Dooley v Castle. On Gibraltar, the Brussels Convention and trust management as consumer contracts.

After Eastern Pacific Chartering Inc v Pola Maritime Ltd, judgment in Dooley & Ors v Castle Trust & Management Services Ltd [2021] EWHC 2682 (Comm) is the second recent case to apply the 1968 Brussels Convention in relations between the UK and Gibraltar. This time it is the consumer section of the Convention which is at the core of the jurisdictional discussion.

Defendant is a company registered in Gibraltar which operates as a professional trustee company. The litigation concerns overseas pension schemes, promoted principally by Montegue Smythe, a Cypriot firm which operated from an English address. The court did not have before it any contractual terms evidencing the relationship between Castle and Montegue Smythe [66].

Common law negligence or breach of regulatory or statutory rules are the claim. Applicable law [15-16] is announced to be a contested issue at trial but not one that featured in the current jurisdictional challenge.

Readers may be aware that prior to the Brussels I Regulation (2001) amendments to the consumer section, requirements to trigger it were quite different. Defendants argue that the consumer section is not engaged for claimants have not shown that the conclusion of the contract was preceded in the consumer’s domicile by a specific invitation addressed to them or by advertising. In support of their case that the requirement of A13.3(b) Brussels Convention was satisfied, claimants plea an extract from Castle’s website which was said to be an act of advertising in the UK.

CJEU Kalfelis, Engler, Gabriel and Pammer (the latter mutatis mutandis and with focus on the CJEU’s view as to its own previous authority under the Convention; for Pammer Alpenhof is a Brussels I case) were the core cases discussed. At [64] Russen J rejects ia Petruchova and Reliantco as relevant authority given their Brussels I(a) context.

The judge emphasises the restrictive interpretation of the consumer section and holds that Castle’s obligations to claimants rested fundamentally upon its trusteeship of the QROPS rather than any separate contract for the provision of financial administration services. There is no plausible evidential basis for saying a contract was concluded for the supply of services outside those which were identified by the Deeds and the Rules which were incorporated by Castle [68].

Any claim against Castle based upon non-performance of services would have to be based upon the Trust Deeds and the Rules incorporated by them. Any such claim would fall within Article 5.6 (equivalent to A7(6) BIa) which would lead to the same court – the Gibraltar court – having jurisdiction as it would under the general rule of A2 Brussels Convention [70].

The judge also held that even on the assumption that a particular claimant read the extract on the website before investing in the QROPS, the fact is that there is no evidence to suggest that the territorial requirement identified in  CJEU Gabriel was satisfied.

The tort gateway under A5(3) Brussels Convention was not much entertained for claimants did not put much weight on it. At [73] the judge located locus delicti commissi in Gibraltar and did not hold on locus damni possibly being in England or the UK (the signing away of the transfer of the funds in the UK potentially qualifying as locus damni. With interesting potential discussion of course of the EU v the E&W approach on same per UKSC Brownlie I and II.

The jurisdictional challenge succeeds.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 2.2.9.2.1 and 2.2.9.2.2.

Eastern Pacific Chartering v Pola Maritime. How an application for lis pendens awakens the Brussels Convention (as between the UK and Gibraltar).

Eastern Pacific Chartering Inc v Pola Maritime Ltd [2021] EWHC 1707 (Comm) is a highly unusual case which shows that dormant Conventions can be awoken from their slumber.  I merely dabble in EU external relations law, I am no expert in it. The application of that law in the context of private international law is an issue I have tasked one or two students with – let’s just say they find it challenging.

On the specific issue at hand, parties agree that consequential to the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 (Gibraltar) Order 1997, matters of jurisdiction between the E&W Courts and the Supreme Court of Gibraltar are governed by the Brussels Convention 1968 and that this remains the case notwithstanding Brexit. That core issue of external relations law pre and post Brexit is therefore not sub judice. One imagines that had it been, it could have led to extensive to and fro, among others within the context of the UK having revoked the 1968 Convention per the jurisdiction and Judgments Exit Regulations SI 2019/479, and of the Withdrawal Agreement.

