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.

 

Suppipat v Siam Bank. Unsatisfactory discussion of legal advice privilege and lex fori.

Suppipat & Ors v Siam Commercial Bank Public Company Ltd & Ors [2022] EWHC 381 (Comm) repeats (and indeed refers to) the inadequate discussion of applicable law and privilege in PJSC Tatneft v Bogolyubov which I discuss here.

The application is for an order prohibiting respondents from using or deploying in these proceedings certain documents covered by legal professional privilege and/or containing confidential information, copies of which the respondents obtained pursuant to subpoenas in Thailand.

It is not in dispute apparently [26] and in any event Pelling J would have concluded that whether a document is capable of being privileged is a question to be determined as a matter of English conflicts law by the lex fori, which in this case is English law. That follows not undisputedly from the Rome Regulation which applies to the proceedings as either acquired or retained EU law (it is not clear when the claim form was issued).

The next question that arises is whether the Documents should be treated as privileged in this litigation notwithstanding that they have been obtained by the respondents lawfully by operation of an order of a court of competent jurisdiction in Thailand. This question is discussed as one of an alleged breach of an obligation of confidence (the subpoena in Thailand does not mean that the documents have entered the public domain) and the law that should apply to that obligation which both parties suggest must be discussed under Rome II. Thai law according to the defendants ([38-39] an unjust enrichment /restitution claim under Article 10; alternatively locus damni under the general rule of Article 4 with Thailand as the locus damni, it being the place of disclosure) , however claimants maintain that the issue is to be resolved applying English law for essentially all the reasons set out in the authorities deciding that English law applies to the question whether a particular document is privileged or not.

 

 

Pelling J [40] ff agrees with the claimants and holds that even if Rome II were to apply, both A16 Rome II’s overriding mandatory law rule and A26’s ordre public rule would trump Thai law given the robust nature of legal advice privilege in English law. That statement leads to an incorrect application of both Articles (for starters, A26 requires case-specific, not generic application).

The Rome II discussion cuts many corners and is certainly appealable. The judge’s views put the horse before the cart. Neither Article 16 nor Article 26 are meant to blow a proper Rome II analysis out off the water. Nor as I flagged, does the judgment do justice to the proper application of A16 and 26.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 4.81.

Skat v Solo Capital Partners. When faced with Dicey rule 3, I’ll see your tax claim and raise it to a fraud one.

I reviewed the first instance judgment in Skat v Solo Capital Partners here and concluded that it endangered the effet utile of Brussels Ia (and Lugano). Justice Baker had concluded that all SKAT’s claims were inadmissible as a consequence of Dicey Rule 3. The Court of Appeal has now largely reversed, [Skatteforvaltningen v Solo Capital Partners Llp [2022] EWCA Civ 234] thereby resurrecting a £1,4 billion claim.

SKAT (Danish customs and excise) seeks the return of amounts it says it was wrongly induced to pay out as tax refunds. SKAT is not seeking to recover due and unpaid dividend tax or indeed any tax, because the foundation of its argument is that in the case of the alleged fraud defendants there was no liability to pay tax, no shares, no dividends, no tax and no withholding tax. There was never a taxpayer/tax authority relationship between the Solo etc Applicants or the alleged fraud defendants and SKAT. The mere fact that the alleged fraud is committed in the context of taxation or against a foreign tax authority is insufficient to bring the matter within the rule [SKAT’s counsel arguments, [30]-[31]). To allow the defendants to escape their liability, not in a tax fraud but in a general conspiracy, would also run counter the fraus omnia corrumpit principle [ditto, 62], a point which Flaux C agrees with obiter [146] in a case of a major international fraud..

Flaux C is much less verbose than the submissions before him. Yet again a jurisdictional point was allowed to be litigated to great length – albeit one may appreciate counsel and clients’ energy on those issues given the value of the claim.

