Pal v Damen. A haywire engagement with the consumer, contract section of Brussels Ia.

Pal v Damen & Anor [2022] EWHC 4697 (QB) is another application (compare Clarke v Kalecinski) of Brussels Ia’s consumer section to cosmetic surgery contracts. Respectfully, the analysis is a botched job.

Claims are both in contract and in tort, as is usual in this type of litigation. Jurisdiction on the basis of the consumer title against the Belgium-based surgeon is undisputed, as is the lack of jurisdiction under Article 7(2)’s tort gateway against the clinic where the surgery was performed, locus damni (direct damage, CJEU Marinari) and locus delicti commissi both being in Belgium. The core question is whether there is a contract between surgeon and /or the clinic and the patient, and whether this is a consumer contract.

The second question needs to be determined first. The clinic essentially provides the hardware for the surgeon, but also ensures patient flow via its website http://www.wellnesskliniek.com which without a doubt meets with the  CJEU Pammer /Alpenhof criteria and therefore ‘directs its activities’ towards the UK. Its general terms and conditions, of which it is somewhat disputed that claimant ticked the relevant box, state ia that the clinic ‘is not party to the treatment agreement between the physician and the patient.’ 

The  expert evidence [25] ff centres around Belgian law. Expert for one of the defendants is their Belgian counsel, and Cook M dismisses his report [55] as not meeting relevant CPR requirements on expert evidence. On the basis of the remaining evidence, the judge finds [59]

the Claimant has established a good arguable case for the existence of a contract for medical treatment and /or medical services between her and the Surgeon and accordingly this Court has jurisdiction over that claim. The Claimant has failed to establish a good arguable case for the existence of a contract for medical treatment and /or medical services against the Clinic and accordingly the Court does not have jurisdiction over that claim.

With respect, the direction of analysis is entirely wrong. The first line of enquiry should have been whether there is a consumer contract with either or both of the Belgian parties, and if there is with one, whether the other party could have been caught in its jurisdictional slipstream. Á la Bonnie Lackey but then in the opposite direction: in Bonnie Lackey the question was whether persons in the immediate orbit of the undisputed ‘consumer’-claimant, may also sue under the consumer title. In current case, the question would be whether those in the immediate vicinity of the business-defendant, may be sued under the consumer title. The existence of a consumer contract is entirely an EU law question, not a Belgian law one.

Next, if the decision were taken that at least one of the parties is not caught by the consumer title, the existence of a ‘contract’ (for the provision of ‘services’) under Article 7(1) would be triggered, as would the forum contractus under Article 7(1)a, with an analysis of where the services were or should have been provided. This, too, is an analysis that requires EU law and EU law alone. [There is no trace in the judgment of a choice of court and /or law which for the former per A25 Brussels Ia may require Belgian law, with renvoi, a lex fori prorogati but even then only for the material ‘consent’ issue].

Belgian law does not come into this analysis at all, unless, potentially and most unlikely, one argues that the A7(1) analysis requires the conflicts method, should a contract for medical services not be caught by Article 7(1)’s ‘provision of services’: in that case, Rome I’s decision tree would be required to determine lex contractus and place of performance. Even then however it is not at all certain that Belgian law would be the outcome of Rome I’s matrix.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, 2.222 ff, 2.385 ff.

BRG NOAL v Kowski. A debatable applicable law consideration under A4 Rome I decides a forum non stay.

BRG NOAL GP SARL & Anor v Kowski & Anor [2022] EWHC 867 (Ch) continues the current trend of forum non conveniens applications galore, following Brexit. In the case at issue, with Luxembourg suggested as the appropriate forum, applicable law determination, under (retained) Rome I’s ‘characteristic performance’ rule plays a core role.

Applicable law needs to be determined essentially viz an undertaking as I understand it, by a, validly removed, investment fund General Partner, not to torpedo the subsequent orderly continuation of the fund. The core commitment reads

“I, [name], hereby acknowledge that [NOAL GP] is the managing general partner (“General partner”) of [the Fund] with effect from 27 August 2021 and unconditionally and irrevocably undertake (a) not to assert otherwise, or to induce or procure an assertion to the contrary or otherwise challenge or question the validity of its appointment or induce or produce such challenge or question, in any applicable forum and (b) to cooperate with and assist the General Partner in completing a full, orderly and timely transfer of the control of the Partnership and all of its assets and any obligations to the General Partner”.

