Sedgwick v Mapfre Espana. On subrogation in Rome II, and yet again on its procedural carve-out (re: interest rates).

Sedgwick v Mapfre Espana Compania De Seguros Y Reaseguros Sa [2022] EWHC 2704 (KB) discusses the application of Article 19 Rome II on direct actions against insurers, and the procedural carve-out of the Regulation.

Claimant lives in Wales. At the time of the accident she was on her honeymoon, staying at the Hotel Blue Sea Callao Garden in Santa Cruz which was owned and operated by a company registered and incorporated in Spain. She was descending an inadequately lit concrete staircase when she fell and sustained severe fracture injuries to her left knee and to her right heel.

Spanish law is the governing law of the insurance contract/policy which provides the tortfeasor with the right of indemnity within the terms of the policy and that the claimant has, under Spanish law, a direct right of action against the insurer. Parties also agree that Spanish law applies per A4(1) Rome II.

The scope of the law applicable is set out in A15 Rome II, which reads in relevant part: “…the law applicable to non-contractual obligations under this Regulation shall govern in particular: (a) the basis and extent of liability including the determination of persons who may be held liable for acts performed by them; (b) the grounds for exemption from liability, any limitation of liability and any division of liability; (c) the existence, the nature and the assessment of damage or the remedy claimed;…

A1(3) Rome II carves out all matters of procedure and evidence to the law of the forum court: “This Regulation shall not apply to evidence and procedure “. I have reported on the carve-out frequently (see eg here and linked postings there, or use search tag ‘evidence and procedure’).

On a technical side-note, Matthew Hoyle here (he also has a general excellent note on proving foreign law here) correctly notes a confusion with the judge [11] on the issue of proving foreign law, seeing as she conflates assumption of English law as the lex causae when the content of a suggested foreign law is not proven and pleaded (it was so in the case at issue), and assumption in certain circumstances, of the foreign law as being identical to English law.

Issues for determination, are:

i) the resolution of a series of questions relevant to the award of general damages (for non-pecuniary loss) under Spanish law; these are purely issues of Spanish law and of no interest to the blog.

ii) whether the claimant is able to pursue a claim for subrogated losses on behalf of her travel insurer. The contentious issue is whether the claimant herself is able to bring a claim for subrogated losses or whether the claim must be brought in a separate action by the insurer.

[60] if the claim is to be brought separately, it can no longer so be brought because it is now time-barred.

Defendant submits that the claim for those losses incurred by the travel insurer must be brought in accordance with Spanish law and that the proper person entitled to bring a claim against the defendant insurer under A43 Spanish Insurance Contract Act 50/1980 is the third party insurer, not the claimant, as those subrogated losses are losses of the third party payer.

Claimant submits that Spanish law is relevant only to the extent that, as the applicable law of the tort, it provides for recovery of expenses. Spanish law does not govern the relationship between the claimant and the travel insurer, nor the travel insurer’s rights of subrogation by means of the claimant’s claim under those policies. Those matters are regulated, it is argued, by the law governing the insurance policy, in this case, English law, consequential to A19 Rome II (“where a person (the creditor) has a non-contractual claim upon another (the debtor) and a third person has a duty to satisfy the creditor, or has in fact satisfied the creditor in discharge of that duty, the law which governs the third person’s duty to satisfy the creditor shall determine whether and the extent to which the third person is entitled to exercise against the debtor the rights which the creditor had against the debtor under the law governing their relationship.”)

The issue therefore is whether the question of whether the insurer may bring a claim in the name of the insured (rather than by other means) a question of “whether, and the extent to which” the insurer is entitled to exercise the rights of the insured against the third party? Lambert J [73] says it is, as a matter of language and construction, and she also expresses it (less immediately convincing to my mind) as an issue of common sense:

‘Putting the matter another way, it would be distinctly odd if English law determined the right of subrogation and limits upon that right (e.g. the legal principle that there must be full indemnity before subrogated rights attach) but an important aspect of the English law of subrogation (namely that the claim may and must be brought in the name of the insured) may not apply depending on where loss is caused which is to be indemnified.’

