Of business and human rights note. The French SC in Sherpa, Amis de Terre v Perenco on the law applicable to representative action.

Many thanks indeed Hélène Péroz for flagging Sherpa & Les Amis de la terre France v Perenco ECLI:FR:CCASS:2022:C100199. The issue concerns what law applies to the issue of standing of NGOs in making recourse to France’s action for preserving evidence, in this case evidence relating to a future claim that France’s Perenco is liable for environmental damage in Congo.

The Court of Appeal had held that the issue of standing is subject to lex causae, which under the Rome II Regulation it had identified as the laws of Congo (whether this judgment included discussion of Article 7 Rome II on environmental damage, I do not know) and had declared the claim inadmissible.

The SC correctly in my mind holds that the issue of standing falls under the evidence and procedure carve-out of Rome II and is subject to lex fori, French law. However seeing as that law in the case of public interest litigation such as here requires the claimant to have included the broad purpose of the sector at issue within its scope of activities under its by-laws, the SC also holds that whether a particular claim is within the NGO’s scope, needs to be determined in accordance with its lex societatis.  This leads to the interesting conclusion (of little relevance in casu) that a foreign NGO’s action remit will have to be determined by foreign lex societatis, and that those foreign laws which have a less broad view of corporate scope, may put a spanner in the works of cross-border business and human rights litigation. (Quite easily circumvented one assumes by involving NGOs of an ‘attractive’ jurisdiction).

The SC nota bene does not specify whether its views on corporate (here: NGO) action radius are a result of the corporate carve-out in Rome II.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 4.79 ff.

 

Klifa v Slater. Post Brexit, a forum non challenge (for the courts of France) rejected ia on the basis of costs recovery.

In Klifa v Slater & Anor [2022] EWHC 427 (QB), concerning a ski accident in Courchevel, France, the Claim Form was issued on 14 January 2021, just within the three year limitation period of England and Wales but just after the Brexit “Exit Day” also know as IP day (Brexit implementation day) (of 31 December 2020). Defendants take advantage of that to argue a forum non conveniens defence (which readers will know would have been impossible under Brussels Ia). France is suggested to be the ‘most appropriate forum’.

The skiing accident took place on 27 January 2018 and when (and as still is the case) the Claimant was domiciled and resident and habitually resident in France, the First Defendant was domiciled and resident (they being on holiday) in England & Wales, and the Second Defendant (the insurance company) was domiciled in England & Wales. Under Rome II, French law is the applicable law, other than for procedural law, including as to recovery of legal and other costs of the litigation, which is subject to English law, lex fori.

That latter element returns (with reference to ia Wall v Mutuelle de Poitiers) [25] as part of the forum non conveniens assessment, seeing as (Dagnall M) ‘in consequence of the difference in their methods of adducing expert evidence, the English & Welsh jurisdiction procedural approach is likely to be considerably more expensive than that in France, and which is reflected in the costs rules and approach of each country.’

At [40] Master Dagnall sums up the many issues leading to the case being very ‘French’ in nature, deciding on balance however [42] that the defendants have not met the (high hurdle) of proving that France is “distinctly” or “clearly” the more appropriate forum.

At [44] ff he holds obiter that even if they had met that test, a stay in favour of proceedings in France would not assist with “achieving the ends of justice”L the second part of the forum non test. At [48] two factors are singled out: enforcement will have to take place in England; and a lot of work prior to the claim form being issued was carried out prior to IP day, when forum non was not an issue. Recovering those costs would be impossible in France.

The point has been made ad nauseam by many and this case is a good illustration: post Brexit, forum non is back with a vengeance and it is a time-consuming and costly business.

Geert.

Lambert v MIB. On foreign applicable law, and how the motor insurance Directives engage with Rome II for accidents abroad, litigated in England.

It is interesting to imagine the legal position in Lambert v Motor Insurers’ Bureau (Rev1) [2022] EWHC 583 (QB) in a scenario of retained EU law post Brexit, rather than firmly within the scope of the Brussels Ia Regulation and applicable law under Rome II. By the mechanisms of EU consumer law and EU insurance law, mixed with the finest legal machinery in the area of subrogation, a UK resident party injured in a motor accident (here: at a private racing circuit in Spain) abroad is entitled to claim compensation from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (‘MIB’) in certain circumstances, clarified by the UKSC in Moreno v MIB [2016] UKSC 52. Crowther DJ summarises these circumstances as [6]

broadly speaking, that the guarantee fund of the member State in which the accident occurred would be liable to compensate the injured person on the facts of the individual case, when applying the rules of the local law which govern such actions by injured persons against the local guarantee fund. In other words, if Mr Lambert can show that the Spanish guarantee fund would have been liable to him in respect of the accident, he can claim such compensation from the MIB as would have been payable by the local guarantee fund. It is common ground in this case that the scope of the insurance obligation for use of motor vehicles under Spanish law extended to cover participation in the track event, notwithstanding the fact that it was not on a road or other public place.

The latter element is unlike the UK where seemingly third party motor insurance for motor sport is not commercially available.

The law applicable to the claim is agreed to be English law. While not specified in the judgment, this is presumably because of Article 4(2) Rome II (where the person claimed to be liable and the person sustaining damage both have their habitual residence in the same country at the time when the damage occurs, the law of that country shall apply): both Mr Lambert, claimant, and Mr Prentice, said to be responsible for the accident, were participants in a track event, organised by a UK based track day operating outfit called Track Sense; both travelled to Spain from the UK.

Spanish law however determines the preliminary issue as highlighted by the Supreme Court, Spanish law being the law which would have been applicable to any hypothetical claim which Mr Lambert might have brought against the Spanish guarantee fund. This is where things get interesting. The Motor Insurance Directives support a direct claim against one’s national MIB, subject to the law of the MS where the accident happened, sustaining liability in the circumstances. However Rome II somewhat curtails its action radius by declaring that it does not apply to ‘evidence and procedure’. This is a carve-out which is problematic in specific instances as I explain ia here. On such instance are issues of limitation however these it seems ([14)] were not pursued.

In the case at issue, parties’ agreement ([9]) is that by analogy to A1(3) Rome II, matters of evidence and procedure are outside the scope of the material substantive law and fall to be determined in accordance with English law as the law of the forum (lex fori in principle determines issues of evidence and procedure). Equally, on an analogous basis to A22(1) Rome II, parties agree that Spanish law will apply insofar as it contains rules which raise presumptions of law or determine the burden of proof.

The common law treating foreign law as fact, means the content of that foreign law is established often with the help of parties (if need be cross-examined) experts however [17] is for the English judge to determine. The remainder of the case therefore is spent discussing the expert evidence (with the judge doing some fine distinguishing of the case-law both experts referred to) together with the factual elements, to conclude [94]

Mr Lambert’s actions were 25% causative of the accident and Mr Prentice’s 75%. It follows that Mr Lambert’s claim for damages against MIB succeeds to the extent of 75% of his loss or damage.

Lest my understanding of the insurance Directives fails me (which it could well do), this means that claim on 75% of the damage remains to be judged under English  tort law. With presumably a repeat of the causation test, this time under English law.

A clearly written judgment which no doubt benefitted from the considerable practice experience of the judge on the matters at hand.

Geert.

 

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