An overdue post on the Hungarian Supreme Court’s judgment 2020.3.72.a, finding an implied choice of law pro Hungarian law, made by a Serbian and Hungarian party to a contract for agency and business counseling. In the absence of choice of law, per Article 4 Rome I, applicable law would have been Serbian law. Yet the SC held that the conduct of the Serbian business party in the litigation, made for implicit choice of law.
Under Rome I, choice of law may be made and changed at any time during the course of the contract. Whether it can also be made by conduct of litigation is somewhat disputed. Arguments pro rely heavily on a parallel with impromptu choice of court in Brussels Ia, by submission. The Hungarian courts had assessed the merits of the case on the basis of Hungarian law, and the Serbian defendant had engaged in that discussion in a detailed, substantive statement of defence without any objections to Hungarian law being the lex contractus. This, the courts held and the SC agreed, meant parties had made an implied choice of law by their conduct. A change of heart by defendant upon appeal was a unilateral change of law, which cannot bind the parties.
Richard Schmidt sent me the judgment and has additional analysis here– on which I relied for I do not read Hungarian. Scholarship has engaged with the issue and this SC judgment will be highly relevant material for that discussion.
(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.4.
Many thanks, Dr Richard Schmidt for signalling and reviewing the recent Hungarian Supreme Court judgment (in Hungarian) discussing unilateral aka asymmetric aka hybrid choice of court. I do not have Hungarian and happily rely on Richard’s analysis and review.
As Richard reports, the contract was governed by the law of Liechtenstein and provided that any legal disputes would be brought before the court of Vaduz (Liech). However, the claimants had the option of seeking the performance of the contract before the courts of the defendant’s domicile. The defendant failed to pay the service charges and the claimants sued him in Hungary.
Upon appeal it seems the lower courts had held that choice of court ex-EU is not covered by Brussels Ia (compare CJEU Gothaer) and stayed the case in favour of the court at Vaduz. The Supreme Court however in principle would see to have upheld the choice of court provision as exercised by the claimant even if it decided the case ultimately on a finding of submission.
As I said I do not read Hungarian, text search however does not suggest that the SC looked at the issue at all viz Brussels Ia. Which is odd.
Richard justifiably refers to the approaches of both the English (see e.g. here) and the French Courts (contrast Rotschild with Apple). Thankfully there is now also the volume edited by Mary Keyes, looking comparatively at the issue (Michiel Poesen and I contributed the Belgian chapter).
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.9, Heading 126.96.36.199, Heading 188.8.131.52 .
Update 4 December 2018 thank you to his Grace der Graf von Luxemburg for additionally pointing out pending case C-16/18 Dobersberger dealing with workers employed on international trains which also travel through the host Member State – Update January 2020 the Court held 19 December 2019 after Opinion Szpunar AG in July 2019. – and see scholarly review of similar Dutch cases here.
Thank you MPI’s Veerle Van Den Eeckhout for pointing out a highly relevant reference to the CJEU by the Dutch Supreme Court /Hoge Raad. The link between the posted workers Directive and conflict of laws is clear, as I have also explained here. The most interesting part of the reference for conflicts lawyers, are the questions relating to ‘cabotage’, particularly where a driver carries out work in a country where (s)he is not habitually employed (international trade lawyers will recognise the issue from i.a. NAFTA). Update January 2019 the reference is now here, the case is C-815/18.
One to keep an eye on.
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed 2016, Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.5.