Finally, iii) the appropriate rate of interest to apply to the damages award, whether the Spanish (penalty) rate of interest applies or a rate applied under s 35A [E&W] Senior Courts Act 1981. Clearly the issue is whether penalty interest rules are substantive rather than procedural: in the latter case, they are carved out from Rome II, and English law as the lex causae applies.

Troke v Amgen is referred to, and the judge in Swedgwick decides [101]

Whether the decision in Troke is binding upon me or not, I agree with its conclusion and the underlying reasoning which I endorse and follow.

and [102]

the penalty interest provisions are discretionary; they may be excluded if there is a good reason to do so and they are procedural in character.

In my review of Troke I noted its reasoning was unconvincing. Lambert J [101] adds more arguments here, and I find these more convincing, if not conclusive.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 4.8.

The Dutch MH17 judgment and the conflict of laws. On civil claims anchored to criminal suits, and the application of Article 4(3) Rome II’s escape clause.

Their relevance is of course insignificant in light of the dreadful events that  triggered the judgments, however I thought I would flag the private international law elements in this week’s four Dutch judgments following the criminal prosecution of the suspects (now culprits) in the downing of MH17.

The judgment against Mr Pulatov was the  only one to respond to defence arguments actually made: he was the only one to have been represented (the other judgments were held in absentia). The judges extrapolate his arguments to the  other defendants to ensure some kind of proper representation, however they also explore further elements not raised by Mr Pulatov in the other judgments. This includes precisely the private international law elements for, it seems, no private claim was attached to the prosecution of Mr Pulatov while it was against the other defendants.

In this post I take the judgment against Mr Dubinskiy as the relevant text (structure and content of the other 2 judgments are essentially the same).

[12.4.1] discusses the possibility of judging the civil leg of a criminal suit. That the crimes could be prosecuted in The Netherlands is established on the basis of international criminal law of course, which is not the area of this blog. Jurisdiction for the civil leg is justified by reference to this being accepted international practice. Support (not: legal basis per se) is found by the court in Article 7(3) Brussels Ia:

A person domiciled in a Member State may be sued in another Member State:

as regards a civil claim for damages or restitution which is based on an act giving rise to criminal proceedings, in the court seised of those proceedings, to the extent that that court has jurisdiction under its own law to entertain civil proceedings;

and in the similar regime under the Lugano Convention. The court rejects a potential (this judgment as noted was issued in absentia) lis pendens argument vis-a-vis proceedings  in the United States. The court remarks that these judgments had already been issued before the Dutch criminal prosecution was initiated; that therefore there are no concurrent proceedings unto which a lis pendens argument could be raised; and that the US judgments reached the same conclusion.

Res judicata of the US judgments is dismissed as an element which would impact the Dutch judgments at this stage. The court does point out that res judicata may return at the enforcement stage of the damages part of the judgments, in that the victims will not be entitled to double compensation. Note that the US judgments included punitive damages which as readers will know is also a complicating factor for enforcement in the EU.

At 12.14.2 the court then turns to applicable law, for which it of course applies Rome II. With reference to CJEU C-350/14 Lazar, it dismisses the ‘extraordinary suffering’ of the relatives of the victims as ‘indirect damage’ under Rome II, instead exclusively taking the direct damage (the passing away) of the victims on Ukrainian territory as determinant for locus damni.

Dutch law is held not to be ‘manifestly more closely connected’ per A4(3) Rome II, despite the majority of the victims being Dutch. The court in this respect refers firstly to the link with Ukraine not being accidental (such as might be the case in ‘ordinary’ mass claims) but rather directly linked to the hostilities in Ukraine), moreover to the need to guard what it calls the ‘internal harmony’ of the judgment seeing as there are also non-Dutch relatives involved. This I find a touch unconvincing, particularly seeing as the court itself in the same para, with reference to Jan von Hein in Callies’ 2nd ed. of the Rome Regulations commentary, refers to the need to consider A4(3)’s escape clause individually, not collectively.