Claimant [57] suggests the specific Undertaking in and of itself meets the CJEU Handte definition of a stand alone contractual obligation, however Smith J does not specifically hold on this for in her view even if this were correct, the overall contractual construction would have an impact on the applicable law consideration, seeing as in her view:

no choice of law was made; no default ‘passe partout’ contract as listed in A4(1) Rome I applies; A4(2) Rome I’s ‘characteristic performance’ test does not lead to an answer ([61]: there is no ‘characteristic performance’] and at any rate even if there were, the judge would have applied A4(3)’s escape clause to lead to Luxembourg law; and the ‘proper law of the contract’ per A4(4) Rome I ‘clearly’ [63-64] leads to Luxembourgish law.

In conclusion, a stay is ordered and the forum non application is successful. In my view the judge jumped too easily to Articles 4(3) and (4), denying Article 4(2)’s or even Article 3 choice of law’s effet utile. It is not unusual for judges to let their predetermination to apply A4(3) and /or (4) determine their A4(2) search for a lex contractus. Yet that frequency does not make the judgment right.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed, 2021, Heading 3.2.6.2.

Clarke v Kalecinski. On rules of safety and conduct under Rome II, but also on the implications of marketing language for duty of care.

Update 20 April 2022 Daniel Clarke reviews the issue of proof of foreign law here.

Clarke v Kalecinski & Ors [2022] EWHC 488 (QB) concerns a claim for damages for personal injury sustained during cosmetic surgery undergone by claimant on 7 January 2015. Claims is against the surgeon (domiciled and habitually resident in Poland; but also registered with the UK General Medical Council) who performed the breast and thigh procedures in Poland, and against the Clinic (a company incorporated in Poland in which  the surgeon and his wife are the sole shareholders and directors), where the operations were carried out and she received pre-and post-operative treatment. Claimant also sues the insurer of the Clinic.

Jurisdiction is not disputed. Both surgeon and clinic are being sued under the consumer title of Brussels Ia. The insurance company is being sued under CJEU Odenbreit: subject to the applicable law of the tort and the existence under same of a direct right of action against an insurer, section 3 BIa gives claimant a right to sue in claimant’s domicile.

Claimant sues both surgeon and clinic, both in contract and in tort. She seeks to hold the clinic either directly or vicariously liable for the failures of the surgeons who treated her – one other Polish surgeon was involved in her care – and the nurses who cared for her at the clinic in Poland. Total potential liability for the insurance company, under the indemnity of the clinic (they do not insure the surgeon) is limited to approximately £38,500.

Proper law of the contract is English law, per A6(1) of the consumer title of Rome I. This is not disputed. It had been anticipated by claimant until trial that it was also a matter of agreement that the proper law of the claim in tort was Polish law, per Rome II. However in its skeleton argument, for the first time, the insurer raised an issue about the adequacy of claimant’s pleading arguing they had failed to plead the Polish law upon which they relied, so the proper law of the tortious claim was by default, English law.  That was rejected by the judge on the basis of the exchange between parties.

At [104] ff Foster J discussed the application of A17 Rome II: the judge must take into account as a matter of fact, the rules of safety and conduct in force at the place and time of the event, i.e. Poland. However [107] the judge insists on the importance of the English standard of care

where it is a term of the contract that the first defendant would operate to the same standard as a UK surgeon, skilled in this specialism, and registered with the GMC, it is that standard, that applied to the activities in issue here. The care offered by the clinic likewise. [emphasis in the original]

Those terms of the contract were deduced by the judge [77]:

[claimant] does not allege that she signed any contract or document, save for a consent form which the court has not seen. However, in my judgement the substance of the representations on the website upon which Ms Clarke clearly relied, were incorporated into the contract between her and the clinic together with Mr Kaleciński. In my judgement this was one contract but involving both parties: the surgeon and all the other care givers at the clinic, by means of the clinic (Noa Clinic Uslugi Sp. z o.o), those incorporated representations were to the following effect. The first defendant would carry out the surgery and he would carry it out to the standard to be expected of a GMC registered surgeon proficient in plastic surgery.

