Posts Tagged Brussels I bis

The lady is not for turning. CJEU in Komu v Komu sticks to classic application of exclusive jurisdictional rule for rights in rem in immovable property.

Update 17 December 2016 application of Komu v Komu was made in [2016] EWCA Civ 1292 Magiera v Magiera.

In Case C-605/14, Komu v Komu, the CJEU stuck to its classic applicatio n of the rule of Article 22(1) Brussels I (now Article 24(1) Brussels Recast). This Article prescribes exclusive jurisdiction for (among others) proceedings which have as their object rights in rem in immovable property. Article 25 (now 27) adds that where a court of a Member State is seised of a claim which is principally concerned with a matter over which the courts of another Member State have exclusive jurisdiction by virtue of Article 22, it shall declare of its own motion that it has no jurisdiction. (emphasis added).

Mr Pekka Komu, Ms Jelena Komu, Ms Ritva Komu, Ms Virpi Komu and Ms Hanna Ruotsalainen are domiciled in Finland and are co-owners of a house situated in Torrevieja (Spain), the first three each with a 25% share and the other two each with a 12.5% share. In addition, Ms Ritva Komu has a right of use, registered in the Spanish Land Register, over the shares held by Ms Virpi Komu and Ms Hanna Ruotsalainen.Wishing to realise the interests that they hold in both properties, and in the absence of agreement on the termination of the relationship of co-ownership, Ms Ritva Komu, Ms Virpi Komu and Ms Ruotsalainen brought an action before the District Court, South Savo, Finland for an order appointing a lawyer to sell the properties and fixing a minimum price for each of the properties. The courts obliged in first instance and queried the extent of Article 22’s rule in appeal.

Co-ownership and rights of use, one assumes, result from an inheritance.

The CJEU calls upon classic case-law, including most recently Weber. At 30 ff it recalls the ‘considerations of sound administration of justice which underlie the first paragraph of Article 22(1) …’ and ‘also support such exclusive jurisdiction in the case of an action intended to terminate the co-ownership of immovable property, as that in the main proceedings.’:

The transfer of the right of ownership in the properties at issue in the main proceedings will entail the taking into account of situations of fact and law relating to the linking factor as laid down in the first paragraph of Article 22(1) of Regulation No 44/2001, namely the place where those properties are situated. The same applies, in particular, to the fact that the rights of ownership in the properties and the rights of use encumbering those rights are the subject of entries in the Spanish Land Register in accordance with Spanish law, the fact that rules governing the sale, by auction where appropriate, of those properties are those of the Member State in which they are situated, and the fact that, in the case of disagreement, the obtaining of evidence will be facilitated by proximity to the locus rei sitae. The Court has already held that disputes concerning rights in rem in immovable property, in particular, must generally be decided by applying the rules of the State in which the property is situated, and the disputes which frequently arise require checks, inquiries and expert assessments which have to be carried out there.

A sound finding given precedent. However I continue to think it questionable whether these reasons, solid as they may have been in 1968, make much sense in current society. It may be more comfortable to have the case heard in Spain for the reasons set out by the Court. But essential? Humankind can perform transcontinental robot-assisted remote telesurgery. But it cannot, it seems, consult the Spanish land registry from a court in Finland. I would suggest it is time to adapt Article 24 in a future amendment of the Regulation.

Geert.

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Arbitral anti-suit injunctions and the Judgments Regulation. Grand Chamber holds they are outside the scope, but not therefore invincible.

The ECJ today has held, in a matter of factly manner (I had suspected the Court would be brief), that the enforcement of arbitral awards falls outside the Brussels I-Regulation, where that enforcement by the court of that State, effectively prohibits the party concerned from taking the case to a court in that very Member State. Rich was the main formula referred to, among the various precedents: ‘reference must be made solely to the subject-matter of the dispute‘ to assess the scope of Brussels I’s arbitral exclusion.

Importantly, West Tankers was distinguished particularly on the basis that in the facts at issue, there was no competing court in another Member State, hence no scope for the principle of mutual trust to be violated. The AG’s review of the impact of the recitals newly added by the Brussels I recast, was not addressed at all by the Court.

