Posts Tagged insurance

Griffin v Varouxakis: (obiter) rejection of jurisdiction on the basis of indirect damage, ditto discussion of Brussels I’s insurance title.

In [2018] EWHC 3259 (Comm) Griffin v Varouxakis, Males J gives an obiter masterclass in the (ir)relevance of indirect damage for the establishment of jurisdiction.

Objections to jurisdiction where formally dismissed on the basis that they were made late according to the relevant CPR rules. Yet Males J went on to discuss at length and obiter whether, if such objection had been made timely, it would have been successful. He suggest it would partially have been successful, for those parts of the claim based on indirect damage, and directed against a Greece domiciled defendant.

(Of immediate note is the contrast with Four Seasons v Brownlie: here indirect damage was not immediately dismissed as a jurisdictional trigger however in that case jurisdiction was to be assessed on the basis of residual English rules; Brussels I did not apply).

Claimant insurance company (“Griffin”) contends that as a result of the defendant’s conduct it has lost the right to claim general average contributions which were payable and would have been paid in London, so that the damage it has suffered was suffered in the London jurisdiction. The defendant disputes this analysis, contending that the damage in question was suffered either in the place where the underlying contract was broken or alternatively in Guernsey where Griffin is domiciled and where it would ultimately have received any general average payments. Alternatively he contends that Griffin’s claim is a “matter relating to insurance” within the meaning of Section 3 of Chapter II of the Regulation so that, in accordance with Article 14, he can only be sued in the courts of Greece where he is domiciled.

The Court reviews relevant case-law on Article 7(2) and applies it to two separate claims (particulars of which are in para 28 and para 29): for one of them only, direct damage would have been suffered in England; for the other, in Oman.

Finally at 92 ff and equally obiter Males J concludes that the litigation is not a “matter relating to insurance” within the meaning of Section 3 of Chapter II of the Recast Brussels Regulation. At 96: ‘Not all claims brought by a claimant who happens to be an insurer comprise matters relating to insurance.’ at 98: ‘neither of Griffin’s claims are matters relating to insurance. The fact that Griffin is an insurer forms part of the background to the claim and explains why the harm which Griffin has suffered is the loss of an ability to enforce a subrogated right (although insurers are not the only people who sometimes have the benefit of rights of subrogation), but that is all. In all other respects the nexus between the claim in tort and the policy is tenuous. Determination of the claim requires no consideration of the terms of the policy, which was scarcely looked at during the hearing.’ This latter suggestion goes along the Granarolo etc. judgments on the distinction between contract and tort.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2 Heading 2.2.11.2, Chapter 4, Heading 4.4 .

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Yukos v Merinson: A Brussels I jurisdictional bonanza. Particularly the issue of ‘after the issue has arisen’ for protected categories.

I have been posting a series of comments in recent weeks, with more on the way, on cases that caught my attention pre-exam period. They were all candidates for exam questions except much as I would want to, I can only subject my students to that many developments in conflict of laws. Another one in this series of ‘overdue’ postings: [2018] EWHC 335 (Comm) Yukos v Merinson. 

From Salter DJ’s summary of the facts: (excuse their length – this is rather necessary to appreciate the decision)

_____________The defendant was employed by the first claimant under a contract of employment governed by Dutch law. Various proceedings were commenced before the Dutch courts by the defendant and entities within the claimant group in relation to the defendant’s employment. The parties reached terms of settlement of those proceedings, which were embodied in a settlement agreement executed by the parties and subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Dutch courts. The settlement agreement was in turn approved by the Dutch courts, with the effect that it became a “court settlement” within the meaning of article 2 of Brussels I Recast. Subsequently, upon certain additional facts as to the defendant’s conduct being learnt by the claimants, they brought a claim against the defendant in England, where the defendant was then domiciled, seeking damages for losses allegedly suffered as a result of the defendant’s breach of duties under his employment contract (“the damages claims”) and a declaration that the settlement agreement did not bar the damages claims, alternatively an order that the settlement agreement should be annulled under Dutch law on the grounds of error and/or fraud (“the annulment claims”). The defendant applied for a declaration that the courts of England and Wales had no jurisdiction to try the claims brought and an order that the claim form be set aside, on the grounds that all of the claims fell within the settlement agreement conferring exclusive jurisdiction on the Dutch courts, which therefore had exclusive jurisdiction by operation of Article 25 Brussels I Recast, and (1) in respect of the annulment claims, Article 25 could not be overridden by Articles 20(1) and 22(1) requiring proceedings to be brought in the courts of the state of the defendant’s domicile at the time of issue of the claim form, since those claims were not “matters relating to [an] individual contract of employment” within the meaning of Article 20(1); (2) in respect of all claims, Article 23(1) allowed the rule in Articles 20(1) and 22(1) to be departed from, since the settlement agreement had been entered into after the dispute had arisen; and (3) the settlement agreement being a juridical act of the Dutch courts, the English courts were precluded by Article 52 from reviewing its substance in respect of the annulment claims and, the settlement agreement also being a court settlement, the English courts were required by Articles 58 and 59 to recognise and enforce it unless it was manifestly contrary to public policy._______________