This emphasis by the judge imparts once again the relevance of language, no doubt for marketing purposes, for the consequential legal obligations. Foster J moreover holds [108]

That standard applies to the tortious duty also by reason of the  representations made to which reference is made above.

and [109] she holds

the findings of [the expert] are couched in such stringent terms that they cover any surgical and indeed clinical practice whether governed by local Polish customs or not. The conclusions of [the expert] put paid to any subtlety of distinction between local custom and English practice that might … in other circumstances be considered relevant. What took place fell so far below acceptable standards I cannot accept the contention that local standards or practices might have rendered the egregious failings in this case acceptable as a matter of contractual or tortious obligation.

The judge’s findings on A17 Rome II are interesting. Yet I find her conclusions on website representations even more relevant.

Geert.

Protecting employees under Rome I (and the Convention). The French SC takes a fork in the road view on setting aside choice of law.

I am in blog queue clear-out mode today. Thank you Maxime Barba for flagging the French SC’s December judgment on the application of Rome I’s (in fact the Rome Convention but the provisions have not materially changed) protective regime for employees. At issue is a contract for which parties had chosen Moroccan law, with the Court of Appeal setting aside that choice under A6 Rome Convention, now A8 Rome I, in favour of the French law’s provisions for dismissal, binding upon the employer by virtue of a collective labour agreement.

As Maxime notes, an interesting reference is the SC’s view on what law has to be considered ‘more favourable’. This weighing is a consequence of A6 stipulating

in a contract of employment a choice of law made by the parties shall not have the result of depriving the employee of the protection afforded to him by the mandatory rules of the law which would be applicable under paragraph 2 in the absence of choice.

Clearly setting aside only occurs when the default law (the one that applies in the absence of choice) is more favourable to the employee. How though does one assess that more protective character? Piecemeal, checking every part of the employment relationship? Or more ‘global’, which would mean the exercise might let the employee down on some of the consequences. And once the comparison made, how much of the offending law does one set aside? The SC first of all notes that

[12] D’abord, la détermination du caractère plus favorable d’une loi doit résulter d’une appréciation globale des dispositions de cette loi ayant le même objet ou se rapportant à la même cause.

The judge’s exercise must limit itself to those parts of labour law which are at issue in the dispute: not an overall comparison, in other words. However as I understand the judgment, the employer had argued that once the comparison made (here: French law including a longer list of dismissal without cause than Moroccan law), the judge must only give sectional priority to the default law: here: the judge, it is argued, must treat the end of the relationship as one without cause, but must then resurrect Moroccan law’s consequences to such dismissal without cause. The SC on the other hand puts a fork in the road: once the road to French ‘dismissal without cause’ taken, French consequences for same apply. (The SC does in the end annul on the basis of a wrong calculation of the severance package, under French law).

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 3.2.5.

No Harry, don’t look at the light! The CJEU in Sharewood on Rome I’s rei sitae exception to consumer protection.

In C-595/20 Sharewood, the CJEU last week held on the extent of Rome I’s rei sitae exception to consumer contracts. In essence, as a result of Article 6 Rome I, for consumer contracts, choice of law is free (in the case at issue this lex voluntatis was Swiss law) except the consumer may always fall back on the mandatory laws of his habitual residence (here, Austrian law).

For a limited selection of contracts, including (A6(4)c) ‘a contract relating to a right in rem in immovable property or a tenancy of immovable property other than a contract relating to (timeshares)’, party  autonomy is restored in full under the terms of Articles 3 and 4 Rome I, hence the consumer loses his protection.

The contract at issue is a tree purchase, lease and service agreement. The trees at issue are grown in Brasil. The ground rent for the lease agreement, which granted the right to grow the trees in question, was included in the purchase price of those trees. The service agreement provided that ShareWood would manage, administer, harvest and sell the trees and would remit the net return on the timber to UE, the (anonymised) consumer. The difference compared to the gross return, expressed as a percentage of the return, was retained by ShareWood as its fee for the provision of those services.

The question in the case at issue is essentially how intensive the link to (foreign) soil needs to be for it to fall under the rei sitae carve-out for consumer contracts. The CJEU does refer to some of its Brussels Ia case-law, including Klein and Kerr, for the ‘tenancy’ element of the question, but not for the ‘rights in rem’ part of the discussion, where it more straightforwardly concludes on the basis of the contractual arrangements that the trees [28]

must be regarded as being the proceeds of the use of the land on which they are planted. Although such proceeds will, as a general rule, share the same legal status as the land on which the trees concerned are planted, the proceeds may nevertheless, by agreement, be the subject of personal rights of which the owner or occupier of that land may dispose separately without affecting the right of ownership or other rights in rem appertaining to that land. A contract which relates to the disposal of the proceeds of the use of land cannot be treated in the same way as a contract which relates to a ‘right in rem in immovable property’, within the meaning of Article 6(4)(c) of the Rome I Regulation

