Posts Tagged Internationaal privaatrecht

Rome II: A manifestly closer connection overrides common habitual residence. The High Court in Marshall v MIB.

Marshall v MIB [2015] EWHC 3421 (QB) involved a road traffic accident that occurred in France. On 19th August 2012 an uninsured Peugeot motor car registered in France driven by Ms Bivard, a French national, hit Mr Marshall and Mr Pickard, both British nationals, as they were standing behind a Ford Fiesta motor car and its trailer, while it was being attended to by a breakdown recovery truck on the side of a motorway in France. The Ford Fiesta motor car was registered in the UK and insured by Royal & Sun Alliance (“RSA”), and the recovery truck was registered in France and insured by Generali France Assurances (“Generali”). The Peugeot then collided with the trailer shunting it into the Ford Fiesta which in turn was shunted into the vehicle recovery truck. Mr Pickard suffered serious injuries. Mr Marshall died at the scene.

This case raises points about among others (1) the law applicable to an accident involving a number of persons and vehicles; and (2) the application of the French Loi Badinter to the facts of this case, if French law applies: The second main issue is if French law applies, whether the Ford Fiesta motor car and recovery truck are “involved” within the meaning of the Loi Badinter, which it is common ground is the applicable French statute. If those vehicles are “involved” it is common ground that RSA, as insurer of the Ford Fiesta, and Generali, as insurer of the recovery truck, are liable to Mrs Marshall, and that Generali, as insurer of the recovery truck, is liable to Mr Pickard.

Two actions were commenced. The first by Mrs Marshall (Mr Marshall’s widow) against the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (“the MIB”). Mrs Marshall relied on relevant English 2003 Regulations. The 2003 Regulations make the MIB liable in respect of liabilities of compensation bodies in other EEA states for losses caused by uninsured drivers. The relevant compensation body in France responsible for such losses is the Fonds de Garantie (“FdG”). The MIB denied liability, contending that the FdG would not be liable to Mrs Marshall because under the Loi Badinter Mr Pickard and RSA, as driver and insurer of the Ford Fiesta, and Generali, as insurers of the recovery truck, were liable. The second action was brought by Mr Pickard against the Motor Insurers’ Bureau relying on the 2003 Regulations. The MIB deny liability and contend that Generali, as insurers of the recovery truck, are liable to Mr Pickard.

The High Court was asked (1) what law applies per Article 4 Rome II, and (2) whether under the circumstances, Article 4(3) Rome II might have any relevance.

Save for Mrs Marshall’s claim for dependency which if English law applies is under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 (“FAA 1976”), it is common ground that the direct damage occurred in France for all of the claims, including Mrs Marshall’s claim on behalf of Mr Marshall’s estate. In respect of the FAA 1976 claim, RSA (Mr Marshall’s insurers) submits that the direct damage occurred in the location where Mrs Marshall has suffered her loss of dependency, which is in England and Wales. Dingemans J resolves this issue of ricochet damage with reference to the AG’s Opinion in Lazar: the CJEU’s judgment in same was issued about a month after the High Court’s judgment in Marshall. The Advocate General, having regard to the relevant principles of consistency, foreseeability and certainty, in his opinion considered that “the damage occurs” for the purposes of a claim such as an FAA 1976 claim where the relevant death occurs. The AG noted that different EEA states took different approaches to the characterisation of a dependency claim. For example in both England and Italy it is considered that the damage for a loss of dependency occurs in the country where the dependant is situated, but that this is not a European wide approach. The opinion, Dingemans J notes, shows that the Advocate General was influenced by the need to avoid different Courts in different EEA states adopting different solutions to applicable law in fatal accident cases, which would lead to a diversity of approach in different jurisdictions.

The action between Mrs Marshall and Mr Pickard triggers Article 4(2) of the Rome II Regulation, identifying as applicable law the law of the country were both the ‘person’ claimed to be liable and the ‘person’ sustaining damage, are habitually resident at the time the damage occurs. Dingemans J rightly (at 17) dismisses the suggestion (made in scholarship) that the moment more than two ‘persons’ are involved, Article 4(2) becomes inoperable.