All in all, plenty of issues here, and as Salter DJ was correctly reassured by counsel for the various parties, not any that the CJEU has had the opportunity to rule on. Four issues were considered:

1. Are the Damages Claims and/or the Annulment Claims “matters relating to [an] individual contract of employment” within the meaning of Article 20(1)?>>>Salter DJ’s Answer: 25 ff: YES. His main argument: the Settlement Agreement set out the terms on which Mr Merinson’s contract of employment came to an end. In so doing, it also varied the terms of that contract of employment. The terms of the Settlement Agreement now form part of the contractual terms on which Mr Merinson was employed, and which govern the rights and liabilities arising out of the employment relationship between him and the Yukos Group. In my view this finding should not have been made without considering the lex causae of the employment contract: Rome I in my view should have been engaged here.

2. If so, is the Settlement Agreement “an agreement .. entered into after the dispute has arisen” within the meaning of Article 23(1)?>>>Answer (on the basis of extensive reference to Brussels Convention and Regulation scholarship):  a dispute will have “arisen” for the purposes of these Articles only if two conditions are satisfied: (a) the parties must have disagreed upon a specific point; and (b) legal proceedings in relation to that disagreement must be imminent or contemplated. Salter DJ correctly emphasises the protective policy which underlies these provisions, however I am not confident he takes that to the right conclusion. Common view on the protective regime is that when parties have had the privilege of legal advice, they can be assumed to have been properly informed: the position of relative weakness falls away.

3. Further, is the English court, in any event, precluded from entertaining the Annulment Claims by Chapter IV of the Recast Judgments Regulation? >>>The issue of court settlements was specifically considered in the Brussels Convention, and the Jenard Report, given their importance in Dutch and German practice. In C-414/92 Solo Kleinmotoren the CJEU (at 17) held ‘to be classified as a “judgment” within the meaning of the Convention, the act must be that of the court belonging to a Contracting State and ruling on its own authority on points in dispute between the parties.’: considering Dutch expert evidence on the issue, the decision here is that despite the limited authority under Title III Brussels I Recast for other Courts to refuse to recognise a court settlement (ordre public in essence), it is not a ‘judgment’. Salter DJ concludes on this point that normal jurisdictional rules to challenge the settlement apply. At 81 he suggests, provisionally, that ‘it would nevertheless be open to this court in those circumstances to case manage the enforcement application and the set-aside action, so that they are dealt with together, the result of the action determining the enforcement application. Fortunately, I am not required to wrestle with those practical complexities in order to determine the present application, and I make no decision one way or another on any of these matters. There is no application before me to enforce the Dutch Court Settlement, merely an application for a declaration that the court “has no jurisdiction to try the Claimants’ claims”.

This insight into the case-management side of things, however, does highlight the fact that the findings on the jurisdiction /enforcement interface appear counterintuitive. Particularly in cases where the English courts would not have jurisdiction viz the settlement, but would be asked to enforce it – which they can only refuse on ordre public grounds, the solution reached would not work out at all in practice.

4. And finally what are the consequences, as regards jurisdiction, of the decisions on the first three of these issues?>>>Held: the English court, as the court of the Member State in which Mr Merinson was domiciled at the date this action was commenced, has jurisdiction in relation to all of the claims made in the present action.

There is much more to be said on each of the arguments – but I must not turn the blog into a second Handbook, I suppose.