and [37]

the main purpose of the contract at issue in the main proceedings is not the use, in the context of a lease, of the land on which the trees concerned are planted, but… to generate income from the sale of the timber obtained following the harvest of those trees. As is apparent from the order for reference, the lease provided for in that agreement, which includes only the right to allow those trees to grow and has no purpose other than the acquisition of those trees, is intended merely to enable the sales and services elements provided for in the contract to be carried out.

Not caught therefore by the rei sitae exception.

I often refer my students to Harry, in A Bug’s Life, to make the point that both for jurisdictional and for applicable law purposes, the mere presence of real estate does not lead to the rei sitae jurisdictional and governing law implications being triggered. CJEU Sharewood is a good illustration of same.

Geert.

 

Khalifeh v Blom Bank. On implied choice of law and consumer contracts (including ‘direction of activities’ in Rome I.

Khalifeh v Blom Bank SAL [2021] EWHC 3399 (QB) is the second High Court judgment in the space of a few weeks to involve Lebanese Banks and the application of the protective regime for consumers in EU private international law. (See earlier Bitar v Banque Libano-Francaise).

Foxton J explains why there is such activity: difficult financial conditions faced by Lebanese banks and their customers at the current time, and the practical impossibility of transferring foreign currency out of Lebanon, caused acute anguish for those with foreign currency accounts in Lebanese banks. Understandably they have explored every avenue open to them in an effort to access their hard-won savings.

Jurisdiction would seem not to be in dispute (presumably given the presence of non-exclusive choice of court in a general agreement), applicable law is. Even in consumer contracts, Article 6 Rome I allows parties to the contract to chose applicable law – except such choice must not deprive the consumer of the protection of the mandatory elements of the law that would apply had no choice been made: that ‘default law’, per Article 6(1) Rome I, is the law of the consumer’s habitual residence.

Whether choice of law has been made is to be determined in accordance with Article 3, which proscribes that choice of law must be  either nominatim, or ‘clearly demonstrated’ by the circumstances of the case. The latter is often referred to as ‘implicit’ choice of law although there is nothing truly implicit about it: choice of law cannot be made happenstance, it must have been made clearly (even if not in so many words). [47] ff the judge considers whether ‘implicit’ choice has been made, referring to Avonwick,  and holds [66] that there was, namely in favour of Lebanese law. He concludes this as a combined effect of

a jurisdiction clause in a related, general agreement which he found to be exclusive [63] in favour of Beirut; I have to say I do not think the judgment engages satisfactorily with the argument that this hybrid clause itself is questionable under the lex causae (including consumer law) that would have to apply to it;

the express reference to an agreement to comply with and facilitate the enforcement of identified provisions of Lebanese law; and

the express choice of Lebanese law in a closely related and interwoven contract.

Clearly some of this analysis is fact-specific and subjective however in my view the lex causae element of hybrid choice of court has more beef to the bone.

As for the issue of ‘activities directed at’ the UK, this is discussed [68] ff. First up is an interesting discussion on the relevant time at which the habitual residence of the consumer has to be considered. In light ia of CJEU Commerzbank, which presumably was not available at the time of the discussion, I would suggest the conclusion [73] that the temporal element needs to be fixed at the very beginning, to avoid see-sawing and dépeçage, may need revisiting.

In terms of the actual directing of activities, Pammer /Alpenhof of course is discussed as is Emrek. Having discussed the evidence, the conclusion [105] ff is that there was no direction of activities.

As a result, the remainder of the judgment deals with the substantive issues under Lebanese law.

I do not know whether permission to appeal has been sought. There are sections in the judgment that in my view would merit it.

Geert.

EU private international law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 2.2.9.2.7, 2.270 ff; Heading 3.2.4, Heading 3.2.5.

 

A4(4) Rome ‘s ‘proper law of the contract’ discussed under retained EU law in Ditto v Drive-Thru.

Ditto Ltd v Drive-Thru Records LLC [2021] EWHC 2035 (Ch) discusses the contract and tort gateways for jurisdiction in England and Wales (they need to be met for claimant to hold onto an earlier granted permission for ‘service out’ of the jurisdiction). The dispute concerns the world of music catalogues, advance royalties and (marketing) services rendered, or not, in regard to the  catalogued artists. Defendants are both based in California, claimant is England-incorporated. Concurrent proceedings are underway in New York.