Turning then to Article 4(3), the escape clause of a ‘manifestly closer connection’. Dingemans J entertains the interesting proposition that Article 4(3) has to lead to a law different from the law which would be applicable per Article 4(1) or (2). This in particular would mean that once Article 4(2) is engaged, it cannot be undone by recourse to Article 4(3). Dingemans J insists that Article 4(3) must be employed generally, even if it leads to a resurrection of Article 4(1), and goes on to find French law to be applicable (at 19-20):

In my judgment this case provides an illustration of when French law is provided as the governing law under article 4(1), excluded (for part of the claims) under article 4(2), and then required again under article 4(3).

It is also common ground that article 4(3) imposes a “high hurdle” in the path of a party seeking to displace the law indicated by articles 4(1) or 4(2), and that it is necessary to show that the “centre of gravity” of the case is with the suggested applicable law. In this case there are a number of circumstances which, in my judgment, make it clear that the tort/delict is manifestly more closely connected with France than England and Wales. These are: first that both Mr Marshall and Mr Pickard were hit by the French car driven by Ms Bivard, a national of France, on a French motorway. Any claims made by Mr Marshall and Mr Pickard against Ms Bivard, her insurers (or the FdG as she had no insurers) are governed by the laws of France; secondly the collision by Ms Bivard with Mr Marshall and Mr Pickard was, as a matter of fact and regardless of issues of fault or applicable law, the cause of the accident, the injuries suffered by Mr Marshall and Mr Pickard and the subsequent collisions; and thirdly any claims that Mr Marshall and Mr Pickard have against Generali, as insurers of the vehicle recovery truck, are also governed by the laws of France.

This judgment to my knowledge, with Winrow v Hemphill  is one of few discussing Article 4(3)’s escape clause in such detail. (The add-on being that in Marshall Article 4(3) was found as being able to override Article 4(2). A judgment which, like Winrow, does justice to both the exceptional nature of the provision, and the need to consider all relevant factors.

Geert.

Ps very soon the Supreme Court will hear further argument on the application of the Rome II Regulation in Moreno v MIB.

European private international law, second ed. 2016, Chapter 4, Headings 4.5.1 and 4.5.2

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Dutch Shell Nigeria / Royal Dutch Shell ruling: anchor jurisdiction confirmed against Nigerian daughter.

Update 21 March a mirror case is going ahead in the High Court in London: jurisdiction against the mother company again is easily established because of Shell’s incorporation in the UK (its corporate headquarters are in The Netherlands (which is also where it has its tax residence). The High Court has allowed proceedings against Shell Nigeria to be joined. Shell is expected to argue forum non conveniens at a later stage.

Postscript 1 March 2016 in Xstrata Limited /Glencore Xstrata plc ., similar issues of corporate social responsibility and liability for a subsidiary’s actions are at stake.

As I have reported in December, the Gerechtshof Den Haag confirmed jurisdiction against Shell’s Nigerian daughter company. (Please note the link first has the NL version of the judmgent, followed by an EN translation). The proceedings can be joined with the suit against the mother company Royal Dutch Shell (RDS, headquartered in The Netherlands whence easily sued on the basis of Article 4 Brussels I Recast (Article 2 of the Regulation applicable to the proceedings)). I have finally gotten round to properly reading the court’s judgment (which deals with jurisdiction issues only). As I have pointed out, Article 6(1) (now 8(1) of the Brussels I Recast) cannot be used against defendants not domiciled in the EU. Dutch rules on joinders applied therefore. The Gerechtshof however took CJEU precedent into account, on the basis that the preparatory works of the relevant Dutch rules on civil procedure reveal that they were meant to be so applied. Consequently a lot of CJEU precedent is reviewed (the most recent case quoted is CDC). The Gerechtshof eventually holds that lest it were prima facie established that liability of RDS for the actions committed by its Nigerian daughter is clearly unfounded, use of RDS as an anchor can go ahead. Only clearly abusive attempts at joinders can be sanctioned. (A sentiment most recently echoed by the CJEU in Sovag).