Geert.

 

 

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Hofsoe: Scope ratione personae of Brussels I’s protected categories in cases of assignment (specifically: insurance).

In C‑106/17 Hofsoe, the CJEU held late January that the Brussels I Recast Regulation jurisdictional rules for jurisdiction in matters relating to insurance, do not apply in case of assignment to a professional party. A B2C insurance contract assigned to a professional party therefore essentially turns into a B2B contract: the rules for protected categories are meant to protect weaker parties only. The Court also rejects a suggestion that the assignee ought to be able to prove that in fact it merits the forum actoris protection (on account of it being a sole insurance practitioner with little practice): the weakness is presumed and not subject to factual analysis.

Conclusion: at 43: ‘a person such as Mr Hofsoe, who carries out a professional activity recovering insurance indemnity claims against insurance companies, in his capacity as contractual assignee of such claims, should not benefit from the special protection constituted by the forum actoris.’

Predictability, and restrictive interpretation of the Regulation’s exceptions to the actor sequitur forum rei rule, are the classic lines along which the CJEU holds the case.

I for one continue to find it difficult to get my head round assignment not leading to the original obligation being transferred full monty; including its jurisdictional peculiarities.  The referring court in this respect (at 28) refers to the applicable national law which provides for as much:

‘In that regard, the referring court points out, under Article 509(2) of the Civil Code, ‘all rights associated with the claim …shall be transferred with the claim’. In those circumstances, the assignment of the claim should include that of the benefit of jurisdiction.’

Indeed in Schrems the Court emphasises the impact of the assignor’s rights on the rights of the assignee. By contrast in Hofsoe, the assignee’s qualities (here: as a professional) call the shots. The Court essentially pushes an autonomous and not necessarily consistent EU law on assignment here. In Rome I, the issue has triggered all sorts of discussions – not least the relevant BICL study and the EC 2016 response to same. Under Brussels I Recast, the discussion is more silent.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.8.

 

 

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CJEU in Kabeg: a subrogated employer is to be considered the ‘injured party’ in Brussels I.

A short post mostly for the sake of completeness. In its second recent judgment on insureds as ‘protected category’ under the Brussels I Regulation, the CJEU held last week in C-340/16 Kabeg. Where an employee is injured and the employer is  statutory assignee of the rights of its employee, the employer is subrograted into the rights of the victim and can directly act against the insurer of the vehicle involved.

The Court’s less cautious approach to subrogation than it generally adopts, is influenced by Directive 2009/103, which obliges Member States to put in place such direct action. Article 18: ‘Member States shall ensure that any party injured as a result of an accident caused by a vehicle covered by insurance as referred to in Article 3 enjoys a direct right of action against the insurance undertaking covering the person responsible against civil liability.’

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2.

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Assens Havn. Privity of choice of court in insurance contracts.

The European Court of Justice held last week in C‑368/16, Assens Havn. It confirmed privity of choice of court in the event of subrogation of the victim in the rights of the insured. The victim is not bound by choice of court between insurer and tortfeasor:

At 41: ‘The extension to victims of the constraints of agreements on jurisdiction based on the combined provisions of Articles 13 and 14 of Regulation No 44/2001 could compromise the objective pursued by Chapter II, Section 3, thereof, namely to protect the economically and legally weaker party.

That the CJEU confirms privity of contractual choice of court is no surprise: see most recently Leventis. In the case of insurance contracts the issue is slightly less obvious for unlike in the case of consumers and employees, the legal presumption of weakness often does not represent commercial reality.

Whether the subrogated party can make use of the choice of court clause in the underlying contract was not sub judice in the judgment.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2.

 

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Jurisdiction rules on joinders apply regardless of whether they are brought by or against third parties. The insurance title does not apply between professional parties. CJEU in Sovag.

The CJEU has held in Case C-521/14 Sovag that Article 6(2) Brussels I (Article 8(2) in the Recast) applies regardless of whether the proceedings are brought against (which is what inter alia the English language version suggests) or by a third party.

A, the victim of a traffic accident that took place in Germany, brought an action in Finland against SOVAG, with which the vehicle responsible for the damage was insured. That traffic accident also constituting a work accident under the Law on accident insurance, If, which is established in Finland, paid A compensation for the accident in accordance with that law. After A had brought the action against SOVAG, If itself sued SOVAG before the same court of first instance.

