Roark v Bridgestone, Shandong et al. Contract fine-print and regulatory compliance determines minimum contacts in Washington.

A short post for comparative conflicts purposes. Readers might be aware of the minimum contacts rule in US jurisdictional analysis.  Rice J excellently summarises the issues in his order denying a strike-out application (‘motion to dismiss’) on the basis of lack of jurisdiction.

‘Under the Due Process Clause, a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant only where “the defendant ha[s] certain minimum contacts with the forum state such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” [Picot v. Weston, 9th Cir. 2015) (quoting Int’l Shoe Co. v. Wash., [1945])….

Personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant may take two forms:
general jurisdiction or specific jurisdiction. General jurisdiction requires connections with the forum “so continuous and systematic as to render the foreign corporation essentially at home in the forum State (Ranza). Specific jurisdiction, by contrast, may only be exercised “when a case aris[es] out of or relate[s] to the defendant’s contacts with the forum.”

Shandong essentially argue that they are kept at arm’s length from US jurisdiction because they are not the one importing the tires into the US: a separate corporation imported, a third distributed. The judge however (in the process dismissing Shandong’s assertion that the goods were shipped FOB – Free on Board), found that Shandong delivered tires into the stream of commerce, was involved, in consequence of its contractual duties, in shipping the tires to Washington ports, and has taken steps for creating tires compliant with state and federal law to arrive in Washington pursuant to the supply agreement.  This echoes the EU jargon of ‘directing activities at’ the state of Washington.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 2.460, para 4.48 ff.

Servier Laboratories. The UK Supreme Court on the narrow window for res judicata authority of CJEU decisions.

Rather like I note in my report on Highbury Poultry Farm,  Secretary of State for Health & Ors v Servier Laboratories Ltd & Ors [2020] UKSC is another example of why the UK Supreme Court and counsel to it will be missed post Brexit.

The case in essence queries whether a CJEU annulment (in General Court: Case T-691/14, currently subject to appeal with the CJEU) of a finding by the European Commission that companies breached Article 101 and 102 TFEU’s ban on anti-competitive practices, is binding in national proceedings that determine issues of causation, remoteness and mitigation of loss. The answer, in short: no, it does not.

The case essentially revolves around the difficulty of applying common law concepts of authority and precedent to the CJEU’s more civil law approach to court decisions. For those with an interest in comparative litigation therefore, it is a case of note.

The essence in the national proceedings is whether Claimants [who argue that Servier’s breaches of EU and UK competition law led to a delay in generic Perindopril entering the UK market, resulting in higher prices of Perindopril and financial loss to the NHS) failed to mitigate the loss they claim to have suffered as a result of Servier’s (the manufacturer of the drug) infringement of the competition rules. The Court of Appeal’s judgment is best read for the facts.

In T-691/14 Servier SAS v European Commission, the General Court of the EU had annulled only part of the European Commission’s decision by which it was found that the Appellants had infringed Article 102 TFEU. In the present proceedings, Servier seek to rely on a number of factual findings made by the
GCEU in the course of its judgment and argue that the English courts are bound by those findings. The High Court and the Court of Appeal have held that the propositions on which the Appellants seek to rely are not res judicata.

Core CJEU authority discussed is Joined Cases C-442/03P and C-471/03P P&O European Ferries (Vizcaya) SA and Diputación Foral de Vizcaya v Commission.

Lord Lloyd-Jones reaches the crux of his reasoning, on the basis of CJEU authority, at 39:

The principle of absolute res judicata gives dispositive effect to the judgment itself. It is the usual practice of EU courts to express the outcome of the action in a brief final paragraph of the judgment referred to as the operative part. While this will have binding effect, it will be necessary to look within the judgment beyond the operative part in order to ascertain its basis, referred to as the ratio decidendi. (EU law has no system of stare decisis or binding precedent comparable to that in common law jurisdictions and this EU concept of ratio decidendi is, once again, distinct from the concept bearing the same name in the common law.) It will be essential to look beyond the operative part in this way in order to identify the reason for the decision and in order that the institution whose act has been annulled should know what steps it must take to remedy the situation. In a case where the principle of absolute res judicata applies, it will extend to findings that are the necessary support for the operative part of the annulling judgment.