The judgment does not solve all outstanding issues, however. Firstly, the Court’s reasoning seems to suggest that where competition with a court in another Member State is at issue, effet utile of the Brussels I Regulation might take the upper hand, as it did in West Tankers. Recognition of the award arguably in such case would amount to anti-suit. Further, the Court (this was a Grand Chamber judgment) points out that the award still has to go through the national court’s standard recognition and enforcement process, outside the framework of Title III of the Regulation, instead governed by national residual law as well as the New York Convention. Both of these (including through ordre public) might still offer quite a remit for the Lithuanian courts to refuse recognition.

Geert.

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EU to become party to The Hague Choice of Court Convention. Not necessarily a good idea.

Update 21 May 2018. Denmark has now also acceded. Update 2 October 2015. The Convention entered into force on 1 October. Update 5/12/2014: Approval is now final (p.16) and (update 10/12) has been published in OJUpdate 16/10/2014:

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The European Commission has adopted its proposal for a Council decision on the approval, on behalf of the EU, of the Hague Convention of 30 June 2005 on Choice of Court Agreements. The Convention, which has not yet entered into force (but will be, once the EU ratifies), contains three basic rules that give effect to choice of court agreements (from the Convention’s website):

1.The chosen court must in principle hear the case (Art.5);
2. Any court not chosen must in principle decline to hear the case (Art.6); and
3. Any judgment rendered by the chosen court must be recognised and enforced in other Contracting States, except where a ground for refusal applies (Arts 8 and 9).

The Commission does propose that the EU make a declaration, excluding the application of the Convention to insurance contracts (unlike the recast Brussels I Regulation’s provisions re consumers and employees, insurers not domiciled in the EU continue to fall outside the Regulation), in spite of objections.

The downside of the complete exclusion of insurance contracts, from the point of view of European insurers, is that choice of court clauses they have negotiated with non-European policyholders would not be recognised and enforced in third States which are Contracting Parties to the Convention. From the perspective of the European policyholders, these would lose the advantage of having the decisions of EU courtsʼ (chosen by the parties) recognised and enforced outside the Union under the Convention – the EC is however more concerned about the position of the European insureds (as opposed to the insurers): if the Convention were to be concluded without excluding insurance contracts, there would be a lack of parallelism with the protective policy established in the Brussels I Regulation which allows the insured party to sue an EU insurer (or a EU branch of third State insurer) in his own place of domicile irrespective of any other jurisdiction available under a choice of court agreement. not all Member States agree with the Commission hence one will have to wait and see how this issue will be decided.

At any rate and more generally, were the EU to accede, this does of course put into question the relationship between the Brussels I Regulation, the Convention, and the Lugano Convention. The EC notes that Brussels I does not “govern the enforcement in the Union of choice of court agreements in favor of third State courts”. (Ignoring, incidentally, the judgment in Gothaer, which does achieve the same result in specific circumstances).

This would, in the EC’s view, rather be achieved by the Convention. The amendments to the Brussels I regulation introduced with the recast of 2012 “have strengthened party autonomy” and now “ensure that the approach to choice of court agreements for intra-EU situations is consistent with the one that would apply to extra-EU situations under the Convention, once approved by the Union”.

A ‘disconnection clause’ set out in Article 26(6) provides that the Convention shall not affect the application of the regulation “where none of the parties is resident in a Contracting State that is not a Member State” of the Union and “as concerns the recognition or enforcement of judgments as between Member States”.  “(T)he Convention affects the application of the Brussels I regulation if at least one of the parties is resident in a Contracting State to the Convention”, and shall “prevail over the jurisdiction rules of the regulation except if both parties are EU residents or come from third states, not Contracting Parties to the Convention”.

As regards the recognition and enforcement of judgments, the Regulation “will prevail where the court that  made the judgment and the court in which recognition and enforcement is sought are both located in the Union”.

Hence in summary, according to the proposal, the Convention will “reduce the scope of application of the Brussels I regulation”, but “this reduction of scope is acceptable in the light of the increase in the respect for party autonomy at international level and increased legal certainty for EU companies engaged in trade with third State parties”.

Hum. I am not convinced. The above signals a fairly complex regime of scope of application of Convention cq Regulation. The Regulation continues to differ from the Convention. (E.g. in not requiring written agreement for choice of court). Neither does it clearly (in contrast with the recast Regulation) settle applicable law to determine validity of the clause: is it lex fori prorogati?). In my view it adds a layer of complexity rather than removing some.

Geert.

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