Of interest to the blog is firstly the contractual gateway, which is to some degree assessed under retained EU law, for as part of its argument, claimant argues the lex contractus is English law.  That determination of the applicable law is done under (retained( EU law and Francis DM holds that it is not English law. No choice of law had been made per Article 3, which (in the absence of any protected categories) brings us into the cascade of A4 Rome I. It is worthwhile to repeat counsel argument in full [56-57]

Ms Lacob [for defendants] contended that the law of the agreements should be determined in accordance with paragraph (2) as being that of the State of California. That was on the basis that the party which was required to effect the characteristic performance of each of the agreements was Drive-Thru and War Road respectively, and their country, or (in this case) territorial unit, of habitual residence, being the place where they had their central administration, was California. She identified the performance which was characteristic of each of the agreements as being Drive-Thru and War Road’s obligations to licence the exploitation of their portfolio works, to remaster and remix their recordings or the release new recordings, as the case may be, and (in the case of War Road) to sign up new bands; in contrast, Ditto’s only obligation was to pay money which was not the performance which was characteristic of the agreements.

Mr Kitson for Ditto [claimant] took issue with this. He pointed to the fact that Drive-Thru and War Road themselves contended in the New York proceedings that Ditto was in breach of its obligations (whether express or implied) under the agreements to take possession of the recordings and to distribute the same so as to earn royalties for the parties’ joint benefit. Thus, he argued, the performance characteristic of the agreement was not all on the side of Drive-Thru and War Road.

The reference to the arguments in the New York proceedings is interesting for it suggests ‘form’. However the judge agreed [58] with defendants that

these agreements are ones under which there were substantial performance obligations (other than simply the payment of money) on both sides. In reality, the agreements were joint ventures for the development and exploitation of Drive-Thru’s and War Road’s existing and future portfolio works for their mutual benefit. They are the type of agreements which Mann J refers to in his judgment in Apple Corps at paragraph 54 where it is not possible to identify a characteristic performance provided by one only of the parties.

Even the centre of gravity rule (recital 19, which the judge does not refer to) does not assist here hence the analysis needs to jump to A4(4)’s ‘proper law of the contract’ rule.  [59]

What then is the country or territorial unit with which the agreements are most closely connected? On the evidence before me, I am satisfied that it is the State of California. That was where Drive-Thru and War Road were based and where for the most part they would perform their obligations under the agreements. In contrast, Ditto’s own obligations relating to the digital distribution of the portfolio works were not ones which, on the evidence, fell to be performed in England to any particular extent, even if Ditto’s central administration was based in England. Instead, Ditto’s rights to exploitation of the portfolio works, and any corresponding obligations relating to the distribution of such works, were worldwide, reflecting the global reach of the Ditto Music brand.

Conclusion is that California law is the lex contractus.

The contractual gateway was however found to have been fulfilled on the basis of CPR PD6B paragraph 3.1 ‘contract made within the jurisdiction’. The judge finds that the contracts were ‘made’ both in CAL and in E&W [54] although he does lament [48] the artificial nature of the issue as the law currently stands: were contracts are ‘made’. I find this is especially relevant in a contemporary context of electronic correspondence, Zoom meetings and the like. Where a contract is ‘made’ seems fairly nugatory these days.

The tort gateway is discussed without reference to UKSC Brownlie for that was en route at the time of the discussions in current case. It is at any rate held to be met [[71] for claimant has quite clearly sustained damage in England as a result of the alleged misrepresentations.

At [72] ff follows an interesting, brief discussion on the location of intellectual property with finally the curtain drawn on English proceedings as a result of forum non [80 ff].

Geert.

 

Silverman v Ryanair. The High Court unconvincingly on the Montreal Convention, lex fori as lex causae for the interpretation of ius gentium, qualifying air carriage claims under Rome I, II, and displacing lex loci damni under the latter.

In Silverman v Ryanair DAC (Rev1) [2021] EWHC 2955 (QB), claimant was injured whilst going down stairs at an airport terminal in England. The claim is subject to EU private international law. Jurisdiction for the English courts in this personal injury claim is not disputed.