The GC’s findings were based on a limited ground only, relating to too narrow a market definition under A102 TFEU. As presently constituted, the claim in the national proceedings is a claim for breach of statutory duty founded on alleged infringements of article 101 TFEU. No question arises in the proceedings before the national court as to the relevant product market for the purposes of A102 or the applicability of A102.

The national proceedings therefore concern causation, remoteness and mitigation of loss in the arena of article 101 TFEU. The narrow res judicata window, it was held, clearly does not apply to them and that is acte clair which needs no referral to Luxembourg.

Geert.

 

 

Hebei Huaneng v Deming Shi_B. New Zealand High Court on the notion of ‘courts’ in recognising ‘judgments’ internationally.

Thank you Jan Jakob Bornheim for alerting me to Hebei Huaneng v Deming Shi_B [2020] NZHC 2992, which dismissed the defendant’s application for summary judgment and discusses the notion of a ‘court’ , required to recognise its ‘judgments’ internationally. Readers will recognise the discussion ia from the CJEU case-law in judgments such as Pula Parking.

Hebei Huaneng had obtained judgment against Mr Shi at the Higher People’s Court of Hebei Province. The amount remained unsatisfied. Hebei Huaneng then found out that Mr Shi has assets in New Zealand – an inner-city apartment in Auckland and shares in a New Zealand company.  Mr Shi objects to New Zealand hearing this case on the basis that China does not have true courts and that Hebei Huaneng should first enforce its securities in China.

At 78-79 Bell J holds briefly that questions of real and substantial connection with New Zealand and appropriate forum are not much in issue. The two main arguments raised at this stage lie elsewhere.

Given the lack of treaty on the issue between NZ and PRC, he summarises the NZ common law on recognition at 16:  the common law regards a judgment of a foreign court as creating an obligation enforceable under New Zealand law if the judgment is given by a court, the judgment is final and conclusive, the judgment is for a definite sum, the parties are the same or privies, and the court had jurisdiction under New Zealand’s jurisdiction recognition rules. No merits review will be undertaken however refusal of enforcing a ‘money judgment’ is possible if obtained in breach of New Zealand standards of natural justice, enforcing the judgment would be contrary to public policy,
the judgment was obtained by fraud, the judgment was for a revenue debt, or the judgment involves the enforcement of a foreign penal law. Lack of reciprocal recognition by the other State is no objection.

On the issue of the notion of court, he notes at 29 that complaints that a foreign legal system is so defective that its courts cannot be trusted to do substantial justice may arise in two contexts: in forum non cases, where the analysis is prospective seeing as the case may not even be pending abroad; and in recognition cases, where the analysis is retrospective. At 28 Bell J already points out that style of writing etc. particularly also given the civil law background of China must not confuse. At 35 he notes to core issues viz the concept of court: (a) whether the bodies carrying out judicial functions are distinct from those with legislative and administrative function; and (b) whether the bodies carrying out judicial functions are subject to improper interference. Then follows lengthy-ish consideration of expert evidence to conclude at 60 that the good arguable case of the Chinese courts being independent, is satisfied.

The question of the ‘property security first’ principle’ which would mean satisfaction would first have to be sought against the Chinese secured assets, is discussed mostly in the context of Chinese law, against the backdrop of the common law principle of a party’s freedom to chose asset enforcement. The lex causae for that discussion I imagine will be further discussed at the merits stage.

A good case for the comparative conflicts binder.

Geert.

 

RCT Holdings v LT Game. Supreme Court of Queensland sees no reason to frustrate choice of court pro Macau even in times of Covid19..

Update 3 December 2020 see Sarah McKibbin meanwhile for further background here.