Geert.

Links to all 4 judgments:

https://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:12219

https://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:12218

https://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:12217

https://deeplink.rechtspraak.nl/uitspraak?id=ECLI:NL:RBDHA:2022:12216

Sweden v Serwin. (Inter alia) on lex causae for (alleged) fiduciary duty and Rome II.

Kingdom of Sweden v Serwin & Ors [2022] EWHC 2706 (Comm) concerns an attempt by Sweden to gain compensation of a number of defendants whom it alleges were parties to a substantial fraud.  The fraud resulted in the misappropriation of in excess of €115m from the pension saving accounts of some 46,222 Swedish pension savers.

I may have to think one or two things through however I wanted to collect my initial thoughts at any rate.

Of note is that the application was one for summary judgment and that quite a few of the respondents did not file an acknowledgment of service or a defence. However, Sweden obtained permission from the court to obtain summary judgment on the merits even against them, rather than entering judgment in default (ia because that makes enforcement more straightforward). Other defendants are serving prison sentences in Sweden and they did enter a defence.

I do not want to turn this post into a banking and finance one however some background is required: [20] ff

The Swedish pension system has various types of pension provision, including a compulsory premium pension (PPM), in which a percentage of a pension saver’s earnings is put into an account, which is invested in investment funds selected by the pension saver from an online platform that the Swedish Pension Authority (SPA) maintains. Each pension saver has a PPM account. Among the investments which might be made were investments in so-called UCITS funds where these had been approved by the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority (SFSA). UCITS funds are those meeting the requirements of the Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities Directive 209/65/EC.

A company that wished to participate in the PPM was required to
enter into a cooperation agreement with the SPA. This case arises from two UCITS funds which were listed on the PPM online platform:

i)            the Optimus High Yield Fund (Optimus), managed by Optimus Fonder which entered into a co-operation agreement with the SPA on 26 March 2012; and

ii)          the Falcon Funds SICA V plc (Falcon) which entered into a co-operation agreement with the SPA in relation to three funders under its management.

The events concerning these two separate funds have been described in the evidence as the Optimus phase and the Falcon phase..

There was consensus ([38]) that the law applicable to the Swedish claims so far as they concerned the Optimus phase was Swedish law, whether by virtue of Article 4(1) or (3) Rome II. That Sweden’s claims relating to the Optimus phase were barred by the doctrine of res judicata, merger, cause of action estoppel or the allied doctrine in Henderson v Henderson, was dismissed by Foxton J [44].

Falcon then was incorporated and authorised by the Maltese Financial Services Authority as a UCITS fund on 22 November 2013. Sweden’s summary judgment claim in relation to the Falcon phase argued that its claims in delict and for breach of fiduciary duty relating to that phase are governed by Maltese law and not Swedish law.

As far as the delict issue is concerned (misappropriation), application of A4(2)  to some of the defendants was clear, and Sweden argued application of A4(1) for the remainder, seemingly arguing (judgment is a bit unclear on this point) that the damage was suffered in Malta when funds held in Falcon were applied to the various classes of loss-making investments.  Reference was made by counsel and judge to Dicey 16th ed. 35-027: “in misappropriation cases … it seems appropriate to locate damage at the place where an asset … is taken from the control of the claimant or another person with whom the claimant has a relationship” – the judge held that it is strongly arguable that this happened when Sweden’s funds became subject to the control of Falcon and the powers of its directors or those operating behind the scenes; the judge seems to locate this in Sweden, not Malta, and to some degree it does not matter for with reference ia to Avonwick and reasons listed [81] it is held that A4(3) arguably is engaged to make the lex causae Swedish law.