The Gerechtshof Den Haag, without being definitive on the issue, also suggested that applicable law for considering whether merger operations inserting a new mother company were abusive (merely carried out to make Royal Dutch Shell escape its liability), had to be addressed using ‘among others’ the lex incorporationis (at 3.2). That is not undisputed. There are other candidates for this assessment.

The judgment being limited to jurisdiction, this case is far from over.

Geert.

European private international law, second ed. 2016, Chapter 8, Headings 8.3.1.1., 8.3.2

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Royal Dutch Shell. Watch those stockings. Nigeria / RDS judgment on appeal expected end December.

Postscript 1 March 2016 in Xstrata Limited /Glencore Xstrata plc ., similar issues of corporate social responsibility and liability for a subsidiary’s actions are at stake.

Postscript 18 December: quick update, more to follow: in an interim judgment, jurisdiction was upheld.

I have earlier referred to Shell’s arguments in appeal (in Dutch) on the specific issue of jurisdiction, which may be found here .  Judgment in first instance in fact, as I reported, generally was quite comforting for Shell (and other holding companies in similar situations) on the issue of substantive liability.

However on jurisdiction, the Dutch court’s approach of joinders under residual national jurisdictional rules, was less comforting. The rules on joinders, otherwise known as ‘anchor defendants’, in the Brussels regime (Brussels I as well as the Recast) do not apply to defendants domiciled outside of the EU. Consequently national rules of civil procedure decide whether an action against a daughter company, established outside of the EU, can be successfully anchored to an action against the mother company (against which jurisdiction is easily established per Article 4 of the Recast, Article 2 of the former Regulation). In first instance, the Court at The Hague ruled in favour of joining a non-EU defendant to a case against its mother company in The Netherlands.

In its submission for appeal, Shell (with reference to relevant national case-law) borrows heavily from CJEU case-law on what was Article 6(1) (now Article 8(1)), suggesting that Dutch residual law was meant to apply as a mirror the European regime, with one important difference: precisely the issue that under the Dutch regime, none of the parties need to be domiciled in The Netherlands. Any jurisdictional rule which leads the Dutch courts to accept jurisdiction against one defendant, even if that anchor defendant is not domiciled in the country, can lead to others being drawn into the procedure. This means, so Shell suggests, that the Dutch rule (Article 7(1) of the Dutch code of civil procedure) is more in need of precautions against abuse, than the equivalent European rule.

As part of the efforts to avoid abuse, the Dutch courts need to make a prima facie assessment of the claims against the anchor defendant: for if those claims are spurious, anchoring other claims to such loose ground would be abusive. On this point, the Court of Appeal will have to discuss the corporate veil, piercing it, Chandler v Cape etc. Shell’s submission does not in fact argue why piercing needs to be assessed by the lex causae (here: Nigerian law as the lex loci damni) and not, for instance, by the lex fori. I doubt the Court of appeal will raise it of its own accord. (See here for a consideration of the issues in an unrelated area and further pondering here).

A little bird tells me that appeal judgment will be issued on 18 December. I may or may not be able to review that before the Christmas break. In the negative, it will have to be an Epiphany posting. (Potentially in more than one meaning of the word).

Geert.

 

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Winrow v Hemphill: The High Court emphasises exceptional nature of ‘manifestly closer connected’ in Rome II. Clarifies ‘habitual residence’.

Winrow v Hemphill ([2014] EWHC 3164), involved a road traffic accident that occurred in Germany on 16 November 2009. The claimant was a rear seat passenger in a vehicle driven by Mrs Hemphill (‘the first defendant’), which collided head on with a German vehicle. The defendant admitted fault for the collision. As a result of the collision, the claimant sustained personal injury, for which she received some treatment in Germany and further ongoing treatment in England. She and her husband returned to live in England in June 2011, earlier than planned. ‘Second defendant’ was the German insurer of the first defendant.

