Posts Tagged Bier
JSC BTA Bank v Khrapunov. UK Supreme Court confirms the conspiracy itself, not its implementation, as locus delicti commissi under Lugano. Does not entertain locus damni.
The UK Supreme Court held in  UKSC 19 JSC BTA Bank v Khrapunov late March. Defendant is based in Switzerland, hence triggering the Lugano Convention. Addleshaw Goddard have the history of the case and I am happy to refer for those facts. Suffice to say that at the core is a claim in tort of conspiracy, alleging that Mr Khrapunov and his father in-law Mr Ablyazov conspired to injure the Bank by preventing it from enforcing its judgments against Mr Ablyazov’s assets.
First let’s have a look at was not discussed at the SC: domicile and locus damni. As for the former, domicile once held but now fleed from was correctly rejected by Teare J as establishing domicile under Lugano (or indeed Brussels). The argument that jurisdiction should, nevertheless, be taken still to be domiciled in England because defendant was in breach of an obligation under the worldwide freezing order prohibiting him from leaving the jurisdiction, was likewise rejected. An interesting proposition though.
Now, for the location of the locus damni. At 29 the SC refers to the Bank’s argument at the High Court and Court of Appeal stage. The Bank’s argument was that the damage occurred in England. This was based on the contention that its worldwide freezing order and its judgments against Mr Ablyazov were located here and had been reduced in value by the alleged conduct in relation to assets in other jurisdictions. The High Court and Court of Appeal considered that the element of damage proximate to the harmful event was the Bank’s inability or reduced ability to execute against those assets in the places where they were located. Another fine example of the difficult implications of Bier and not one which the CJEU has hitherto had the occasion to review. (But current case will not reach it).
As for locus delicti commissi, the Bank submit that the event giving rise to the damage was the conspiracy itself, which was hatched in England. At the High Court Teare J rejected this submission, because he considered that the cause of the damage was not the conspiracy but its implementation: a suggestion I like in the context of competition law, as readers of the blog will be aware. Teare J was not followed by the Court of Appeal though, which identified the place where the conspiratorial agreement was made as the place of the event which gives rise to and is at the origin of the damage.
The SC refers to CJEU authority to conclude with CDC and at 41 it reiterates the CA’s core reasoning: ‘As Sales LJ explained (at para 76), in entering into the agreement Mr Khrapunov would have encouraged and procured the commission of unlawful acts by agreeing to help Mr Ablyazov to carry the scheme into effect. Thereafter, Mr Khrapunov’s alleged dealing with assets the subject of the freezing and receivership orders would have been undertaken pursuant to and in implementation of that agreement, whether or not he was acting on instructions from Mr Ablyazov.’
The Supreme Court concludes that the making of the agreement in England should be regarded as the harmful event which set the tort in motion.
The judgment keeps open many issues, however. For starters, to have a sole birthplace of conspiratorial agreement is handy in the case at issue however it is likely not often to be so clearly the case (as Dan and Tom point out, particularly not in a digital context). Moreover, for those instances where Mr Khrapunov were not to be acting on instructions from Mr Ablyazov, questions of ultra vires so to speak and hence of a separate tort would arise.
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 18.104.22.168
The CJEU today held in Case C-572/14 Austro Mechana. I reported earlier on the AG’s Opinion (which was issued not too long ago). That post also refers readers to Tobias Lutzi‘s analysis. He points quite correctly (indeed entirely correctly) to the issue of dovetail between (now) Article 7(1) and 7(2). Given the interplay between Handte and Kalfelis, is an obligation between parties which is not contractual, necessarily one in tort? I.e. do these two dovetail? Following Kalfelis itself, the answer must be no: an action falls under Art. 7(2) if it ‘seeks to establish the liability of a defendant’ and is ‘not related to a “contract” within the meaning of Article 5(1)’ (para 56). Therefore one must seek to establish the liability of the defendant, and not just review whether the claim is contractual or not.
In the case of collection of copyright levies for private use (where consent of the copyright holder is not sought and a compensatory levy is imposed by national law instead, in accordance with relevant instructions in EU copyright law), one would intuitively say that no ‘liability’ is established against the distributor of copyrighted materials to whom effectively collection of a State-imposed duty is outsourced.