[86] reference is again made to Dicey for the applicable law issue as far as breach of fiduciary duties is concerned: Dicey, Morris & Collins [36-069]-[36-070]:

i)                 If equitable obligations of a fiduciary character arise in the context of a contractual relationship, there is a strong argument that the law applicable to the parties’ contractual relationship under Rome I determines whether a fiduciary relationship exists and the nature and content of the duties imposed.

ii)               If, however, the equitable obligations are characterised as incidents of a company law relationship rather than as “contractual”, common law principles determine the applicable law ( company law matters are excluded from Rome I and Rome II).

iii)             If a fiduciary duty arises where the parties were not in a prior relationship, such as in the case of a recipient of trust property, then the “better view” is that the obligation is non- contractual in nature and falls within the ambit of Rome II.

Unlike Sweden, the judge holds there are strong arguments that Swedish law applies, by reference it seems to Dicey, above, i) and with the ‘anchor’ agreement being the one by which Falcon becomes eligible to received PPM funds. Rule ii) seems to be moved aside by the judge here, and at any rate the extent of that rule is not clear-cut (see the CJEU itself recently). It is clear and it was correct to hold that the discussion is not one for summary judgment material.

An interesting final, obiter point comes [91] ff re the ‘reflective loss’ rule (a shareholder (and some others) cannot claim for a fall in the value of their holdings due to loss suffered by the company, if and when the company has a cause of action against the same wrongdoer) under Maltese law. Falcon itself is currently asserting claims against some of the alleged wrongdoers in relation to those same misappropriations, however Sweden argues an exception to that rule on the basis of Maltese expert evidence that was not considered to be robust enough for the summary judgment stage.

I wonder though whether the suggested relevance of the reflective loss rule, does not serve as ammunition for the suggestion that Rome I and II’s corporate carve-out is engaged viz the breach of fiduciary duties claim. For is the DNA of the rule not one of clear lex incorporationis?

To be further pondered.

Geert.

Airbus Investors Recovery v Airbus. Rechtbank Amsterdam unconvincingly on applicable law under Rome II in investor suits.

The blog is back from summer recess with a post on Airbus Investors Recovery Limited v Airbus SE, where the first instance court at Amsterdam by way of preliminary judgment deals with the law applicable to an investor suit. Claimant has had the investment claims of a number of Airbus investors assigned to it. The core of the claim is that Airbus has tortiously caused damage to the investors in both the act, and in the correspondence leading to, and after, settlement with various financial authorities following allegations of corruption in securing aircraft orders. 

Oddly, no reference at all is made to Petrobas, despite the issues there being similar – perhaps the court in Airbus rejected relevance of the Petrobas decision for that case was held prior to CJEU Vereniging voor Effectenbezitters (VVE v BP).

I flagged many of the issues at issue in the judgment, in my post on applicable law which followed the jurisdictional discussion by the CJEU in VVE v BP.

The judgment is in Dutch of course however non-Dutch speakers may refer to it anyway, for the extract of Airbus’ choice of law provisions in the 2019 annual accounts [2.6]. This is relevant with a view to the discussion on transparency obligations following CJEU VVE v BP

The court, and one assumes parties were in agreement for the issue is not discussed, first of all assumes the liability is non-contractual. I continue to be of the view that this need not necessarily be the case. Focusing the discussion on Rome II therefore, the court also accepts readily that the lex societas carve-out of Rome II does not apply (reference is made [5.3] to CJEU Treuhand). Parties are in agreement [5.6] that for Dutch investors, Dutch law applies per Article 4(2) Rome I (shared habitual residence).

[5.10] Airbus absolutely correctly in my view insist that the CJEU’s Brussels Ia application in VVE must not simply be extrapolated to the applicable law issues at stake here. The court essentially disagrees ([5.10] in fine) and in my view it is wrong to do so.