[127] the basis of the claim is fraudulent misrepresentation. It is not a claim to unpaid tax or a claim to recover tax at all. It is a claim to recover monies which had been abstracted from SKAT’s general funds by fraud [128]. Even though SKAT may be an emanation of the Danish state, the Dicey revenue rule does not apply [128], neither does the wider sovereign powers rule within Dicey Rule 3:

‘In bringing a claim to recover the monies of which it was defrauded, SKAT is not doing an act of a sovereign character or enforcing a sovereign right, nor is it seeking to vindicate a sovereign power. Rather it is making a claim as the victim of fraud for the restitution of monies of which it has been defrauded, in the same way as if it were a private citizen.’ [129]

This latter reasoning falls short I find of proper criteria to guide its future application, although more is said at [130]: the claim to recover the money is at the core of the Chancellor’s reasoning here and that claim is a straightforward money claim, and [133] ‘the claims are ones which could just as well be brought by a private citizen’. That is the kind of argument which echoes CJEU authority on civil and commercial and to my mind the Court of Appeal could have helped us all by pointing out more specifically to what degree Dicey Rule 3 be informed by CJEU authority on ‘civil and commercial’, regardless of Brexit.

That there would be a detailed examination of the Danish tax regime and possible criticism of it and of SKAT’s systems and control, does not somehow convert the claim into one to enforce that tax regime. Recognition of foreign revenue laws is permissible under Dicey Rule 3 [138].

The position of one of the defendants, ED&F Man, is different in the sense that there is no allegation that they were implicated in a fraud. Although it is alleged that misrepresentations were made by them, the misrepresentations are said to have been negligent.

SKAT has to accept that as against those defendants the claim is inadmissible by virtue of Dicey Rule 3 unless it can satisfy the Court: (i) that the claim is a “civil and commercial matter” not a “revenue matter” for the purposes of Article 1(1) of the Brussels Recast Regulation; and (ii) that the operation of Dicey Rule 3 is precluded because, contrary to the judge’s analysis, it would impair the effectiveness of the Brussels Recast Regulation.

Contrary to the conclusion the judge reached the Court of Appeal finds that the claim against ED&F Man is a “revenue matter” falling outside the Brussels Recast Regulation. Here the Court of Appeals applies parity of reasoning with its assessment of the other claims: [150]:

Whilst the test for the application of Dicey Rule 3 may not be identical to that for determining what is a “revenue etc matter” for Article 1(1) of the Brussels Recast Regulation, it can be seen that its application leads to the same answer. If Dicey Rule 3 applies (as SKAT has to accept it does in relation to the claim against ED&F Man) then by the same reasoning, the basis for the claim by SKAT against those defendants is either a right which arises from an exercise of public powers or a legal relationship characterised by an exercise of public powers, from which it necessarily follows that the claim is a revenue matter outside the Brussels Recast Regulation.

Unfortunately therefore the effet utile argument (that application of Dicey rule 3 impairs the effectiveness of BIa /Lugano, as I had argued in my earlier post) is not discussed [153].

The title of this piece of course hints at the relevance of claim formulation. It is also exaggerated: SKAT cannot conjure up fraud elements out of nowhere to reinvent a tax claim as one in mere tortious and fraudulent misrepresentation. However it is clear that in cases that are somewhat murky, claim formulation will be crucial to navigate Dicey Rule 3.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 2.28 ff.

Kazakhstan Kagazy v Zhunus. Again on qualification and a rather untidy application of Rome II in the context of an assets tracing claim.

Kazakhstan Kagazy Plc & Ors v Zhunus & Ors [2021] EWHC 3462 (Comm), sees Henshaw J unpicking the follow-up to a trial of applications and claims made by the Claimants for the purpose of enforcing an unsatisfied judgment for approximately US$300 million, handed down in December 2017.

The relevant part of the complex judgment, for the purposes of the blog, is a ‘tracing claim’: claimant argue that monies stolen from them by one of the defendants can be traced or followed into a variety of assets said to be held by companies within Cypriot trusts structures for the benefit of said defendant and his family. What is being traced are shares in Exillon, an oil company which Mr Arip developed after he fled Kazakhstan for Dubai. The proceeds of the shares went partially into the purchase of real estate, with another (substantial) part remaining liquid in a Swiss bank account.