In the present case, the action brought by Austro-Mechana seeks to obtain compensation for the harm arising from non-payment by Amazon of the remuneration provided for in Austrian law. That failure to collect , the Court holds (at 44) constitutes a harmful event within the meaning of Article 7(2). At 50: ‘Austro-Mechana’s claim seeks to establish the liability of the defendant, since that claim is based on an infringement by Amazon of the provisions of the UrhG imposing that obligation on it, and that that infringement is an unlawful act causing harm to Austro-Mechana.’
The Court therefore does not dismiss the first criterion of the Kalfelis formula (‘establishing liability’). Yet it surely stretches it. The Court’s initial formulation of a two-pronged condition of application, therefore has not disappeared. However if the criterion of establishing liability is too readily accepted, the relevance of the initial formulation is certainly fading.
(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 22.214.171.124.
And the winner is….National law. Saugmandsgaard ØE AG in Austro-Mechana on Tort and reproduction rights.
Determining whether a legal relationship is one in tort, for the purposes of (now) Article 7(2) of the Brussels I Recast Regulation, is in principle subject to autonomous interpretation. National law ought not to feature (emphasised ia in Melzer). In the Brussels I Regulation, Article 5(3) features alongside Article 5(1)’s jurisdictional rule for contract. (In the Recast Regulation, Artt 7(1 and (2)). Sometimes, as in Brogsitter, both are present between two contractual parties and one needs to be separated from the other. In Kalfelis, the CJEU defined ‘tort’ as ‘all actions which seek to establish the liability of a defendant and which are not related to a “contract” within the meaning of Article 5(1).‘
Tobias Lutzi’s review is very useful in reminding us of the need to distinguish the two tracts of the Kalfelis definition. Just focusing on Brogsitter might lead one into thinking that Article 5(1) and 5(3) [7(1) /7(2)] ‘dovetail’: i.e. if it is not the one, it is the other (with tort being the subordinate category). That is however clearly not the case: that it may have looked like this in Brogsitter is due to liability being present in any case: the issue was there where contractual liability stops and liability in tort takes over.
Article 5(3) therefore requires an ‘action which seeks to establish the liability of a defendant’ which leads the Advocate General here into lengthy review of the Austrian implementation of EU law on copyright levies. With respect, I do not think that is what is either called for or justified. Article 5(3) requires an autonomous, EU interpretation. Too much interference of national law spoils that broth – a point also made in Melzer. Moreover the application of the jurisdictional categories is just that: it determines jurisdiction only. Once that settled, the national courts regain their authority to requalify and indeed may still decide that there is no liability in tort (or contract, as the case may be) at all, but rather one in contract (or tort, as the case may be) or indeed none at all.
I feel Sharpston AG’s centre of gravity etc. modus operandi, suggested by her re distinguishing between Rome I and II in Ergo but (probably) not accepted by the Court, would have come in handy at the jurisdictional level in Austro Mechana, too.
The CJEU’s judgment here is one to look out for.
European private international law, second ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 126.96.36.199
Pike & Doyle (Mumbai terror) at the High Court: forum non conveniens and the need for distinguishing Rome II and Brussels I
In Pike & Doyle v the Indian Hotels Company Limited, the High Court withheld its jurisdiction in the case of two (surviving but injured) victims of the Mumbai terror attacks. The UK Human Rights Blog has a posting on the forum non conveniens side of the case. I would like to point to some interesting observations in the judgment on the impact of the interpretation of the special jurisdictional rule for tort under the Jurisdiction Regulation (Brussels I).
The First Claimant suffers continuing pain and loss of amenity and substantial economic losses caused by his injuries. The Second Claimant sustained loss of earnings in England and Wales and has a continuing loss in the form of counselling. On that basis both Claimants have therefore suffered indirect or secondary damage as a result of the Defendants’ alleged negligence in Mumbai. The Claimants’ submission is that this is sufficient to found jurisdiction. The Defendants challenge this.
In support of their claim, defendant relied essentially on the impact which EU law suo arguendo has on the interpretation of the relevant English rules of procedure: as summarised by Stewart J (at 12):
The Defendants’ submission is as follows:
(i) Before 1 January 1987 RSC order 11 rule 1(1)(h) required a plaintiff to establish that the action was “founded on a Tort committed within the jurisdiction”. The test was “where in substance did the cause of action arise?” (Distillers Co Ltd v Thompson [reference omitted]).