It then [5.111], not entirely convincingly in my view, dismisses application of Article 4(1), holding that this Article in its view always leads to two applicable laws in each investor-Airbus relationship: that of the market in which the shares were bought (which will have subjected the sales to information requirements), always accompanied by Dutch law for that is where in any event listing information needed to be given.

Having ruled out A4(1), it settles for Dutch law under Article 4(3) as the law of the place of the seat of the corporation that issues financial instruments, largely citing predictability. I am not convinced.

Reference to the CJEU, requested by Airbus, is dismissed, as is [5.17] immediate appeal against the applicable law finding. Airbus will no doubt appeal the final judgment to review the issue of applicable law, too. I would suggest they have plenty of reason to do so.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Chapters 2 and 4.

 

Deane v Barker. Foreign law is fact leads to interesting comparative discussion on statutory interpretation (and the Spanish language).

In Deane v Barker & Ors [2022] EWHC 1523 (QB) concerns the frequent and upsetting scenario of falls in rented holiday accommodation. Claimant is habitually resident in England, proceedings were issued in December 2019, and subject therefore to Brussels Ia. Any jurisdictional challenge would have been tricky (but not impossible, seeing as 2 of the defendants are based in Spain; one of them one presumes is sued in E&W on the basis of BIa’s insurance title, the other (the Spanish company which manages the property) on the basis of the anchor mechanism or perhaps forum contractus). At any rate, there is no jurisdictional objection.

The owners of the villa, like the claimant, are domiciled in England and they are being sued on the tort of negligence which, per A4(2) Rome II, makes English law in principle the applicable law to most of the claim (there is also an additional contractual claim against the property manager, said to be subject to Spanish law per the cascade of A4 Rome I; and a claim in tort subject to Spanish law per A4(1) ).

Issues such as the standard of care and breach of duty viz the main claim will be informed by whether the staircase complied with Spanish law safety standards – CTE: that is the result of A17 Rome II. The issues for this preliminary discussion, are [21]

Issue 1 Whether the works conducted at the villa and/or on the staircase were refurbishment works (such as to trigger the application of the CTE) or merely maintenance works (such as not to trigger the application of the CTE)? Issue 2 Whether the villa (and the staircase within it) was for general or public use (such that the material provisions of the CTE would presumptively apply) or for restricted use (such that the same provisions would not apply)? Issue 3 Whether, if the material provisions of the CTE apply, this would in principle give rise to a breach of duty in English and Spanish law?

Issue 1 and 2 depend on the interpretation of foreign law which, in common law courts, is fact and must be proven. The discussion here seems to have turned on lengthy debate on the exact meaning of definitions. That this should be discussed so intensely does not surprise me (unlike the judge who suggested it was unusual): if a definition is of great relevance to the outcome of the case, why should it not be extensively discussed.  The debate also engages the methods of interpretation by the Spanish courts: this leads [38ff] to expert views and discussion that are  interesting with a view to comparative statutory interpretation, and will be of relevance to those with an interest in languages and law.

Geert.

The CJEU confirms a corporation’s general duty of care is not caught by the corporate carve-out. Judgment in ZK v BMA (Peeters Gatzen suit) impacts on business and human rights litigation, too.

The CJEU a little while back held in C‑498/20 ZK v BMA on the applicable law for the Dutch ‘Peeters Gatzen’ suit, for which I reviewed the AG Opinion here. The suit is  a tortious suit brought by a liquidator. In Nk v BNP Paribas the CJEU held at the jurisdictional level it is covered by Brussels Ia, not by the Insolvency Regulation.