Defendants submit that the tracing claim is governed by Kazakh law, and that that law does not recognise the concept of tracing. The judge, with respect, and perhaps he was echoing submissions, takes a rather unstructured approach to the conflict of laws analysis from which the judgment subsequently never recovers. Many first instance judgments in the UK intuitively start by quoting a relevant section from Dicey (whose 16th ed I am told might be out end of 2022), and then somehow engineer the analysis around it. In the case at issue, the Dicey rule that is zoomed in on [85], is disputes over real property, which are subject to lex situs (lex rei sitae). At [88] the judge then refers to Akers v Samba in which the Supreme Court, albeit at the jurisdictional level, held “the situs or location of shares and of any equitable interest in them is the jurisdiction where the company is incorporated or the shares are registered”. [89]:

It would follow that, insofar as relevant, questions of title to the Exillon shares, whose proceeds (a) were used to purchase the Properties and (b) remain in the form of the £72 million in the BJB account in Switzerland, would be likely to be governed by Manx law, Exillon having been incorporated in the Isle of Man.  A possible alternative would be English law on the basis that the shares were traded on the London Stock Exchange.  The parties have in any event agreed that, so far as relevant to these claims, Manx law is the same as English law.

[91] some role for Kazakh law is suggested to still exist when considering whether the English law preconditions for a tracing claim are met.  ‘It is generally a pre-condition of tracing in equity that there be a fiduciary relationship which calls the equitable jurisdiction into being’. [92] The law applicable to a cause of action or issue determines whether a person is required to hold property on constructive or resulting trust, hence it is necessary to consider whether duties imposed by the relevant foreign law are to be regarded as fiduciary.

Only in an afterthought [94] does the judge consider the lex causae governing unjust enrichment, equitable claims and negotiorum gestio, per Rome II as retained in UK law (and in Dicey). [The judgment is not in fact clear on when the claim was introduced and therefore might be subject to acquired as opposed to retained EU law].

The lex causae for the qualification of the current claims (proprietary restitution) as one of these entries in Rome II [96] is matter of factly presented as English law. [99] the judge dismisses the relevance of the succinct Rome II analysis for, harking back to his first reference to Dicey, the fundamental nature of the Claimants’ claim in the present case is held to be a proprietary one hence Dicey’s lex situs rule is said to apply without a need to consider Rome II.

Surely the right order is to qualify the claim, using autonomous EU interpretation, under (retained) Rome I cq Rome II and with reference to CJEU authority- with of course some of the recent qualification issues following CJEU Hrvatske Sume thrown in. Subsequently to only consider the English common law to the extent statutorily retained EU law does not govern the issue. The approach in the judgment is unsatisfactory and in that respect joins Fetch.AI Lrd & Anor v Persons Unknown Category A & Ors [2021] EWHC 2254 (Comm) , which Amy Held and Matthias Lehmann discuss critically this morning.

Geert.

Sánchez-Bordona AG in ZK v BMA on applicable law for the Peeters Gatzen insolvency suit. Includes important suggestions for the corporate life (lex societatis) exception and duty of care.

Sánchez-Bordona AG opined at the end of October on the law applicable to the Peeters /Gatzen suit (of Nk v BNP Paribas fame) in Case C‑498/20 ZK, in his capacity of successor to JM, insolvency practitioner in the insolvency of BMA Nederland BV v BMA Braunschweigische Maschinenbauanstalt AG – ZK v BMA for short. An English version of the Opinion is still not available.

Peeters /Gatzen is a tortious suit brought by a liquidator. In Nk v BNP Paribas the CJEU held it is covered by Brussels Ia, not by the Insolvency Regulation. The obvious applicable law port of call is Rome II. A first point which the AG reviews is a rather important discussion on the lex societatis exception to Rome II. The extent of that exception is important e.g. also for business and human rights cases, for the Peeters /Gatzen suit essentially engages duty of care towards third parties.