Thank you Angus Macinnis for flagging RCD Holdings Ltd & Anor v LT Game International (Australia) Ltd [2020] QSC 318 in which  Davis J upheld choice of court in favour of the courts at Macau and held against a stay. The judgment is a good one for comparative purposes.

Claimants, ePayment Solutions Pty Ltd (EPS) and RCD Holdings Ltd (RCD), in their contract with the defendant, LT Game International (Australia) Ltd (LT) (a BVI domiciled company), agreed that any dispute between them would be litigated in Macau. However, when a dispute did arise they commenced proceedings in Queensland. LT entered a conditional appearance and now applies to strike out the claim, or alternatively, to have it stayed as being commenced in this court contrary to the contract.

Article 10 of the contract carries the title Governing law but actually is a choice of court clause – an oddity one sees more often than one might expect in B2B contracts: ‘Any dispute or issue arising hereunder, including any alleged breach by any party, shall be heard, determined and resolved by an action commenced in Macau. The English language will be used in all documents.”

Comparative insight includes the issue of whether A10 us a non-exclusive (an agreement not to object when proceedings are brought in the court designated) or exclusive (an agreement only to bring proceedings in the court designated) choice of court. Davis J settled for exclusive which would also seem to have been the position of both parties, despite some ambiguity at the start of proceedings.

Lex contractus is disputed, and at 27 Davis J settles for Macanese law, based upon factual construct of the contractual intention of the parties. Clearly that choice of court was made for Macau was an important factor – as it is in Rome I for consideration of so-called ‘implied’ choice of law in the event of choice of court made.

A stay on the basis of Covid19 impracticability (ia because of alleged difficulties for witness testimony) is dismissed, ia (at 34) because it is uncertain whether current travel restrictions will still be in place when the case in Macau might be heard. Davis j does suggest that a renewed application for a stay must not be ruled out in light of Covid19 developments, however will be seen against abuse of process: in other words claimants had best not do so lightly.

Geert.

Lange v Lange. The Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010’s equivalent of CJEU’s Webb v Webb, Schmidt v Schmidt etc.

Update 15 October 2020 many thanks Jack Wass for providing link to judgment, here.

As I seem to be in a comparative mood today, thank you Jan Jakob Bornheim for flagging [2020] NZHC 2560 Lange v Lange. The case is further discussed by Jack Wass here – at the time of writing I only have Jack’s review to go on for the actual decision appears to be as yet unpublished.

TTPA 2010 follows the model of the more recent Hague Judgments Convention: recognition and enforcement of a judgment may be refused if it infringes jurisdictional rules detailed in the Act. For the case at issue, s 61(2)(c) of the TTPA is engaged. It requires the court to set aside registration of a judgment if it was “given in a proceeding the subject matter of which was immovable property” located outside Australia.

The determining concern is whether the New Zealand property was “in issue” (the words which Jack uses and which presumably Gault J employed; the Act itself uses ‘proceeding subject matter of which is’; compare with Brussels Ia’s ‘proceedings which have as their object’) in the proceedings. Gault J, citing authority, finds that a judgment setting aside a fraudulent disposition is not rendered unenforceable simply because the debt concerned the sale of New Zealand land. (A further appeal to ordre public was refused; for that to be successful, the result of recognition must, Jack notes, “shock the conscience” of the ordinary New Zealander” (Reeves v OneWorld Challenge LLC [2006] 2 NZLR 184 (CA) at [67].

Obvious comparative pointers with EU conflicts law are Webb v Webb, Weber v Weber, Schmidt v Schmidt, Komu v Komu etc.: readers will know that Article 24(1) Brussels Ia typically involves feuding family members.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.6 . Third edition forthcoming February 2021.

Travelport. This one’s for comparative lawyers: Covid19, Pandemics and Material Adverse Effect, the LVMH /Tiffany acquisition and English cq Delaware law.