(ii) On 1 January 1987 the rule changed such that the new RSC order 11 rule 1(1)(f) became “the claim is founded on a Tort and the damage was sustained, or resulted from an act committed, within the jurisdiction.” The change was made to give effect to Article 5(3) of the Brussels Convention and the decision of the European Court in Handelskwekerij G.J. Bier B.V. v Mines Potasse d’Alsace S.A. [reference omitted]
[references to further precedent omitted]
(iii) The European Rules do not allow indirect secondary damage to found jurisdiction.
Dumez France v Hessische Landesbank [reference omitted]). Marinari v Lloyds Bank plc [reference omitted]). [references to further precedent omitted]
(iv) This is all accepted and is in line with the original Bier case where the European Court held that where an act occurred in one Member State and the damage occurred in another, the Claimant could sue the Defendant in the Courts of either state. (…)
(v) Given the above, the Court should apply normal principles of interpretation to the rule namely: delegated legislation is construed in the same way as an Act, the starting point is to ascertain the legislative intention and the person seeking to understand that intention must do so in the light of the enactment and its purpose. The interpretation must be an informed one [references omitted]
(vi) Therefore since the pre 1987 law would not have allowed indirect secondary damage to found jurisdiction and since the purpose of the change was to align the RSC (subsequently CPR) with the European rules which do not allow such a founding of jurisdiction, the rules should be interpreted consistently with the European cases.
Stewart J disagreed and precedent did before him. Absent the European context – for defendant is not domiciled in the EU and the Brussels I-Regulation does not otherwise apply, there is no reason to assume that the relevant English rules cannot be applied taking into account indirect damage as a jurisdictional basis for the English courts: Tugendhat J had already held so with reference to the preparatory works of the relevant change to the Rules of Procedure. He effectively found that Parliament did not fully assimilate the rules relating to non party states with those relating to states which are a party; it effectively wanted their to be a wedge between the application of the jurisdictional rule for tort in and outside the Brussels-I context.
Neither, Stewart J held, can Rome II come to the defendants’ rescue. This was an attempt by defendants to recycle the limitation to Article 5(3) of the Brussels I Regulation. No reference to this was made in the judgment however a prima facie forceful recital in the Rome II Regulation is recital 7: The substantive scope and the provisions of this Regulation should be consistent with Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (Brussels I) and the instruments dealing with the law applicable to contractual obligations.
Since Rome II harmonises applicable law for tort even if the national court withholds jurisdiction on the basis of its residuary jurisdictional rules (such as here, given that Brussels I does not apply), this bridge between the various Regulations might resurrect the relevance of the Dumez France and Marinari limitations to the judgment in Bier.
Stewart J however was not swayed and referred to Sir Robert Nelson in Stilyanou:
- Brussels 1 relates to a different subject matter, namely jurisdiction, and has to be construed as a separate regulation, albeit consistently with the other regulations forming part of the compatible set of measures.
- Rome II does not abolish the discretion which has to be exercised under the CPR in relation to non Member States.
- Article 2 on its face is wide enough to include any damage direct or indirect which the regulation as a whole covers. Article 4(1) expressly excludes indirect damage which would otherwise be included by virtue of Article 2. There is no reason why “damage” under the CPR should be interpreted as in a specific Article such as Article 4 which defines the applicable law, rather than interpreted as a general article such as Article 2 which applies to the regulation as a whole (apart from Article 4).
- Inconsistencies in the meaning of damage may exist as the tests are different under Brussels 1, Rome II and CPR. The latter includes the exercise of the discretion and hence consideration of forum conveniens to ensure the proper place for the trial is selected, whereas Brussels 1 and Rome II do not.
- Rome II does not concern jurisdiction and does not override CPR 9(a). Where Brussels I does not apply, the issue of jurisdiction will be governed by a country’s own rules ie. in England and Wales the CPR
Neither Stewart J nor Sir Robert refer to recital 7 Rome II however their arguments in my view are supported post their findings by the ECJ judgment in Kainz.
A very interesting case for many aspects of conflicts law.