The AG emphasises (35) one of my points of attention in the BIa /Rome I/II interplay: that in accepting a certain amount of consistency in interpretation, the courts must nevertheless appreciate each instrument’s autonomy and quite different subject-matter. (46) The reasoning behind the exclusion of the lex societatis from the 1980 Rome Convention is said to be the ambition at the time to harmonise company law across the EU which, as we know from CJEU Daily Mail and all its successors, has still not come true. The AG then refers to the internal /external dimension of corporate relations such as discussed in C‑25/18 Kerr and C‑272/18 Verein für Konsumenteninformation. However he then suggests (51) that the reference to the ‘internal’ dimension of the life of a corporation does not suffice to justify 2 of the examples which Rome II explicitly lists in A1(2)d as being part of the corporate exception: the personal liability of officers and members as such for the obligations of the company or body and the personal liability of auditors to a company or to its members in the statutory audits of accounting documents.

At (52-53) he then posits his way out of the conundrum, immediately acknowledging that the criterion he suggests may not be easily applicable: all contractual and non-contractual elements for which a specific solution exists which emanates from the relationship between those elements and the internal life and mechanisms of a corporation (whether they relate to the internal workings or the external relations), are covered by one statutory corpus, namely the lex societatis. Put differently, they are excluded insofar as and because their corporate law element absorbs all other. Specifically viz non-contractual obligations, if the relevant rule is so ‘drenched’ with elements specific to the corporate law context that it looses its meaning outside that context, that rule qualifies as being part of the lex societatis exception.

He immediately acknowledges (56) that this kind of litmus test is not easy to apply in practice and suggest (57 ff) to employ the ratio legis of the liability at stake to assist with the exercise. If that ratio lies in the general neminem laedere rule, Rome II is engaged. If that ratio however immediately follows from corporate law considerations, such as a director’s loyalty to the corporation, the exception is engaged. The AG lists examples (63), including the scenario at stake in CJEU OFAB. At (66) the AG concludes, albeit not directly, that the Peeters Gatzen suit in all likelihood is not covered by Rome II and he discusses the other questions in subsidiary fashion.

(67ff) with reference ia to CJEU Lazar the CJEU refers to the tricky characterisation of damage as (in)direct and opts in cases such as these that the direct damage occurs in the insolvent (or otherwise facing liquidity issues) corporation: the diminishing impact on the creditors is indirect, ricochet. Locus damni therefore is The Netherlands if the referring judge finds that the insolvent corporation’s estate is based there. (76) Whomever initiates the suit (the insolvency practitioner and /or the creditors) is irrelevant, as is (80) the fact that some of the creditors are located outside the EU.

(83ff) then follows the discussion of A4(3) Rome II’s escape clause (most recently discussed in Scott v AIG). A pre-existing contractual relationship (which the AG suggests (95ff) may also be called upon by claimants that are not party to that relationship) is just one among many factors that may play a role – not a particularly dominant one: (93-94) particularly where such relationship (such as here, taking the form of a credit facility) is one where choice of law was made: A4(3) RII is directed at situations where the non-contractual relationship has a closer connection to a law other than the locus damni. Lex voluntatis does not necessarily reflect the tort’s closer relationship but rather the parties’ voluntary expression.

An important Opinion.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed 2021, para 4.22.,  para 4.39 ff.

O’Loan and Scott v MIB and AIG. On the meaning of ‘the tort’ in Article 4(3) Rome II’s displacement rule.

O’Loan and Scott v MIB and AIG (Fintan O’Loan and Elisabeth Scott v Motor Insurance Bureau and AI Europe SA) involves the same Loi Badinter that was also the subject of Marshall v MIB. I was alerted to the case buy Ian Denham’s post. Judgment is as yet unreported and I am grateful to Ian for having sent me copy.

The contested claim is the one of Ms Scott v AIG. She was the front seat passenger of the hire car, insured by AIG and driven by Mr O’Loan, her partner, when the car was driven into by an uninsured, French registered car. Ms Scott therefore turns to the driver, her partner (in reality, the insurer of the hire car), to have her damage covered under the strict liability (no need to show fault) rule of the French Loi Badinter.

To get to French law however she needs to overcome Article 4(2) Rome II’s provision that in case victim and party claimed to be liable are habitually resident in the same country at the time the damage occurs, the laws of that country apply. A4(3) is the portal to that escape route:

(3) Where it is clear from all the circumstances of the case that the tort/delict is manifestly more closely connected with a country other than that indicated in paragraphs 1 or 2, the law of that other country shall apply. A manifestly closer connection with another country might be based in particular on a pre-existing relationship between the parties, such as a contract, that is closely connected with the tort/delict in question.