A short note for the benefit of comparative contract lawyers who may find some interesting material when looking into the failed LVMH /Tiffany acquisition. That acquisition agreement (see SEC filing here)  is subject to the laws of Delaware other than claims against the financiers which are subject to the laws of New York (s.10.5). As readers might be aware, LVMH would seem to argue not that the Pandemic is a Material Adverse Effect which invalidates the merger. Rather, that Tiffany’s handling of its business in the pandemic is a MAE.

Of interesting comparative note therefore is Travelport Ltd & Ors v WEX Inc [2020] EWHC 2670 (Comm) where Cockerill J preliminarily discusses  the proper construction of, and burden of proof in relation to, the MAE definition contained in a Share Purchase Agreement (SPA) dated 24 January 2020. The substantive issues will be dealt with before her at a later stage.

Geert.

Bauer v QBE Insurance. Brussels IA, Rome I and Rome II in Western Australia.

It is not per se unheard of for European conflict of laws developments to be referred to in other jurisdictions. In Bauer v QBE Insurance [2020] WADC 104 however the intensity of reference to CJEU authority and EU conflicts law is striking and I think interesting to report.

The context is an application to serve out of jurisdiction – no ‘mini trail’ (Melville PR at 20) therefore but still a consideration of whether Western Australia is ‘clearly an inappropriate forum’ in a case relating to an accident in Australia following an Australian holiday contract, agreed between a German travel agent and a claimant resident (see also below) in Germany but also often present in Australia – which is where she was at the time the contract was formed. Defendant contests permission to serve ia on the basis of an (arguable) choice of court and governing law clause referring exclusively to Germany and contained in defendant’s general terms and conditions.

Two other defendants are domiciled in Australia and are not discussed in current findings.

In assessing whether the German courts have exclusive jurisdiction and would apply German law, the Australian judge looks exclusively through a German lens: what would a German court hold, on the basis of EU private international law.

Discussion first turns to the lex contractus and the habitual residence, or not, of claimant (who concedes she is ‘ordinarily’, but not habitually resident in Germany) with reference to Article 6 Rome I’s provision for consumer contracts. This is applicable presumably despite the carve-out for ‘contracts of carriage’ (on which see Weco Projects), seeing as the contract is one of ‘package travel’. Reference is also then made to Winrow v Hemphill.  Melville PR holds that claimant’s habitual residence is indeed Germany particularly seeing as (at 38)

she returned to Germany for what appears to be significant and prolonged  treatment after the accident rather going elsewhere in the world and after only apparently having left her employment in Munich in 2014, is highly indicative of the fact the plaintiff’s state of mind was such that she saw Germany as her home and the place to return to when things get tough, a place to go to by force of habit.

Discussion then turns to what Michiel Poesen has recently discussed viz contracts of employment: qualification problems between contract and tort. No detail of the accident is given (see my remark re ‘mini-trial’ above). Reference to and discussion is of Rome II’s Article 4. It leads to the cautious (again: this is an interlocutory judgment) conclusion that even though the tort per Article 4(3) Rome II may be more closely connected to Australia, it is not ‘manifestly’ so.

Next the discussion gets a bit muddled. Turning to jurisdiction, it is concluded that the exclusive choice of court is not valid per Article 25 Brussels Ia’s reference to the lex fori prorogati.

  • Odd is first that under the lex contractus discussion, reference is made to Article 6 Rome I which as I suggested above presumably applies given that the carve-out for contracts of carriage does not apply to what I presume to be package travel. However in the Brussels Ia discussion the same applies: contracts of carriage are excluded from Section 4’s ‘consumer contracts’ unless they concern (as here) package travel.
  • Next, the choice of court is held to be invalid by reference to section 38(3) of the German CPR, which to my knowledge concerns choice of court in the event neither party has ‘Gerichtsstand’ (a place of jurisdiction’) in Germany.  Whatever the precise meaning of s38(3), I would have thought it has no calling as lex fori prorogati viz A25 BIa for it deals with conditions which A25 itself exhaustively harmonises (this argument might be aligned with that of defendant’s expert, Dr Kobras, at 57). Moreover,  the discussion here looks like it employs circular reasoning: in holding on the validity of a ‘Gerichtsstand’, the court employs a rule which applies when there is no such ‘Gerichtsstand’.
  • Finally, references to CJEU Owusu and Taser are held to be immaterial.

