Posts Tagged Jurisdiction

Done but not dusted. Sophocleous v Foreign Secretary (historic human rights infringement): common law conflicts history (double actionability, tort) at the Court of Appeal.

[2018] EWCA Civ 2167 Sophocleous v Foreign Secretary et al is a good reminder that conflicts rules past have a tendency not to be so easily forgotten. And in the case of the English law, one or two of them may well be revived post-Brexit (with the usual caveats). Judgment in first instance was [2018] EWHC 19 (QB) which is reviewed here.

Longmore J: ‘The common law private international rule used by the courts to determine liability in an English court in respect of foreign torts (usually referred to as the double actionability rule) was prospectively abolished by the Private International Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1995 (“the 1995 Act”) for all torts except defamation. But it casts a long shadow because section 14(1) of the 1995 Act expressly provides that its provisions do not apply to “acts or omissions giving rise to a claim which occur before the commencement” of the relevant Part of the Act. The 1995 Act has itself been largely superseded by the provisions of the Rome II Convention (sic) but that likewise only applies to events occurring after its entry into force.

Claimants seek damages for personal injuries sustained in Cyprus, as a result of alleged assaults perpetrated in Cyprus by members of the UK armed forces, seconded British police officers and servants or agents of the then Colonial Administration. The appeal relates to alleged torts committed during the Cyprus Emergency sixty years ago between 1956 and 1958. Accordingly the old common law rule of double actionability applies. In the last edition of Dicey and Morris, Conflict of Laws published before the 1995 Act (12th edition (1993)) the double actionability rule was stated as follows in rule 203:

“(1) As a general rule, an act done in a foreign country is a tort and actionable as such in England, only if it is both

a) actionable as a tort according to English law, or in other words is an act which, if done in England, would be a tort; and

b) actionable according to the law of the foreign country where it was done.

(2) But a particular issue between the parties may be governed by the law of the country which, with respect to that issue, has the most significant relationship with the occurrence and the parties.”

The last element is known as the “flexible exception” – of note is that the exception can apply to the whole of the tort of only part of the legal issues it provokes: depecage, therefore, is possible.

In fact whether Cypriot law is lex causae is first of all relevant for determining whether the claim has exceeded the statute of limitation: again in the words of Longmore J: ‘the Foreign Limitation Periods Act 1984 (“1984 Act”) governs limitation in claims where the law of any other country is to be taken into account. Section 1 provides that where foreign law falls to be taken into account in English proceedings that includes the foreign law of limitation, unless the law of England and Wales also falls to be taken into account, in which event the limitation laws of both countries apply, the effective limitation period being the shorter of the two. However, section 2 provides an exception: where the outcome under section 1 would conflict with public policy, section 1 is disapplied to the extent that its application would so conflict. By section 2(2) the application of section 1 conflicts with public policy “to the extent that its application would cause undue hardship to a person who is, or might be made, a party to the action or proceedings …”. It is therefore necessary to determine whether foreign law falls to be taken into account; this has to be determined in accordance with rules of private international law.’

To settle the issue the locus delicti commissi needs to be determined (the double actionability rule is only relevant where the tort is actionable according to the law of the foreign country where it was done). This is clearly Cyprus: at 21: ‘..there is only one tort. If that tort was committed by the primary actor in Cyprus, the fact that a person jointly liable for the commission of the tort was elsewhere when he gave the relevant assistance makes no difference to the fact that the tort was committed in Cyprus.’

On whether the flexible exception for determining lex causae as a whole applies (reminder: here relevant only for the issue of limitation), Longmore J disagrees with Kerr J, the judge in the first instance case at the High Court. The flexible exception remains an exception and must not become the rule. At 56 (after lengthy reflection of various arguments brought before him): ‘In the case at issue there are no “clear and satisfying grounds” required by Lord Wilberforce at page 391H of Boys v Chaplin for departing from the general rule of double actionability. There is a danger that if the exception is invoked too often it will become the general rule to give primacy to English law rather than law of the place where the tort was committed. That would not be right.’

And at 63, he agrees with Kerr J that the flexible exception does not apply singularly to the issue of limitation.

Conclusion: both the law of Cyprus and the law of England and Wales apply for the purpose of determining limitation. The remainder of the issues are to be held later.

Fun with conflicts – albeit evidently on not a very happy topic.

Geert.