The following was agreed between the parties:

  • iii) Since the claimant’s husband was due to leave the army in February 2014 after twenty-two years’ service he would have returned to England one and a half to two years before that date to undertake re-settlement training. It was always their intention to return to live in England.
  • ii) At the time of the accident the claimant was living in Germany, having moved there in January 2001 with her husband who was a member of Her Majesty’s Armed Services. Germany was not the preferred posting of the claimant’s husband, it was his second choice. He had four separate three year postings in Germany.
  • i) The claimant was a UK national.
  • iv) Whilst in Germany, the claimant and her family lived on a British Army base where schools provided an English education.
  • v) While in Germany, the claimant was employed on a full-time basis as an Early Years Practitioner by Service Children’s Education, (UK Government Agency).
  • vi) The claimant claimed continuing loss and damage including care and assistance and loss of earnings. She asserted that the majority of her loss has been and will be incurred in England. The claimant alleged continuing pain, suffering and loss of amenity.
  • vii) The first defendant was a UK national and an army wife, with her husband serving with the Army in Germany. She had been in Germany for between eighteen months and two years before the accident. She returned to England soon afterwards.

The High Court was asked (1) what law applies per Article 4 Rome II, and (2) whether under the circumstances, Article 4(3) Rome II might have any relevance.

 

On the habitual residence issue, Rome II corrects the overall lex loci damni rule in cases of joint habitual residence between tortfeasor and victim (which was argued to be the case here). Habitual residence was also argued to play a role in the ‘closer connection’ test (see below).

Rome II, the Regulation of the law applicable to non-contractual obligations, does not define ‘habitual residence’ for individuals acting in their personal capacity. The matter therefore is one of national conflicts law. The habitual residence for a natural person is only defined by ht Regulation when it comes to his acting in the course of his business activity. ‘Habitual residence’ is a concept which is not used in Brussels I, however it is used in the Brussels II bis Regulation on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matter of parental responsibility, where it is left undefined, and in the Rome III Regulation (an instrument of enhanced co-operation and hence not applicable in all Member States) implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of applicable law to divorce and legal separation, where, too, somewhat oddly given its date of adoption (after Rome I and II) it is left undefined.

The Court of Justice has defined ‘habitual residence’ in Swaddling, Case C-90/97, within the context of social security law (entitlement of benefits subject to a residence requirement) as the place  ‘where the habitual centre of their interests is to be found. In that context, account should be taken in particular of the employed person’s family situation; the reasons which have led him to move; the length and continuity of his residence; the fact (where this is the case) that he is in stable employment; and his intention as it appears from all the circumstances.’

Undoubtedly the context of the adjudication needs to be taken into account, such as in Swaddling, a social security case, in which the seeking of holding of employment is likely to have a much greater relevance for determining habitual residence than in the context of, say, maintenance or parental responsibility (where, for instance, the interest and ‘anchorage’ of the child is likely to be much more relevant). [See also House of Lords M v M, [2007] EWHC 2047 (Fam), a case referred to in Winrow]. Moreover, the Court of Justice itself has warned that its case-law on habitual residence in one area, cannot be directly transposed in the context of any other (Case C-523/07, A).

It is obvious however that the ‘centre of interest’ test which in one way or another finds its way into habitual residence in all relevant EU law, includes a subjective  element: the intention of a person to be anchored in a particular place.  This was argued to be relevant in the case at issue, because both victim and tortfeasor were resident in Germany on account of their husbands’ military posting there.

Slade J in my view justifiably held that having regard to the length of stay in the country, its purpose and the establishing of a life there, habitual residence of the Claimant at the time of her accident was Germany. It is not because she followed her husband who was posted in Germany on Army business, that she was in Germany involuntarily.