The national court in first instance held that, in accordance with Article 8 of Regulation 44/2001, in matters relating to insurance jurisdiction may be determined by the provisions of Section 3 of Chapter II of that Regulation alone. According to SOVAG, Article 6(2) of Regulation 44/2001 is indeed not applicable because Section 3 of Chapter II of the same Regulation establishes an autonomous system for the conferring of jurisdiction in matters of insurance. On this issue, the CJEU (at 30) reminded the national court of earlier case-law that where the action at issue in the main proceedings concerns relations between professionals in the insurance sector, and will not affect the procedural situation of a party deemed to be weaker, the insurance title does not apply. [Relevant precedent is in particular C-347/08 Voralberger v WGV-Schwabishe]. The objective of protecting a party deemed to be weaker being fulfilled once jurisdiction is established on the basis of Section 3 of Chapter II of Regulation 44/2001, subsequent procedural developments concerning only relations between professionals cannot fall within the ambit of that section.

Next, the wording of several of the language versions of Article 6(2), in particular the German, French, Finnish and Swedish versions, does not prevent the court before which the original proceedings are pending from having jurisdiction to hear and determine an action brought by a third party against one of the parties to the original proceedings.  However, other language versions of that provision, particularly the English language version, appear to restrict its scope to actions brought against third parties (‘a person domiciled in a Member State may also be sued: … as a third party’).

While the CJEU acknowledged that the special jurisdictional rules need to be applied restrictively, ie not going beyond their purpose, here the purpose of Article 6(2) is the harmonious administration of justice, namely minimising the possibility of concurrent proceedings and ensuring that irreconcilable judgments will not be given in two Member States. Therefore Article 6(2) must also apply where the third party brings the proceedings, not just where it is drawn into those proceedings by others.

However, the Court also sanctioned the Finnish rule of civil procedure that the right of a third party to bring an action in connection with pending judicial proceedings, is contingent on that action being linked to the original proceedings. Given that Article 6(2) does not apply where the proceedings were brought ‘solely with the object of removing’ the party concerned from the jurisdiction of the court which would ordinarily have jurisdiction to hear the case,  the CJEU OK-ed the Finnish rule as being one that assist in helping to avoid abuse of the rule on joinders.

I would have thought the Court would have made that rule one of EU law, given its insistence on autonomous interpretation. (Rather than simply OK-ing a national rule). Whether there is such a European rule therefore must stay into the open a little longer.

Geert.

 

 

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Prüller-Frey: The CJEU on Direct action provided for by national law against the civil-liability insurer

Case-law on Rome II (the law applicable to non-contractual obligations) is only slowly picking up so almost anything coming out of the CJEU is met with excitement. Like Ergo Insurance (so far only the AG’s Opinion), C-240/14 Prüller-Frey concerns insurance contracts. In this case, direct action against an insurer, by the victim of an air traffic accident.

The victim sues in Austria, on the basis of Article 6 or, alternatively, 11 of the Brussels I Regulation (old: Regulation 44/2001). Applicability or not of the Montreal Convention (for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air) and the EU’s implementation of same, is less relevant for this posting. At stake was mostly Article 18 of the Rome II Regulation, which reads

The person having suffered damage may bring his or her claim directly against the insurer of the person liable to provide compensation if the law applicable to the non-contractual obligation or the law applicable to the insurance contract so provides.

The lex contractus is German law. This was so chosen by the insured, Norbert Brodnig, and the insurance company, Axa Versicherung AG. German law does not provide for such direct action. But Spanish law, the lex locus damni (which applies between Prüller-Frey and Brodnig), does. The insurance company calls upon the absence of the action in German law, to reject Prüller-Frey’s action. Szpunar AG and the CJEU itself simply point to the clear language of Article 18: this is not a conflict of laws rule that determines the law applicable between victim and insurer: the insurance company’s obligations will continue to be subject to the lex contractus. Article 18 is simply an alternative connecting factor for the very possibility of direct action against the insurer. Spanish law is the law applicable to the non-contractual obligation and if Spanish law allows for such direct action, then that is enough for there to be one.

Geert.

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