 

 

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Lloyd v Google. High Court rejects jurisdiction viz US defendant, interprets ‘damage’ in the context of data protection narrowly.

Warby J in  [2018] EWHC 2599 (QB) Lloyd v Google (a class action suit with third party financing) considers, and rejects, jurisdiction against Google Inc (domiciled in the US) following careful consideration (and distinction) of the Vidal Hall (‘Safari users) precedent.

Of note is that the jurisdictional gateway used is the one in tort, which requires among others an indication of damage. In Vidal Hall, Warby J emphasises, that damage consisted of specific material loss or emotional harm which claimants had detailed in confidential court findings (all related to Google’s former Safari turnaround, which enabled Google to set the DoubleClick Ad cookie on a device, without the user’s knowledge or consent, immediately, whenever the user visited a website that contained DoubleClick Ad content.

In essence, Warby J suggests that both EU law (reference is made to CJEU precedent under Directive 90/314) and national law tends to suggest that “damage” has been extended in various contexts to cover “non-material damage” but only on the proviso that “genuine quantifiable damage has occurred”.

Wrapping up, at 74: “Not everything that happens to a person without their prior consent causes significant or any distress. Not all such events are even objectionable, or unwelcome. Some people enjoy a surprise party. Not everybody objects to every non-consensual disclosure or use of private information about them. Lasting relationships can be formed on the basis of contact first made via a phone number disclosed by a mutual friend, without asking first. Some are quite happy to have their personal information collected online, and to receive advertising or marketing or other information as a result. Others are indifferent. Neither category suffers from “loss of control” in the same way as someone who objects to such use of their information, and neither in my judgment suffers any, or any material, diminution in the value of their right to control the use of their information. Both classes would have consented if asked. In short, the question of whether or not damage has been sustained by an individual as a result of the non-consensual use of personal data about them must depend on the facts of the case. The bare facts pleaded in this case, which are in no way individualised, do not in my judgment assert any case of harm to the value of any claimant’s right of autonomy that amounts to “damage”…”

The judgment does not mean that misuse of personal data cannot be disciplined under data protection laws (typically: by the data protection authorities) or other relevant national courses of action. But where it entails a non-EU domiciled party, and the jurisdictional gateway of ‘tort’ is to be followed, ‘damage’ has to be shown.

Geert.

 

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Feniks: CJEU holds, in my view incorrectly, that Actio Pauliana falls under forum contractus.

I called Bobek AG’s Opinion in C-337/17 ‘solid’ – by which I also implied: convincing.  Is the actio pauliana by a Polish company against a Spanish company, which had bought immovable property from the former’s contracting party, one relating to ‘contract’ within the meaning of Article 7(1) Brussels I Recast?

Bobek AG Opined it is not. The CJEU today held it is. I disagree.

Firstly, the second chamber, at 29 ff, repeats the inaccurate references in Valach and Tunkers, that (at 30) ‘actions which fall outside the scope of [the Insolvency Regulation] fall within the scope of [Brussels I Recast].’ This oft repeated quote suggest dovetailing between the two Regulations, a view which is patently incorrect: readers can use the tag ‘dovetail’ or ‘arrangement’ (for ‘scheme of arrangement’) for my view on same; see e.g. Agrokor.

Having held (this was not seriously in doubt) that Brussels I Recast is engaged, the Court then takes a much wider view of the Handte formula than advocated by Bobek AG. The Court at 37 refers to Granarolo, merely in fact to emphasise the requirement of strict interpretation of the jurisdictional rules which vary Article 4’s actor sequitur forum rei’s rule. At 43 follows the core of its reasoning: ‘By [the pauliana] the creditor seeks a declaration that the transfer of assets by the debtor to a third party has caused detriment to the creditor’s rights deriving from the binding nature of the contract and which correspond with the obligations freely consented to by the debtor. The cause of this action therefore lies essentially in the breach of these obligations towards the creditor to which the debtor agreed.’

The Court does not refer to Ergo, let alone to Sharpston AG’s ‘centre of gravity’ test in same, however it would seem that this may have influenced it. Yet in my view this is way too extensive a stretch of the Handte or Sharpston AG’s Ergo formula. Litigation in the pauliana pitches the creditor against the third party. It would take really quite specific circumstances for Handte to be met in the relation between these two. That a contractual relation features somewhere in the factual matrix is almost always true.

For a comparative benchmark, reference can be made to Refcomp where the Court took a very limiting view on subrogration of choice of court.