It was conceded by both parties [12] that the district judge cut quite a few corners on the A4(3) analysis and Platts J therefore started afresh. Winrow v Hemphill of course was referred to, as was Owen v Galgey (the conclusions of which I disagreed with).

The judge notes (as does the Handbook: para 4.39) that it is important to identify what is meant by “the tort/delict’ in A4(3) before considering whether that tort/delict is more closely connected with a country other than England. A4(3) holds that ‘the tort’ (not individual elements of the tort, such as the event and/or the damage and /or anything singular at all) needs to be ‘more closely connected’.

I disagree with the judge [23] that ‘the tort’ or ‘delict’ clearly refers to the event which caused the damage, or ‘the incident’ [24]. In the case of a tortious obligation ‘the tort’ arguably refers to the classic 3 elements of event, damage, and causal link between the two (all three here clearly referring to France). I do agree it does not refer to the cause of action which arises from the incident [24]. While linguistically speaking that may be caught be ‘the tort’ for it would be one of its consequences, it would also mean that remedies available, or not, for instance would play a role in determining lex causae. Where Rome II envisages such assessment, it says so explicitly: such as in Article 7’s environmental damage rule.

The judge’s reasons for opting for displacement are [30]

I therefore consider the connection with France to be manifestly closer than the connection with England: the collision was in France; it was between two vehicles registered in France; the damage was caused in France in that the initial injury was suffered in France. Further, the circumstances were such that the claim of first claimant is to be dealt with under French law.

That last element is in slight contradiction I find to the judge’s consideration signalled above, that an advance on (remedies available or not under the) lex causae, must not play a role. If that is the case for claimant seeking to overturn A4(2)’s presumption, arguably there must not be a role either for the lex causae of other claims involved in the case.

Of note is the judge’s emphasis on the vehicles both being registered in France. If that is an element, travellers of countries without strict liability rules, might have a strong incentive indeed to hire cars rather than drive their own when driving in EU Member States with strict liability rules such as the Loi Badinter.

Appeal dismissed, for the result is the same (French law applies) even if the route to it was quite different from the first judge.

I do not think the analysis on ‘the tort’ is quite there yet.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, Heading 4.5.2 (para 4.39 ff).

 

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.

Forever chemicals, and suing 3M for PFAS pollution in Europe. A flag on applicable law.

Update autumn 2022 my article on A7 Rome II has now been published: Lex ecologia. On applicable law for environmental pollution, a pinnacle of business and human rights as well as climate change litigation.

On Friday, together with my learned colleague at both Bar and Faculty Isabelle Larmuseau, I was asked to put my environmental law hat on at the Flemish Parliament. I was heard  on the current scandal hitting Flanders following PFAS (‘forever chemicals’) emissions by 3 M at the port of Antwerp. For background to PFAS see here.

Isabelle’s slidedeck for same is here (updated at 09:28 on 31 August to correct earlier pdf which contained an earlier version of the slides), and mine here. Both are in Dutch, with Isabelle’s focusing on the Flemish environmental law angle (albeit with strong EU law influence, necessarily) and mine on the EU and international law context).

Focus of the debate is on environmental /public health law however for my conflicts followers there is a treat. A civil law suit by Belgian and /or other [the port of Antwerp is very close for instance to the Dutch border. Emissions in air, water and soil (for the latter, particularly if exported) clearly impact Dutch citisens, say] claimants against 3M’s Belgian corporate presence is easily pursued both in Belgium (Article 4 Brussels Ia) and in other Member States (Article 7(2) locus damni). Residual private international law in all these States would fairly straightforwardly allow for the suit to be extended to 3M’s corporate mother, based at St Paul, Minnesota.

