Posts Tagged Choice of forum
Airbus v Generali et al: The Court of Appeal on the intensity of review of choice of court under Article 25. Clear echoes of Turner v Grovit and West Tankers.
The claimant in this action and the respondent to the appeal, Airbus, claims declarations (1) that it is not liable to the defendant insurers for losses incurred in relation to an incident which occurred on 29 September 2013 in which an aircraft which it had manufactured sustained damage when landing in Rome and (2) that proceedings commenced against it by the defendants in Italy have been commenced contrary to the terms of an English exclusive jurisdiction clause. The clause in question is contained in an Airframe Warranties Agreement dated 8 July 2010 (“the Warranties Agreement”) concluded between (among others) Airbus and the defendants’ insured, the Italian airline company Alitalia. The issue on this appeal is whether the English court has jurisdiction over these claims by virtue of the jurisdiction clause. Moulder J held that it does and the defendant insurers (henceforth “the appellants”) now appeal.
Appellants contend, in outline, that the jurisdiction clause is of limited scope and does not extend to Airbus’s claims in this action, that the claim for a negative declaration falls within an arbitration clause in a different agreement, a Purchase Agreement dated 31 October 2005 which provides for ICC arbitration in Geneva, and that their own proceedings in Italy under articles of the Italian Civil Code are not within the scope of either clause. They say in addition that they cannot be in breach of an exclusive jurisdiction clause to which, as insurers, they were never parties and that, regardless of the true construction of the clause, there is no basis on which the English court can make a declaration against them (essentially, per Turner v Grovit and West Tankers).
Males LJ at 49: The standard of proof to be applied in determining whether the English court has jurisdiction under Article 25 of the Brussels Recast Regulation is that of a good arguable case. Kaifer Aislimentos was discussed as relevant authority. However, at 52: ‘sometimes it will be sensible, when a question of law arises on an application to challenge jurisdiction, for the court to decide it rather than merely deciding whether it is sufficiently arguable.’ Discussion of the contractual construction of the choice of court clause then follows at 62 ff and concludes in favour of a wide application in casu.
At 77 ff: The question whether the appellants’ claim in Italy falls within the scope of the English jurisdiction clause. Males LJ notes correctly that this depends on the nature of the claim brought in Italy, not on the defences which may be or have in fact been raised by Alitalia. At 82 he fairly swiftly concludes that even though the Italian claim is for breach of non-contractual obligations under articles of the Italian Civil Code, it is sufficiently connected to the Warranties Agreement to be within the scope of the exclusive jurisdiction clause. At 83 therefore: the commencement and pursuit of the Italian proceedings was contrary to the terms of that clause and that the English court has jurisdiction to determine that claim.
That then brings us to the discussion of what the English courts might potentially do to assist the party relying on the choice of court clause – given the unavailability of anti-suit per West Tankers. Noteworthy is that the new lis alibi pendens rule protecting choice of court following Brussels Ia, seemingly was not deployed or discussed in the Italian proceedings – at any rate there is no reference to any such discussion in the Court of Appeal judgment (other than perhaps at 84 which seems to suggest that amendment of claims brought the issue to the surface and this may not yet have been the case at the time of the discussion of the Italian proceedings).
A statement by the English courts finding infringement of the clause, would not just have an impact on cost rulings but would also ground a delictual claim. At 97 Males LJ settles the discussion whether such a declaration might be possible: ‘I can see no valid basis on which West Tankers can be distinguished. If it is held that commencement of the Italian proceedings by Alitalia would have been a breach of the jurisdiction clause in the Warranties Agreement, it follows that their commencement by the appellant insurers is a breach of an equivalent obligation in equity which Airbus is entitled to enforce and that the English court has jurisdiction to grant a declaration to say so.’
Interesting and highly relevant authority.
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Heading 188.8.131.52.2., Heading 2.2.9, Heading 184.108.40.206.
In BDO Cayman v Argyle Funds, reported by Harneys, the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands followed English and Australian authority in having an anti-suit injunction followed by a cost order against the party that had infringed choice of court. Costs including not just the domestic proceedings (that would be obvious) but also the foreign proceedings (here: in the US).
It is this type of measure which makes jurisdictions stand out and be noticed in civil procedure regulatory competition – not, as I flagged earlier, half-baked attempts to add some gloss via international business courts.
Saey Home: The CJEU on choice of court and invoices, and place of performance of concession contracts.
C‑64/17 Saey Home, is yet another illustration of, mercifully for us conflicts lawyers, even fairly sophisticated businesses often fail properly to conclude commercial agreements. Here: what is said to be a semi-exclusive concession agreement, was concluded verbally only.
Saey Home & Garden is a company with its registered office in Kortrijk (Belgium), which specialises in the manufacture and sale, inter alia, of kitchen equipment and utensils bearing the trademark ‘Barbecook’. That company does not have a branch or establishment in Spain. Lusavouga has its registered office in Cacia, Aveiro (Portugal). Its premises are in Portugal. Its network covers Spain, inter alia, where it has no branch or establishment. Parties to the main proceedings concluded a commercial concession agreement concerning the exclusive promotion and distribution (with the exception of one client) in Spain.