The Court’s formulation at 45 is entirely circular: were the creditor not able to sue in the forum contractus, ‘the creditor would be forced to bring proceedings before the court of the place where the defendant is domiciled, that forum, as prescribed by Article 4(1) of Regulation No 1215/2012, possibly having no link to the place of performance of the obligations of the debtor with regard to his creditor.’ Indeed: because the pauliana does not mordicus have to links to that place; it is not because it might not, that a forum contractus has to be conjured up to secure these links.

The Court then quite forcefully and seemingly without much hesitation identifies a specific forum contractus (unlike the AG who had suggested that that very difficulty supports his view that there simply is no forum contractus to speak of): at 46: ‘the action brought by the creditor aims to preserve its interests in the performance of the obligations derived from the contract concerning construction works, it follows that ‘the place of performance of the obligation in question’ is, according to Article 7(1)(b) of this regulation, the place where, under the contract, the construction services were provided, namely Poland.’

The initial contractual obligation between creditor and debtor therefore creates crucial jurisdictional consequences vis-a-vis third parties whose appearance in the factual matrix presents itself only very downstream. That, I would suggest, does not at all serve the predictability which the Chamber (rightly) emphasises at the very outset of its judgment as being the driving principle behind its interpretation.

I am not convinced by this judgment. (And yes, I am being polite).

Geert.

 

 

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Li Shengwu, Singapore: Serving out of jurisdiction in contempt of court cases.

Many thanks to Filbert Lam, a former student of mine, for alerting me to another interesting case in comparative conflict of laws: the story of Li Shengwu is recalled here.

The Singapore Prime Minister’s nephew made remarks in a Facebook post, which were allegedly contemptuous of the judiciary. When he made those remarks, he was located in the US, where he intends to stay (and work). The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) wants to serve the summons on him in the US. Under what circumstances can this be done and what is the impact of a procedural law seemingly assisting the AGC in serving the summons, but which would have to be applied retroactively in the case at issue?

The Court of Appeal proceeding will be one to look out for.

Geert.

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Vik v Deutsche Bank. Court of Appeal confirms High Court’s view on Article 24(5) – jurisdiction for enforcement.

I have reported earlier on Deutsche Bank AG v Sebastian Holdings Inc & Alexander Vik [2017] EWHC 459 and Dennis v TAG Group [2017] EWHC 919 (Ch).

The Court of Appeal has now confirmed in [2018] EWCA Civ 2011 Vik v Deutsche Bank that permission for service out of jurisdiction is not required for committal proceedings since the (now) Article 24(5) rule applies regardless of domicile of the parties. See my posting on Dar Al Arkan and the one on Dennis .

Gross LJ in Section IV, which in subsidiary fashion discusses the Brussels issue, confirms applicability to non-EU domicileds however without referring to recital 14, which confirms verbatim that indeed non-EU domicile of the defendants is not relevant for the application of Article 24.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.6.8.

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Anchor defendants in follow-up competition law cases. The High Court in Vattenfall et al v Prysmian et al.

Thank you Brick Court and Stewarts, among other, for flagging Vattenfall et al v Prysmian et al in which the High Court dismissed a call for summary judgment on the grounds of lack of jurisdiction.

A classic case of follow-up damages litigation in competition law, here in the high voltage power cables cartel, fines for which were confirmed by the CJEU early July. Core to the case is the application of Article 8(1)’s anchor defendants mechanism. Only two of the defendants are UK incorporated companies – UK subsidiaries of companies that have been found by the European Commission to have infringed EU competition law.

Authority cited includes of course CDC, Roche Nederland and Painer, and Cooper Tyre (sale of the cartelised products can amount to implementation of the cartel). Vattenfall confirms that for the English courts, ‘knowingly implementing’ the cartel has a low threshold.

At 89 ff the Court refers to the pending case of (what I now know to be) C-724/17 Skanska Industrial Solutions e.a.: Finnish Courts are considering the application for cartel damages against parent companies on acquiring cartelist subsidiaries, had dissolved them. Relevance for Vattenfall lies with the issue of knowledge: the Finnish courts wonder what Article 101 TFEU has to say on the degree of knowledge of the cartelist activities, relevant for the liability of the parent company. An application of fraus, or abuse in other words. Elleray DJ however, did not consider the outcome of that reference to be relevant for the case at hand, in its current stage of procedure.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.12.1

 

 

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