In July 2020, claimant had a ship arrested in Gibraltar, with the purpose to serve as security for claims under a charterparty between both, claims that were to be brought in London, consistently with an exclusive jurisdiction clause in the charterparty. Roberston DJ classifies that action as one for provisional measures under Article 24 Convention (35 of the Brussels Ia Regulation).  The legality of that arrest (which ended upon claimant releasing it) continues to be disputed (ia viz the actual ownership of the ship).

Claimant (not domiciled in a 1968 Convention Contracting State) now sues  in E&W (pursuant to the choice of court) Defendant (domiciled at Cyprus) for outstanding monies. In current proceedings it applies to dismiss and strike out that part of the Defendant’s counterclaim at the E&W courts which seeks to advance claims in tort based on the alleged wrongful Gibraltar arrest.  In essence claimant submits that the High Court court has no jurisdiction to try the Defendant’s tort claims and should decline jurisdiction in favour of the Supreme Court of Gibraltar.

After a swipe [18 ff] at both parties having engaged, without court approval, experts on Gibraltarian law (which, she holds, bear no relevance for the jurisdictional issues anyways), Roberston DJ proceeds to discuss the lis pendens issue.

Defendant’s primary case is that, on the facts of this case, Article 17 Convention (A25 BIa) applies to confer jurisdiction, because the exclusive jurisdiction clause is broad enough to cover the tort claims. The Defendant’s fallback position is that, if that is wrong, the Court nevertheless has jurisdiction in respect of its counterclaims, not on the basis of A5(3) Convention (the Claimant (defendant on the counterclaim) not being domiciled in a Convention State) either because that necessarily follows from the Claimant’s decision to litigate its own claims here, or because Claimant has taken steps since service of the Defence and Counterclaim which waived any right to object to jurisdiction in respect of the counterclaims.

The discussion revolves around the contractual and statutory interpretation of the action radius of choice of court. This also involves the classic issue of tort claims between contractual parties (compare Wikingerhof) with the judge opting for the one stop shop approach (distinguishing ia Ryanair Ltd v Esso Italiana Srl [2015] 1 All ER (Comm) 152): 42: ‘there is a clear causal connection [between the contractual and tort claims, GAVC], which seems to be sufficient for the purposes of a clause worded “in connection with“.’ In conclusion: [52]: ‘whether damages are recoverable for an allegedly wrongful arrest made in seeking security for claims under the charter, ..is a claim “in connection with” the charter’ hence the E&W courts have jurisdiction. [39]: this ‘allows a single accounting, as regards the overall financial position of the parties as a result of the legal relationship created between them by the charter, and their dispute about what rights and obligations properly flow from that legal relationship.’

Obiter jurisdiction on the alternative grounds, under English residual rules, is also accepted (with the interesting note of the absence, in the Convention, of a gateway for counterclaims, in contrast with Brussels I and Brussels Ia).

Coming then to lis pendens under Article 21 Convention, this is dismissed. [70] The arrest claim plainly does not involve either the same cause of action or the same object as the Defendant’s tort claims seeking to recover damages for wrongful arrest, which are advanced solely by way of counterclaim in E&W. The factual and legal foundation for that counterclaim needs, on any view, to travel substantially beyond the matters the Claimant relies on for its own cause of action and the object of the counterclaim is to recover damages.

Neither [73] is an acknowledgment of service in the Gibraltar arrest proceedings does not amount to a submission to that jurisdiction which would preclude the Defendant from raising its distinct tort claims in E&W.

A stay on ‘related proceedings’ (Article 22 Convention) is also rejected for the reasons listed at [83]. Core reference here is Research in Motion v Visto [2007] EWHC 900 (Ch).

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Chapter 1 Heading 1.7, Chapter 2 para 2.375, 2.469.

Colin King: On the application ratione temporis of the Recast Insolvency Regulation.

I thought I had but seemingly had not, flagged Bob Wessels’ timely alert to [2016] COMP 039 Colin King (Supreme Court of Gibraltar). The judgment first of all looks at the temporal scope of application of the Regulation, holding correctly that it is not the filing for bankruptcy which is relevant but rather the time of actual openings of those proceedings. Further, it makes correct application of the various presumptions and definitions vis-a-vis natural persons.

Not a shocking judgment but one which is a good read for a gentle introduction to COMI. And as Bob notes, it was not quite the first to apply the new EIR.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd edition 2016, Chapter 5.

 

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