First up, has choice of court in favour of the courts at Kortrijk (referred to by its French synonym Courtrai, but then without the ‘r’ in referral documents and by the CJEU) been validly made if this choice was only included in the general terms and conditions included in the invoices? Hoszig (where a jurisdiction clause is stipulated in the general conditions, such a clause is lawful where the text of the contract signed by both parties itself contains an express reference to general conditions which include a jurisdiction clause) and Leventis (the purpose of the requirements as to form imposed by Article 25(1) is to ensure that consensus between the parties is in fact established) are the most recent CJEU precedent referred to. Both of them build on standing CJEU principle: one must not be overly formalistic when assessing the existence of agreement, but one must be certain that such agreement exists. While it is up to the national court to assess this in fact, the Court does indicate it is unlikely to be the case when no written agreement has been made (neither initially nor subsequently confirming an earlier verbal agreement) and all one has are the invoices.
Choice of court being unlikely, next up is the application of Article 7(1) to determine which court has jurisdiction to hear an application for damages relating to the termination of a commercial concession agreement concluded between two companies, each established and operating in a different Member State, for the marketing of goods on the domestic market of a third Member State in which neither of those companies has a branch or establishment.
Referring to Corman-Collins, the Court classifies concession agreements as being service contracts, which per Article 7(1) second indent, leaves to be determined the ‘place in
a Member State where, under the contract, the services were provided or should have been provided;’. Note: the place in a Member State. Not different places. Per Wood Floor Solutions, when there are several places of performance of the obligation characteristic of a contract for the supply of services the ‘place of performance’ must be understood as the place with the closest linking factor, which, as a general rule, will be at the place of the main provision of services. This place of ‘main provision’ follows from the provisions of the contract and, in the absence of such provision, of the actual performance of that contract and, where it cannot be determined on that basis, the place where the agent is domiciled (still per Wood Floor Solutions). This specific determination is left to the referring court.
One imagines different national courts may have treated all of this as acte clair – except perhaps for the peculiarity of Spain being a Member State where neither of the parties has either domicile or branch.
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 220.127.116.11.
 EWHC 2598 (Comm) Kaifer Aislimientos, is a good illustration of the limits of Article 25 juncto recital 20’s lex fori prorogati rule.
Claimant argues that the Court has jurisdiction pursuant to Article 25 Brussels I Recast because the relevant contract contains an English exclusive jurisdiction clause and further contends that the relevant contract was concluded by AMS Mexico and/or AMS on behalf of AT1 and Ezion as undisclosed principals and that, as undisclosed principals, the contract – together with the jurisdiction agreement – was binding on AT1 and Ezion.
That is the only part of the judgment to feature the Brussels Regulation at all. Peter MacDonald Eggers DJ could have referred to CJEU precedent pro inspiratio, including Refcomp for instance. He could certainly also have referred to recital 20, and equally failed to do so.
In substance he applies the Brussels I Recast rule by applying lex fori prorogati (here: English law) to all but the formation of consent questions relevant to the validity of choice of court (here: under what circumstance undisclosed principals are subject to choice of court).
(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 18.104.22.168.
Yesterday in Case C-436/16 Leventis the Court of Justice summarily confirmed the principle of privity of choice of court under the Brussels I Recast. I have looked at this issue before e.g. when I discussed Refcomp and Profit Sim. The tos and fros between the various parties in the case meant they were acquainted with each other in the courtroom and in arbitration panels. It also meant that actions, settlements etc. between one of them and a third party necessarily impacted commercially on the other.
However the Court of Justice essentially held that such a close, voluntary or not, relationship between the two parties does not mean that a jurisdiction clause in a contract between two companies can be relied upon by the representatives of one of them to dispute the jurisdiction of a court over an action for damages which aims to render them jointly and severally liable for supposedly tortious acts carried out in the performance of their duties. The Court simply noted that the referring national court had given no indication of choice of court made between the parties as to the latter issue, employing the classic (now) Article 25 set of criteria.
Of note is that unlike other cases such as Goldman Sachs v Novo Banco, there did not seem to be any kind of theory in relevant national law which would have led to imputability (or potential to call upon) choice of court to a third party under the given circumstances.
(Handbook of) European private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 22.214.171.124.
Chinachem: Forum non conveniens, non-exclusive choice of court and concurrent proceedings in Hong Kong and Mainland China.
I reported earlier on the waiver of privilege issues in Chinachem. The Hong Kong High Court has now also ruled on the issue of application of forum non conveniens in the event of concurrent proceedings in Hong Kong and mainland China. In a lengthy judgment (particularly resulting from extensive summary of counsel arguments but also of relevant precedent), Ng J recalls English precedent on forum non conveniens (Spiliada evidently being featured) and the way in which said precedent has been applied in Hong Kong. (Carrie Tai has excellent overview here).
Contract between the parties included choice of court and choice of law as follows: ‘This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of Hong Kong and it shall be construed by the laws of Hong Kong. Both parties agree to submit to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of Hong Kong.’
Ng J in the end rejects all arguments suggesting a stay in favour of the mainland proceedings. In doing so, she confirmed the tendency of Hong Kong courts (like indeed their English common law counterparts) to only brush aside choice of court in exceptional circumstance. Even if that choice of court is, such as here, non-exclusive. The concurrent proceedings stand.