Posts Tagged Choice of court
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 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.
Assymetrical jurisdiction clauses. Their existence and (obiter) their neutralising effect in Perella v Codere.
Apologies for late posting. I had tweeted and linked and done all sorts of other things when the judgment came out but as readers tell me, that is not quite the same as a review on this blog.
Walker J decided Peralla v Codere  EWHC 1182 (Comm) at the end of July. His views on Article 25 and exclusivity in the event of asymmetric jurisdiction clauses, are very much dicta. On their neutralising effect under Article 31, he suggested obiter. Let me explain. The jurisdiction clause which Perella alleged to have been breached by Codere comprises a single sentence of a clause of their letter of engagement. That sentence states:
“[Codere] agrees for the benefit of [Perella] that the courts of England wil have non-exclusive jurisdiction to settle any dispute which may arise in connection with this engagement.”
Codere sued in Spain alleging breach of contract. Perella countersues in England. The English proceedings are very much necessitated by one or two awkward consequences of the wording of Article 31 of the Brussels I Recast. This Article was specifically included to neutralise the torpedo which the Court of Justice had armed in its Gasser judgment, C-116/02: following Gasser, lis alibi pendens applies even if there is exclusive choice of court and a court other than the court assigned in that clause, has been seized. The Brussels I Recast neutralises the torpedo but only if there is exclusive court of choice, and if the court designated by that clause has been seized.
The first consideration in the case was whether the clause was exclusive. It was pertinently not. Perella suggested the language indicates that the benefit to be conferred upon Perella is an entitlement to insist that Codere must regard itself as bound by the exclusive jurisdiction of the English courts. Walker J (at 30) rejects this justifiably: it would have been simplicity itself verbatim to indicate exclusivity. As Ken Kaar notes, the inclusion of ‘for the benefit of’ is an old, now redundant boilerplate provision in choice of court: in the original Brussels and Lugano Conventions, ‘If the agreement conferring jurisdiction was concluded for the benefit of only one of the parties, that party shall retain the right to bring proceedings in any other court which has jurisdiction by virtue of this Convention.’ This proviso meant there was plenty of discussion in court whether only one party had procured such benefit, lest one state in so many words that it had. The current version of the Brussels I Recast (and the 2001 version before it) and Lugano 2007 have both dropped the provision, and it would be best dropped from the boilerplate clause, too.
Having held that the clause was not exclusive, the Court could have stopped there. Obiter however Walker J offered his view on whether Article 31(2)’s protection extends to asymmetric choice of court clauses – the notion of which I have reported on before. Walker J (at 18) suggests that it does. The party invoking Article 31(2) pointing to an exclusive forum which the counterparty who is suing elsewhere, had committed itself to, need not be itself subject to a symmetric duty only to sue in that court. The point has not been argued before the CJEU yet, but I agree that the High Court’s position is the correct one, with the important caveat of course that such clause needs to be valid in accordance with the lex fori prorogati. This also means that asymmetric clauses where such lex cannot be identified, would have trouble disarming the recalcitrant party’s torpedo.
Well, we are going to miss this type of judgment following Brexit. Better make conflict of laws part of the continuing relations with the UK.
In Philipp Plein, the court at Rotterdam held against the applicability of contractual choice of court to cases involving (alleged) unfair trading practices /infringement of competition law. (The judgment is not entirely clear on how the alleged tort needs to be qualified). I should also rephrase: I am assuming the case involves clothing chain Philipp Plein (‘PP’): this party’s name (albeit with presumably a typoo reported as ‘Philipp Klein’) is mentioned once in the judgment, probably because redacting missed this one particular reference. I find this process of anonimisation rather tiring: I fail to understand why in issues of commercial law, companies should at all be offered anonymity in public recording of the case. But I digress.
PP is domiciled at Lugano. The court is not entirely clear in its distinction between the Brussels I Recast Regulation and the Lugano Convention 2007. For the consideration of choice of court, domicile of the defendant in Switzerland was already immaterial under the Brussels I Regulation, given that one of the parties is domiciled in The Netherlands. The court applies Brussels I Recast and Lugano 2007 more or less jointly, given their similar outcome for the case at issue. Given this parallel application it is quite remarkable that no reference is made to CDC, which emphasised that extension of choice of court to non-contractual liability cannot be assumed. Instead the court here reviews how other parts of PP’s standard terms and conditions are formulated and what impact this has on the clause at issue.
It decides the choice of court clause (which read ‘“If both parties are businessmen, then the place of jurisdiction […] is Nuremberg, Germany”.’) does not extend to non-contractual liability. Parties seemingly agreed that in the event of non-applicability of choice of court, the Court at Rotterdam can hear the case on the basis of Article 5(3) Lugano 2007 (similar to now Article 7(2) Brussels I Recast).
I agree with Bas Braeken and Marianne Meijssen: A good result but an awkward way to go about it.
(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.9, Heading 126.96.36.199.
Thank you Cozen O’Connor for alerting me. California’s Senate Bill 1241 was signed into law at the end of September. It will apply to employment contracts entered into, modified, or extended on or after 1 January 2017.
The Bill will feature in a forthcoming article that I am co-authoring with Jutta Gangsted. I have not (yet) studied the preparatory work in detail however the Bill immediately calls for comparative analysis with the EU’s’ approach to this particular ‘protected category’: what is a labour (employment) contract; how does ‘primarily resides and works in California’ compare with ‘habitually carries out his work’ and ‘domicile’; when exactly is a contract ‘modified’ (on this see for the EU, Nikiforidis). The starting point of both the California and the EU rules is the same: employees cannot be considered to really consent to either choice of law or choice of court hence any clause doing same will be subject to mandatory limitations.
(Handbook of) European Private international law, 2nd ed. 2016. Chapter 2, Heading 188.8.131.52, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.5.