In final conclusion, Western Australia is not held to be a clearly inappropriate forum. The case can go ahead lest of course these findings are appealed.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2.

On the nature of private international law. Applying islamic law in the European Court of Human Rights.

Update 13 July 2020 see for an illustration of the issues, Matthians Lehmann here, on the classification by German judges of the mahr, akin to a dowry – with consideration (and eventually side-stepping of all) of the Rome I, III, and the maintenance and matriomonial property Regulations. The Court’s analysis feels like ten little monkeys bouncing on a bed: one by one the Rome I, Maintenance, Matrimonial property, Rome III Regulations are considered yet cast aside. See also Jan Jakob Bornheim’s reference here to Almarzooqi v Salih, [2020] NZHC 1049, where the New Zealand High Court assumed that the mahr was a contractual promise without much consideration of the characterisation issue. And Mukarrum Ahmed, who commented ‘in England, the leading case on the characterisation of mahr is Shahnaz v Rizwan. The wife’s claim was treated as a contractual obligation.’ [GAVC, that’s Shahnaz v Rizwan [1965] 1 QB 390].

Anyone planning a conflict of laws course in the next term might well consider the succinct Council of Europe report on the application of islamic law in the context of the European Convention on Human Rights – particularly the case-law of the Court. It discusses ia kafala, recognition of marriage, minimum age to marry, and the attitude towards Shari’a as a legal and political system.

Needless to say, ordre public features, as does the foundation of conflict of laws: respect for each others’ cultures.

Geert.

 

 

Indigenous rights and qualification under conflict of laws. Newfoundland and Labrador v Uashaunnuat (Canada) and Love v Commonwealth (Australia).

Fasken alerted me to, and have good review of Newfoundland and Labrador (Attorney General) v Uashaunnuat (Innu of Uashat and of Mani‑Utenam) 2020 SCC 4. The Canadian Supreme Court held that Quebec has jurisdiction over aboriginal rights claims in a neighburing province. This assertion of jurisdiction hinges on the qualification of rights under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (the section which deals with aboriginal and treaty rights) as rights sui generis. A qualification as rights in rem erga omnes, as the dissenting opinion suggested, would have kept the case outside of Quebec jurisdictional reach.

The case came a week after the decision of the High Court of Australia in Love v Commonwealth[2020] HCA 3 which as Michael Douglas analyses here, is a case about personal status and whether an aboriginal may be considered an ‘alien’ for immigration purposes. Judges split as to the required approach to the issue.

Indigenous rights and conflict of laws for sure will continue to exercise one or two minds (ia in view of the UNSDGs) and these two cases seem to anchor a number of issues. Not something a short blog post can do justice to.

Geert.

Derivatives’ forum shopping aka Gerichtshof Einkaufen. Suing Bayer of Germany in New York, applying German law.

Many thanks indeed Kevin La Croix for flagging the suit brought in New York by a group of Bayer AG shareholders, against Bayer (with seat at Leverkusen, Germany), concerning the not altogether successful purchase of Monsanto by Bayer. Kevin has excellent analysis and I am happy to refer.

Claimants of course pre-empt arguments of lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and, subsidiarily, forum non conveniens – please refer to Kevin’s overview for the arguments to and fro. Most interesting. It brought back to me echoes of the Australian case of Tiger v Morris, not because the subject-matter is similar (it is not) but because in this increasingly globalised world (despite Covid19), courts everywhere are increasingly asked to consider the reach of their courts in cases with competing local and foreign interests. Comity considerations underlying the historic roots of conflict of laws are being brought back to the fore, no doubt also partially as a result of the impact of third party financing, contingency fees etc.

One to keep an eye on. One wonders whether Bayer might be launching a related case in Germany, then triggering A33/34 considerations.

Geert.