Under A5 Rome I, contracts for carriage of goods are subject to the ordinary lex voluntatis rule, while for carriage of passengers, parties can only choose from a limited selection of leges contractus. The standard approach is for  general terms and conditions to select the law of the carrier’s habitual residence or his place of central administration, which is entirely kosher under Rome I. Unless the booking qualifies as package travel, it essentially means that passengers are generally less protected than ordinary consumers under A6 Rome I.

In the case of Ryanair, the default choice inevitably leads to Irish law, except in this case (because Irish law would lead to higher damages), the airline unusually seeks to divert from its default choice of law.  The airline’s relevant clause, reads

8.2.4: Governing Law: “Except as otherwise provided by the Convention or applicable law, your contract of carriage with us, these Terms and Conditions of Carriage and our Regulations shall be governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Ireland and any dispute arising out of or in connection with this contract shall be subject to the jurisdiction of the Irish Courts.”

The Montreal Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air 1999 is unaffected by Rome I as a result of the Regulation’s A25, which gives clear priority to multilateral Conventions at least if the Convention concerned also includes non-EU Member States. The Convention also operates to make the choice of court provision invalid, as discussed ia in CJEU  C-213/18 Adriano Guaitoli et al v Easyjet.

Claimant however argues that assessment of quantum of damages is not regulated by Montreal and therefore remains subject to the lex voluntatis. This is where the second line of Ryanair’s defence comes in, namely an attempt to qualify the claim as one in tort, subject to Rome II’s lex loci damni rule, rather than Rome I’s lex voluntatis.

In essence therefore the question is a matter of Treaty interpretation viz the Montreal Convention (what does it mean to regulate in its provisions on liability and damages), subsequently secondary EU law interpretation viz Rome I and II (qualification: is it a claim in contract or tort, and once that held, does the lex casuae indicated by the relevant Regulation, cover quantum of damages).

Master McCloud turns to international comparison not by way of binding authority but pro inspiratio seeing as the case concerns an international Convention [52]. Scalia J’s ‘Pass-through’ approach to the lex fori’s choice-of-law rules in Zicherman (1996) is the approach also followed in this judgment. The judge uses the formulation by Bader Ginsburg J in El Al Israelthat Warsaw drafters intended to resolve whether there is liability, but to leave to domestic law (the local law identified by the forum under its choice-of-law rules or approaches) determination of the compensatory damages available to the suitor.”

Comparative case-law analysis makes sense. However one would have thought a starting point should have been analysis of the Convention and its travaux itself. Master McCloud does get to that when considering the rather awkward , counsel-inspired idea that there needs to be a discussion of the law that applies to the interpretation of the Convention. Determining the ‘Applicable law to matters of interpretation of the Convention’ might perhaps make sense in a dualist jurisdiction like the UK?

At [59] the judge holds the lex causae for interpretation of the Convention is the lex fori, English law therefore. At [61] he calls this

Convention law as understood by this court, ie the lex fori in that rather special international sense.’

Here I am lost.

The judge then employs the ‘natural language’ approach to determine what parts of the Montreal liability scheme parties can and cannot contractually be negotiated away.

Only the liability issues that have ‘passed through’ to the lex fori are then considered with a view to determining the qualification exercise: is the claim one in contract or one on tort. The judge raises the possibility that the claimant could have construed the claim as being a ‘Convention claim incorporated in the contract’ [64] however he holds that claim is not brought on that footing:

‘the Claim and Particulars are clear: they plead a claim for damages for breach of the Convention, they do not plead a claim in the law of contract’ [64].

That, I would submit, is wrong. The claim is subject to European conflict of laws rules. These require the judge to qualify the claim subject to the autonomous interpretation of ‘contract’ and ‘non-contractual obligation’ as most recently discussed by the CJEU in Wikingerhof. While I am the first to acknowledge claim formulation is a powerful tool to manage qualification (indeed Wikingerhof confirms as much), I do not think deference to claimant may be as large as suggested here.

The judge proceeds with the non-contractual nature (causing injury to the claimant through negligence [65]), points out that the Convention covers both contractual and non-contractual claims [66] and seeks support in his analysis on tort and contract in Prof. Thomas Kadner Graziano’s 2016 paper in the Yearbook of Private International Law. With respect, I do not think Thomas’ paper supports the conclusions in this case.