The more exciting bit is applicable law. The impact of common US (State) law on forever chemicals suits is well documented. Despite EU courts not willing to apply the punitive damages elements of these suits, an application of the other elements of US tort law may well be very attractive to claimants here. Those US laws are certainly within reach of claimants, using Article 7 Rome II. There is no question the damage ‘arises out of’ environmental damage (unlike the hesitation in Begum v Maran). There is certainly merit in the suggestion that locus delicti commissi is in St Paul, Minessota. Like with its fellow manufacturers and industrial users of PFAS, 3M’s worldwide grip on corporate communication and legal strategy on the issue is tight. More importantly, the decision tree on the manufacture, use and emissions of PFAS is arguably equally located at holding level. Reference here can be made to the relevance of Shell’s holding policy in lex causae determination in the recent climate ruling.

Clearly, via A17 Rome II, Flemish and of course European environmental law would play a role (cue Isabelle’s slidedeck for an excellent starter).

A collective action procedure in say The Netherlands in my view would be an ideal strategy to test these most murky waters.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd. ed. 2021, Chapter 4, Heading 4.6.3 (4.54 ff).

Lakatamia Shipping. On (in)direct damage, applicable law (A4(3) Rome II) and conspiracy.

Lakatamia Shipping Co Ltd v Su & Ors [2021] EWHC 1907 (Comm)  discusses i.a. [840 ff; this is a lengthy judgment] the applicable law in the case of conspiracy. Lakatamia advance two claims against the Defendants, the first re dissipation of two assets (net sale proceeds of two Monegasque villas – the Monaco conspiracy and a private jet – the Aeroplane conspiracy)  in breach of a World Wide Freezing Order (“WFO”)  and secondly re intentional violation of rights in a judgment debt.

Lakatamia’s case as claimants is that English law applies to the claims regarding both conspiracies, whilst Madam Su’s case is that Monaco law applies to the claim regarding the Monaco Sale Proceeds and that an unspecified law (but not English law) applies to the Aeroplane Conspiracy.

None of the specific categories of torts in the Rome II Regulation are said to apply, bringing the focus therefore on the general rule of Article 4(1), with firstly its insistence that only direct damage determines lex causae, not indirect damage.

At 843 Bryan J, like claimants, focuses on the judgment:

the focus being on the freezing order and judgment, with the damage to Lakatamia being suffered in England as that is the situs of the Judgment Debt arising out of the Underlying Proceeding in England, policed by the… Freezing Order, and that is where the Judgment Debt stands to be paid, and where Lakatamia suffers damage if it is not paid or the ability for it to be paid is impaired – put another way England is the country where the Judgment Debt should have been paid, and the damage has accordingly occurred here.

To support the point, at 845 ff English and CJEU authority (much of it also reviewed on this blog) under A7(2)BIa is discussed albeit the judge correctly cautions ‘Authorities on the Brussels Regulation are “likely to be useful” but are not of direct application’. Core reference is Pan Oceanic,

(6)  There is a difference between a case in which the claimant complains that he has lost his money or goods (as in the Marinari case [1996] QB 217 or the Domicrest case [1999] QB 548 ) and a case in which the claimant complains that he has not received money or goods which he should have received. In the former case the harm may be regarded as occurring in the place where the money or goods were lost, although the loss may be said to have been consequentially felt in the claimant’s domicile. In the latter case the harm lies in the non-receipt of the money or goods at the place where they ought to have been received, and the damage to him is likely to have occurred in the place where he should have received them: the Dolphin case [2010] 1 All ER (Comm) 473 , para 60 and the Réunion Européenne case [2000] QB 690 , paras 35-36. (emphasis in the original).

I am not entirely convinced. While it is true that the conspiracy clearly impacts on the receipts, this is the consequence of actual behaviour by defendants elsewhere, with actual impact of that behaviour in that same place abroad. I do not think it is inconceivable to qualify the damage in England as ricochet hence indirect damage. The discussion here leads to CJEU Lazar which, it would seem, was not discussed in the proceedings.

At 860 at any rate, the judge lists his reasons for picking English law as the ‘proper law of the tort’ per A4(3) Rome II. This may be a more solid decision than the A4(1) decision.

Geert.

EU Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 4.30, para 4.39 ff.

Applicable law in cases of purely economic loss following judgment in Vereniging van Effectenbezitters.

I have reported before on the jurisdictional consequences of CJEU Vereniging van Effectenbezitters v BP. In this post for the European Association of Private International Law, I give my views on the impact for applicable law.

Geert.

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