A first issue of note, which I discuss at some length in my earlier post, is whether the liability is carved-out from Rome II as a result of the lex societatis provision. The CJEU confirms the AG’s contextual analysis, without repeating his general criterion, emphasises the need for restrictive interpretation, and specifically for the duty of care holds that liability resulting from a duty of care of a corporation’s bodies and the outside world, is covered by Rome II. This is important for business and human rights litigation, too: [55]

Pour ce qui concerne spécifiquement le manquement au devoir de diligence en cause au principal, il convient de distinguer selon qu’il s’agit du devoir spécifique de diligence découlant de la relation entre l’organe et la société, qui ne relève pas du champ d’application matériel du règlement Rome II, ou du devoir général de diligence  erga omnes, qui en relève. Il appartient à la seule juridiction de renvoi de l’apprécier.

The referring judge will have to decide whether the case engages the duty of care vis-a-vis the wider community (including the collectivity of creditors) however it would seem most likely that it does. If it does, locus damni is held, confirming the AG view, to be The Netherlands if the referring judge finds that the insolvent corporation’s seat is based there. The financial damage with the creditors is indirect only and does not establish jurisdiction.

[44] Should a judge decide that they do not have jurisdiction over the main claim, they also and necessarily have to relinquish jurisdiction over the warranty /guarantee claim against a third party under A8(2) BIa. CJEU Sovag is referred to in support.

Geert.

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank v Shetty. Rome II applicable law for fraud, misrepresentation, instructs forum non conveniens stay.

Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank Pjsc v Shetty & Ors [2022] EWHC 529 (Comm) engages Rome II by way of the applicable law to the claim playing a role in the forum non conveniens challenge. (Compare BRG Noal v Kowski for a similar discussion under Rome I). The case confirms the importance of retained Rome I and II discussion. The stage is set at [7]

at the heart of the jurisdiction challenge is an assertion that England is manifestly not the most suitable forum for the resolution of this dispute which all defendants maintain should be resolved by the UAE courts. Unsurprisingly, ADCB places significant reliance for its case that England is the most suitable forum for resolution of this dispute on the fact that Plc was a FTSE 100 quoted company, that the contracts by which the two most important of the Core Facilities were given contractual effect (the Syndicated Facility Agreement and the Club Facility Agreement) were drafted and completed in London by a prominent London law firm and were subject to London arbitration clauses and on its contention that England is the governing law of the dispute. Equally unsurprisingly the defendants emphasise that Plc was a holding company that carried on no active business activity, that the activity in London was essentially administrative in nature, that the lending which it is alleged lies at the heart of the scheme was lending by ADCB (a UAE registered entity trading in the UAE) to entities within the Group including principally Healthcare, all of which were based elsewhere than England and Wales. They maintain that if what is alleged is true then this was from first to last a conspiracy that was conceived and carried into effect in the UAE. They maintain that the governing law is beyond argument UAE law.

I shall limit the post to the Rome II element: Pelling J discusses this [64] ff, with the core element [68-69]:

the damage occurred when a UAE based company drew down against or otherwise benefitted from the Core Facilities offered by a UAE based bank. …ADCB … ultimately acted upon the representations in Abu Dhabi, from where the relevant loan funds were drawn down by NMC Healthcare“.

In the case of a misrepresentation or fraud, the locus damni is held to be the place where that misrepresentation is acted upon. UAE law as lex causae is in fact also and primarily confirmed by A4(2) Rome II: joint place of habitual residence, held [71] to be the UAE. Application of the A4(3) escape clause is dismissed [77], and a passing reference to a potential for A12 Rome II’s culpa in contrahendo leading to English law as the lex contractus, is summarily dismissed [78].

A stay is granted.

Geert.

ValueLicensing v Microsoft. The High Court, in rejecting forum non conveniens, puts great emphasis on only English courts determining the course of English law post Brexit.

In JJH Enterprises Ltd (Trading As ValueLicensing) v Microsoft Corporation & Ors [2022] EWHC 929 (Comm) Picken J makes a debatable point in his discussion of a forum non conveniens application by defendants, Microsoft.

In the proceedings ValueLicensing claim damages arising from alleged breaches of competition law by Microsoft. The claim is a ‘stand alone’ one, not a ‘follow-on’ one. There is no underlying infringement decision of the European Commission (or any domestic competition regulator) on which ValueLicensing can rely to establish that an infringement of competition law has been committed.

