the insurance policy is not necessary in that regard. The only requirement under A13(3), she suggests, is that such an action against the insured is provided for by the law governing direct actions against the insurer, in this case Spanish law. EB by contrast argues that Ms Tattersall’s claim is not an insurance claim and cannot become one merely because it was brought in the same action as the direct action against the insurer.

One can see why Ms Tattersall attempted to join EB into the English procedural bath: the insurer is an interesting defendant of course for it has deeper pockets; however EB’s insurer argue that the limitations and restrictions in the insurance policy meant that the policy did not extend to EB’s use of the property for the purpose of accommodating third parties on holiday against payment. Should that argument hold on the merits, Ms Tattersall’s claim will fall flat and she would have to sue EB separately, in Ireland.

The CJEU insists on the need to read the insurance Section with its specific purpose in mind: the protective effect intended by the Section is aimed at those considered to be in a weaker position vis á vis the insurer: the insured and the injured person are considered to be the weaker party in the contractual relationship, not the third party who is in a non-contractual relationship to both. Therefore [30]

to justify the application of the special rules of jurisdiction laid down in Section 3 of that regulation, the action before the court must necessarily raise a question relating to rights and obligations arising out of an insurance relationship between the parties to that action.

The Court does [35-36] acknowledge recital 16 BIa which refers to the objective of facilitating the proper administration of justice. It concedes that the involvement, by the injured person, of the insured, as a third party to the proceedings before the court seised, would make it possible to avoid the risk of the coexistence of two parallel sets of proceedings. Nevertheless, the emphasis must fall on the effet utile of A7(2): allowing the injured person to bring an action against the insured on the basis of A13(3) would amount to circumventing the forum delicti rules of A7(2). Each injured person could then bring an action against the insurer on the basis of A13(2), to benefit from the more favourable provisions of A10 to 12 in order, subsequently, to bring an action against the insured, as a third party to those proceedings, on the basis of A13(3).

The CJEU’s’ formal reply therefore is that

Article 13(3) of Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters must be interpreted as meaning that, in the event of a direct action brought by the injured person against an insurer in accordance with Article 13(2) thereof, the court of the Member State in which that person is domiciled cannot also assume jurisdiction, on the basis of Article 13(3) thereof, to rule on a claim for compensation brought at the same time by that person against the policyholder or the insured who is domiciled in another Member State and who has not been challenged by the insurer.

Readers may enjoy the strategic off the cuff claim engineering possibilities which I entertained with Sarah Crowter QC.

Geert.

Flowers v Centro Medico. Brussels Ia’s insurance issues stayed pending CJEU authority, and disputable conclusions on the consumer section.

Flowers & Ors v Centro Medico Salus Baleares SL & Anor [2021] EWHC 2437 (QB) is a case packed with jurisdictional complication under Brussels Ia. In early February 2020, Mrs Yvonne Flowers, then 67 years of age, was admitted on an emergency basis to a private hospital facility in Benidorm, Spain, with significant back discomfort and pain arising from spinal disc herniation. Nine days later she died in the same hospital from multiple organ failure having contracted sepsis. T

The principal issues at stake concern the level of proof required for a jurisdictional challenge; determination of domicile; the existence of a consumer contract and who can all avail themselves of the consequential jurisdictional rules; and when a matter ‘relates to’ insurance’.

Starting with the latter, Wood J stayed judgment on much of the issues until the CJEU will have ruled in C-708/20 Betty Tattersall,  on which James Beeton reports here and which engages similar issues as CJEU Cole, settled before judgment, and Hutchinson. Betty Tattersall will be a crucial judgment.

The level of proof for jurisdictional challenges was discussed at an extraordinary length in Brownlie, and the SC’s ruling is applied here as detailed in the judgment.

The claimants’ domicile is not ordinarily relevant under BIa but it is for the consumer and insurance title and its determination is subject to national law. Seeing as the judge finds a good arguable case that domicile is indeed established in England, no consideration of Spanish domicile rules is necessary.

The ‘newer’ elements of the case are first of all the existence of a consumer contract. There are 3 issues [67]: (i) Was there a contract between the late Mrs Flowers and Centro Medico? (ii) If there was, was it a consumer contract within the meaning of section 4 BIa? (iii) Does the Claimant’s claim against Centro Medico fall outside the scope of the consumer contracts section because it has not been brought by the “consumer” within the meaning of the section?

Ia Committeri is relied on and the judge has little hesitation [115] to find the existence of a contract. (Much about that has been written in German scholarship in the specific area of medical services).

Surprisingly though, the question whether there is a contract which meets with the A17 requirements is brushed over when it comes to the question whether the hospital directs its activities to England and Wales, which the court established as the relevant  domicile. Particularly in the context of emergency care, this does not seem to be a given.

The judge does enquire as to whether the claim which can no longer be pursued because the contracting (and thus weaker) party is now deceased, can be picked up by heirs in the same jurisdictional gateway and pursued on the basis of the domicile of either the deceased or the heirs. Schrems and KABEG are discussed, however unlike the first instance judge in Bonnie Lackey, Justice Wood [126] adopts a much less wide approach. There must be scope for a lot more discussion on this, for the scenario in Bonnie Lackey, of which I was critical, is quite different from that of the heirs who step in the  litigation shoes of the deceased.

Geert.

EU Private international law, 3rd ed. 2021, big chunks of Chapter 2.

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