Posts Tagged punitive damages
Agbara et al v Shell. Recognition /enforcement, ordre public and natural justice. Shell Nigeria ruling refused registration in the High Court.
 EWHC 3340 (QB) Agbara et al v Shell Nigeria et al (thank you Adeole Yusuf for flagging) illustrates what many a conflict teacher initiates classes with. There is some, but often limited use in obtaining a judgment which subsequently cannot be enforced where the defendant’s funds are. Coppel DJ refused to enter registration of a 2010 Nigerian judgment by which claimants were awarded 15,407,777,246 Naira (approximately £33 million today) in damages in respect of the pollution of land occupied by them following the rupture of a pipeline maintained by Shell in 1969 or 1970.
Brussels Ia does not apply to recognition and enforcement of an ex-EU judgment hence the common law was applied (clearly with due deference to international comity yet the standards of natural justice nevertheless being determined by lex fori, English law). Natural justice was found to have been infringed by the proceedings at issue. This included an impossibility for Shell to cross-examine witnesses and an unusually swift completion of proceedings following the dismissal of a procedural argument made by Shell. Shell’s subsequent bumbling of the appeal via procedural mistake was not found by Coppel DJ to alter the findings of infringement of natural justice.
Obiter the factual mistakes made in the calculation of damages leading to the award and the opaque inclusion of punitive damages were also found to stand in the way of recognition and enforcement.
The ruling has some relevance for Article 33/34 BI1’s Anerkennungsprognose.
SAS Institute v World Programming. Ordre Public, res judicata, fraus and (European) statute conspire against enforcement.
SAS Institute Inc v World Programming Limited  EWHC 3452 (Comm) is a rare example of refusal by an English court of enforcement of a US judgment. 20 Essex Street have excellent analysis here and I am happy generally to refer.
The outcome of English Proceedings was that WPL defeated SAS’ claims regarding software licence and copyright infringements, with an important role played by the European software Directive as applied by the CJEU in Case C-406/10 upon preliminary reference in the very case.
Meanwhile SAS had commenced concurrent proceedings in the US. WPL initially objected to the US Proceedings on forum non conveniens and other jurisdictional grounds. These objections were later withdrawn and WPL submitted to the jurisdiction of the US District Court and participated in the process before it. Judgment was awarded against it. SAS curtailed its claim of enforcement to as to increase chances of success: it only seeks to enforce the US Judgment in England insofar as it is for compensatory damages based on WPL’s fraud (an issue which was litigated in the US but not in the UK); it does not seek to enforce the breach of contract claim or that part of the US Judgment which awarded multiple damages.
At 35-36 Cockerill J summarises the law: ‘There are three strands of potential preclusion: cause of action estoppel (not live here) issue estoppel and Henderson v Henderson abuse of process. As Lord Sumption observed in Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd v Zodiac Seats UK Ltd  UKSC 46,  AC 160 at p.180H at :
“…the policy underlying all of the…[res judicata] principles…” is “…the more general procedural rule against abusive proceedings…”.
The different doctrines therefore have different requirements, but they shoot at the same target – that of ensuring that nobody should be vexed twice in respect of one and the same cause: “nemo debet bis vexari pro una et eadem causa“: as it was put by Lord Diplock in Vervaeke v Smith  AC 145 at p.160A-B, G. A more modern version was given by Lord Bingham in Johnson v Gore Wood  2 AC 1 at p.31A-B in the context of the Henderson doctrine:
“Henderson v Henderson abuse of process, as now understood, although separate and distinct from cause of action estoppel and issue estoppel, has much in common with them. The underlying public interest is the same: that there should be finality in litigation and that a party should not be twice vexed in the same matter. This public interest is reinforced by the current emphasis on efficiency and economy in the conduct of litigation, in the interests of the parties and the public as a whole.” ‘
Issue estoppel per Dicey (referred to by Cockerill J) at paragraph 14-156 means that a “foreign judgment will not be recognised if it is inconsistent with a previous decision of a competent English court in proceedings between the same parties“. Akin therefore in residual English private international law (EU law is not engaged, the judgment having been issued ex-EU) to Brussels I Recast’s Article 45(1)c ‘s rule.
The fundamental point is that issue estoppel bars relitigation not of all issues, but only of issues determined as an essential part of the cause of action (at 40). The Henderson principle is concerned with protecting the integrity of the cause of action and issue estoppel defences and preventing them from being deliberately or inadvertently circumvented by a party which did not advance an argument in England which would otherwise have created such an estoppel (at 47).
This is the core of the abuse investigation and this formulated one can see why it is a difficult test to apply.
At 55: ‘There are two issues: was the Fraud claim “parasitic” on the breach of contract claim and the related question of whether the Fraud claim was a separate, distinct and independent cause of action. Both of these really go to the question of whether there is sufficient identity of issue.’ At 73 Cockerill J concludes that there was such abuse: ‘Ultimately, I have come to the conclusion that the existence of the terms of the contract was a fundamental building block for the Fraud Claim and that without it that claim – as it was formulated in the US – could not have been run. The essence of the case in the US Proceedings related to alleged fraudulent representations concerning its “present intention to comply with those terms”. It was fundamental to the claim that WPL “had no intention of abiding by those terms“. It was inherent in that case that those terms did exist; and yet the courts of this country had already held that those terms did not exist.’
Obiter, at 156 ff, Cockerill J adds that enforcement would also have been refused for reasons of the public policy embodied in the Software Directive. Authority in the arbitration context was referred to to pro inspiratio, including CJEU authority C-168/05 Mostaza Claro and C-126/97 Eco Swiss (at 163). At 179: ‘The fundamental problem for SAS is that the Directive plainly envisages the rendering null and void of provisions such as those on which SAS wants to rely, indeed that is explicitly the policy enunciated in the case-law and yet SAS’s fraud case is dependent upon those terms’ existence. The effect of the Directive is, as I have indicated above, to make SAS’s fraud claim (as formulated) impossible to express. It is therefore unrealistic to analyse the matter as the Directive “authorising frauds“.’ And at 184: ‘It is clear that the Software Directive gives expression to two important public policy objectives of preventing the monopolisation of ideas and promoting competition and consumer welfare.’
A very lengthy judgment which merits full reading.
Thank you Francesca Petronio, Fabio Cozzi & Francesco Falco for flagging the Italian Supreme Court’s judgment no. 16601/2017 of 5 July last. Thank you also to professor Marta Requejo for sending me copy of the judgment.
In what is suggested to be a Copernican revolution, the Supreme Court has dropped the Italian legal order’s fundamental objection to punitive damages, which made it near-impossible to obtain recognition and enforcement of in particular US judgments containing such damages. The judgment not surprisingly contains a number of conditions in particular on the excessive nature of such damages.
The judges seem to have been swayed by developments both in Italy (statutory law in places allowing for more than simple compensation of material loss) and US law (truly excessive punitive damages having been reigned in).
Punitive damages are the one example always identified as one of the core applications of ordre public in European recognition and enforcement law. After the Italian example surely this may now be less obvious in many jurisdictions.
(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.16.