 

On the issue of manifestly closer connected per Article 4(3) Rome II, the High Court first of all confirmed the exceptional character of the escape clause, however emphasises, and I have great sympathy for this view, that in reviewing that exceptional possibility, there should be no limitation in principle of factors that can be taken into account: Article 4(3) clearly is an exception to the EU’s mantra of predictability in EU private international law, however one which even the European Commission foresaw and which is inherent to the very nature of the exception. Hence the High Court considered inter alia the joint nationality of the victims (with an interesting discussion on whether United Kingdom nationality may be relevant for the consideration of English law being applicable – there is no such thing as ‘English’ nationality); habitual residence at the time of the accident and subsequently; location of subsequent consequences (the victim now suffering those in England; loss of earning occurring in England), etc.: even what a particular court in a particular Member State may consider to be relevant for the application of 4(3) may be very unpredictable indeed may also be disparate across the EU.

However on balance Slade J held that the balance was in favour of not applying the escape clause, particularly in view of the period of time of habitual residence in Germany, and subsequent continuing residence in that country (ia for follow-up treatment). Final holding therefore was

 

  • Factors weighing against displacement of German law as the applicable law of the tort by reason of Article 4(1) are that the road traffic accident caused by the negligence of the First Defendant took place in Germany. The Claimant sustained her injury in Germany. At the time of the accident both the Claimant and the First Defendant were habitually resident there. The Claimant had lived in Germany for about eight and a half years and remained living there for eighteen months after the accident.
  • Under Article 4(3) the court must be satisfied that the tort is manifestly more closely connected with English law than German law. Article 4(3) places a high hurdle in the path of a party seeking to displace the law indicated by Article 4(1) or 4(2). Taking into account all the circumstances, the relevant factors do not indicate a manifestly closer connection of the tort with England than with Germany. The law indicated by Article 4(1) is not displaced by Article 4(3). The law applicable to the claim in tort is therefore German law.

This judgment to my knowledge is one of few discussing Article 4(3)’s escape clause in such detail. A judgment which does justice to both the exceptional nature of the provision, and the need to consider all relevant factors.

Geert.

 

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No big surprises in Dutch Shell Nigeria / Royal Dutch Shell ruling

Postscript/2015: Shell’s arguments in appeal (in Dutch) on the specfic issue of jurisdiction, may be found here

As reported earlier, Shell’s top holding has been hauled before a Dutch court by a Dutch environmental NGO (Milieudefensie), seeking (with a number of Nigerian farmers) to have the mother holding being held liable for environmental pollution caused in Nigeria. Judgment came yesterday and generally is quite comforting for Shell (and other holding companies in similar situations).

The court stuck to its decision to join the cases, hence allowing Shell Nigeria to be pursued in the Dutch Courts, together with the holding company (against which jurisdiction was easily established under the Brussels I Regulation).  On this point, one imagines, Shell might appeal.

The court held against application of the Rome II Regulation for temporal reasons and did therefore not entertain any (unlikely) options in that Regulation which may  have led to Dutch law: the events which gave rise to the damage occurred before the entry into force of that Regulation. The Court therefore applies lex loci damni. If I am not mistaken, prior to Rome II, The Netherlands applied a more or less complex conflicts rule, not necessarily leading to lex loci damni, neither to lex loci delicti commissi, which was the rule in most EU Member States prior to the entry into force of the Rome II Regulation.

Nigerian law applied and any route to apply Dutch law was rejected.  Incompatibility with Dutch ordre public, for instance, was not withheld. Nigerian law running along common law lines, the court ran through negligence in tort, applied to environmental cases, leading amongst others to the inevitable Rylands v Fletcher. The  court found that the damage occurred because of sabotage, which under Nigerian law in principle exhonerated Shell Nigeria. Only for two specific instances of damage was liability withheld, for Shell Nigeria had failed to take basic precautions.

The conditions of Chandler v Cape (2012) to establish liability for the holding company, were not found to be met in the case at issue. The court did not establish a specific duty of care under Nigerian law (with the loop to the English common law) for Royal Dutch Shell (RDS), the mother company. A general CSR committment was not found not to alter that.

No doubt to be continued in various forms of appeal.

Geert.

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