Some of the Microsoft entities firstly seek summary dismissal of the case against them, arguing they cannot be held liable for an alleged infringement of either Article 101 or 102 TFEU as a result of an overall Microsoft ‘campaign’ in which they did not demonstrably take part. Here [31] ff there is interesting discussion ia of Provimi (Roche Products Ltd. & Ors v Provimi Ltd [2003] EWHC 961 (Comm)), which held that an entity that implements an agreement in breach of A101 to which a member of the same undertaking is a party can be held liable for the infringement even though the implementer itself does not know of the infringement. Specifically, whether Provimi was wrongly decided following from Cooper Tire Europe Ltd v Bayer Public Co Ltd [2010] EWCA Civ 864  – this is an issue for which CJEU referral is not possible post Brexit.

The judge however refers to the broader concept of ‘undertaking’ in the A101-102 sense following eg CJEU C-882/19 Sumal SL v Mercedes Benz Trucks Espana SL. Sumal, Picken J holds [44], is relevant authority both pre and post Brexit.

Quite how parties see a difference in the lex causae for the competition law infringement pre and post Brexit is not clear to me. Pre Brexit it is said to be ‘English law’ (held to include 101-102 TFEU prior to Brexit), full stop, while post Brexit that law is said to be determined by (retained) Article 6 Rome II, which for same of the claim will be English law as being one of the ‘affected markets’ per A6 Rome II.

It is in the forum non application that the judge posits [78] that an important consideration of England as the more appropriate forum, is

it is clear that Microsoft UK’s position at trial will be that in certain material respects English law has taken a divergent path from EU law. In such circumstances, it would be wholly inappropriate, and certainly undesirable, for a court in Ireland to be determining whether Microsoft UK is right about this. On the other hand, there would be no difficulty with the Court here applying EU competition law, either as part of English law (in respect of the pre-Brexit period and, if that is what the Court determines is the case, also in respect of the post-Brexit period) or as part of the laws of other EU/EEA member states, since the Court here is very experienced in doing just that.

If it is true that under forum non, only English courts can be held properly to determine the direction of English law post Brexit, the hand of many a claimant in forum non applications will surely be strengthened.

Geert.

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.

Of business and human rights note. The French SC in Sherpa, Amis de Terre v Perenco on the law applicable to representative action.

Many thanks indeed Hélène Péroz for flagging Sherpa & Les Amis de la terre France v Perenco ECLI:FR:CCASS:2022:C100199. The issue concerns what law applies to the issue of standing of NGOs in making recourse to France’s action for preserving evidence, in this case evidence relating to a future claim that France’s Perenco is liable for environmental damage in Congo.

The Court of Appeal had held that the issue of standing is subject to lex causae, which under the Rome II Regulation it had identified as the laws of Congo (whether this judgment included discussion of Article 7 Rome II on environmental damage, I do not know) and had declared the claim inadmissible.

The SC correctly in my mind holds that the issue of standing falls under the evidence and procedure carve-out of Rome II and is subject to lex fori, French law. However seeing as that law in the case of public interest litigation such as here requires the claimant to have included the broad purpose of the sector at issue within its scope of activities under its by-laws, the SC also holds that whether a particular claim is within the NGO’s scope, needs to be determined in accordance with its lex societatis.  This leads to the interesting conclusion (of little relevance in casu) that a foreign NGO’s action remit will have to be determined by foreign lex societatis, and that those foreign laws which have a less broad view of corporate scope, may put a spanner in the works of cross-border business and human rights litigation. (Quite easily circumvented one assumes by involving NGOs of an ‘attractive’ jurisdiction).

The SC nota bene does not specify whether its views on corporate (here: NGO) action radius are a result of the corporate carve-out in Rome II.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 4.79 ff.

 

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