At [72][73] the judge then rather summarily and using A4(3) Rome II displaces the lex loci damni for the ‘passed through’ claim, in favour of Irish law, the lex contractus to the contract of carriage. Once the Rome II path chosen (of which, per above, I am not convinced), I do not think the lex loci damni may be pushed aside quite as concisely as this.

The relationship between international Conventions and European conflicts rules is not always straightforward. Yet here I think it has been presented a touch too convolutedly.

Geert.

Khalifeh v Blom Bank. On the availability of anti-suit to deter consumer contract proceedings ex-EU.

At issue in  Khalifeh v Blom Bank S.A.L. [2021] EWHC 1502 (QB) is inter alia whether an anti-suit injunction is available to  a claimant who purports to have the protection of Section 4 of the Brussels Ia Regulation. That is the section which protects consumers by granting them a forum actoris and by limiting suits against them to, in principle (limited extensions are possible) their place of domicile. The contract is one in the banking sector, for the opening of 2 USD accounts. Defendant is a Lebanon-incorporated bank. The proceedings which are to be restrained, take place in Lebanon. Current order concerns anti-suit only. Other issues, including applicable law per Rome I (where of course the consumer title also plays a role) are not addressed.

The case is part of my essay questions in a conflicts exam at Leuven today. I would expect students to refer to the discussions in Gray v Hurley and to any reasons for EU courts to exercise, or not, judicial muscle-power in upholding the jurisdiction of courts in the EU as against that of courts outside it.

Claimants calls in support upon Samengo-Turner v J & H Marsh [2007] EWCA Civ 723 and Petter v EMC Europe Ltd [2015] EWCA Civ 828. In those cases, concerning employees, anti-suit was employed viz employers’ potential action outside the EU. Defendant doubts the authority of both (and in particular of Samengo-Turner, a first instance judgment). It refers to both scholarly criticism of the position, and to the Court of Appeal’s recent finding in Gray v Hurley, referred to the CJEU but unfortunately (for reasons of legal certainty) since dropped.

At [38] Freedman J holds he need not make a ‘binary’ decision at this stage, and refuses the application for anti-suit, leaving the discussion for full debate at trial. Part of his reason for doing so is defendant’s commitment not to take the case in Lebanon any further at this stage (no commitment has been made of it to be dropped). At that trial, the ATI debate may continue (this, one imagines, will depend on defendant’s actions in Lebanon), as of course will the applicability of Rome I’s protected categories of consumers.

A trial to look out for.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 2.24.

Dhir v Flutter. How choice of law takes you via Rome, to DIFC and Dubai.

A quick note on Dhir v Flutter Entertainment Plc (Rev 2) [2021] EWHC 1510 (QB), in which Griffiths J had to consider ia whether choice of law had been made at all and if so (or also if no choice of law had been made), whether this was for the onshore law of the Emirate of Dubai – onshore Dubai law, or for the law of the Dubai International Financial Centre – DIFC.

Claimant (Amarjeet Dhir) is a Dubai-based businessman who advanced money to another businessman in Dubai which he thought would be invested in the local property market. Unknown to him, the man taking his money (Tony Parente) was a gambling addict. As Mr Parente now admits, he applied money he had been given by Mr Dhir (and, it seems, others) to fund his gambling habit. One of the gambling businesses with which he lost a lot of money in a short space of time was the defendant, through that part of its operations branded as Paddy Power. Mr Dhir now seeks to recover from Paddy Power money in its hands which he says represents the money he is entitled to recover from Mr Parente.

The relevant agreement includes express choice of law as follows: 

“This agreement is signed in Dubai and shall be governed and construed in accordance with the laws of Dubai”.

Claimant says that it meant DIFC laws, while defendant says that it means onshore Dubai law). All experts agreed that it had to be one or the other: it could not be both.

[116] jurisdiction before the E&W Courts is by prorogation (A26 Brussels Ia). Both parties agree [129] that the Rome I Regulation guides the search for the lex contractus. The agreement is silent on choice of court: otherwise that could certainly have been a factor in determining choice of law (recital 12 Rome I). In general [118] the judge is cautious in ‘letting the jurisdiction dog wagging the choice of law tail’, and held the many ties of parties and contract with Dubai (including signature at Dubai and not DIFC: a geographically distinct location) pointed to onshore Dubai law as  lex contractus.

Choice of law therefore made not verbatim, yet ‘clearly demonstrated’ (A3(1) Rome I).

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 3.2.4.

%d bloggers like this: