Avonwick Holdings. The High Court awkwardly on locus damni, and on ‘more closely connected’ in Rome II.

In Avonwick Holdings Ltd v Azitio Holdings Ltd & Ors [2020] EWHC 1844 (Comm), Picken J among quite a few other claims, at 146 ff discussed a suggested defrauding by misrepresentation of the best available market price for a bundle of stocks. Toss-up was between Ukranian law and English law and, it was suggested, was only relevant with respect to the issue of statute of limitation. Counsel for both parties agreed that the material differences between Ukranian and English law were minor.

They omitted, it seems, to discuss the relationship between statute of limitations and the carve-out in Rome II for procedural issues.

At 151:

It was not in dispute…that the default applicable law under Article 4(1) is the law of Cyprus in that this was the country in which the event giving rise to the damage occurred since, although Avonwick was incorporated in the BVI and its entry into the Castlerose SPA was formally authorised in Ukraine, Avonwick’s directors were based in Cyprus and the steps necessary to transfer its shares in Castlerose to Azitio and Dargamo would, therefore, have been taken by those directors in Cyprus.

Here I am simply lost. A4(1) does not suggest locus delicti commissi (‘country in which the event giving rise to the damage occurred’) rather it instructs specifically to ignore that. Even if a locus damni consideration was at play, for purely economic loss as readers will know, there is considerable discussion on that exact location. How the judgment could have ended up identifying locus delicti commissi is a bit of a mystery.

At 153 then follows a discussion of a displacement of Cypriot law by virtue of A4(3)’s ‘manifestly more closely connected’ rule, including interesting analysis of any role which Article 12’s culpa in contrahendo provision might play.

For the reasons listed at 166 ff, the judge agrees that A4(3) applies to replace Cypriot law with Ukranian (not: English) law. Those reasons do seem to make sense – yet despite this, the A4(1) analysis should have been carried out properly.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 4, Heading 4.5.2.

 

Applicable law and statutes of limitation in CSR /business and human rights cases. The High Court, at least prima facie, on shipbreaking in Bangladesh in Begum v Maran.

Update 28 August 2020 permission to appeal and cross-appeal has been granted and is being additionally sought by both parties on various issues.

Hamida Begum v Maran UK [2020] EWHC 1846 (QB) engages exactly the kinds of issues that I have just posted about, in court rather than in concept. On 30th March 2018 Mr Mohammed Khalil Mollah fell to his death whilst working on the demolition of a defunct oil tanker in the Zuma Enterprise Shipyar in Chittagong (now Chattogram), Bangladesh. On 11th April 2019 the deceased’s widow issued proceedings claiming damages for negligence under the UK Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 and the Fatal Accidents Act 1976; alternatively, under Bangladeshi law. The scope of the proceedings has subsequently been broadened inasmuch as draft Amended Particulars of Claim advance a cause of action in restitution: more precisely, unjust enrichment.

Application in the current case is for strike-out and /or summary judgment (denying liability) hence the legal issues are dealt with at prima facie instead of full throttle level. One or two of the decisions deserve full assessment at trial. Trial will indeed follow for the application was dismissed.

The case engages with the exact issues in exchanges I had at the w-e.

Proceedings have not been brought against the owner of the yard and/or the deceased’s employer. Both are Bangladeshi entities. Maran (UK) Ltd,  defendant, is a company registered in the UK and, it is alleged, was both factually and legally responsible for the vessel ending up in Bangladesh where working conditions were known to be highly dangerous.

Focus of the oral argument has been whether claim discloses viable claims in English law on the basis of tort of negligence (answer: yes) and in unjust enrichment (answer: no).

The issue of liability in tort is discussed on the basis of English law, which is odd at first sight given Rome II might suggest as a starting point Bangladeshi law as the lex causae ; Justice Jay himself says so much, but only at 76 ff when he discusses Rome II viz the issue of limitation. In applications for summary judgment however, reasoning and order of argument may take odd form as a result of the prima facie nature of the proceedings and the conversations between bench and parties at case management stage.

On the tort of neglicence claimant argues under English law, with direct relevance to the current debate on environmental and human rights due diligence, that a duty of care required the defendant to take all reasonable steps to ensure that its negotiated and agreed end of life sale and the consequent disposal of the Vessel for demolition would not and did not endanger human health, damage the environment and/or breach international regulations for the protection of human health and the environment. The EU Ship Recycling Regulation 1257/2013 was suggested as playing a role, which is dismissed by Justice Jay at 24 for the Regulation was not applicable ratione temporis.

At 30, claimant’s case on negligence is summarised:

First, the vessel had reached the end of its operating life and a decision was taken (perforce) to dispose of it. Secondly, end-of-life vessels are difficult to dispose of safely. Aside from the evident difficulties inherent in dismantling a large metal structure, a process replete with potential danger, an oil tanker such as this contains numerous hazardous substances such as asbestos, mercury and radio-active components. Although these were listed for Basel Convention purposes and for the attention of the buyer, and the deceased was not injured as a result of exposure to any hazardous substance, the only reasonable inference is that waste such as asbestos is not disposed of safely in Chattogram. Thirdly, the defendant had a choice as to whether to entrust the vessel to a buyer who would convey it to a yard which was either safe or unsafe. Fourthly, the defendant had control and full autonomy over the sale. Fifthly, the defendant knew in all the circumstances that the vessel would end up on Chattogram beach. Sixthly, the defendant knew that the modus operandi at that location entailed scant regard for human life.

The gist of the argument under tort therefore is a classic Donoghue v Stevenson type case of liability arising from a known source of danger.

At 42 ff Justice Jay discusses what to my mind is of great relevance in particular under Article 7 Rome II, should it be engaged, giving claimant a choice between lex locus delicti commissi and lex locus damni for environmental damage, in particular, the issue of ‘control’. One may be aware from my earlier writings (for an overview see my chapter in the 2019 OUP Handbook of Comparative environmental law) that the determination of the lex causae for that issue of control has not been properly discussed by either the CJEU or national courts. This being a prima facie review, the issue is not settled definitively of course however Justice Jay ends by holding that there is no reason to dismiss the case on this issue first hand. This will therefore go to trial.

As noted Rome II is only discussed towards the end, when the issue of limitation surfaces (logically, it would have come first). Claimant does not convince the judge that the case is manifestly more closely connected with England than with Bangladesh under A4(3) Rome II. Then follows the discussion whether this might be ‘environmental damage’ under Article 7 Rome II, which Justice J at 83 ff holds preliminarily and prima facie, it is. Analysis of Article 7 is bound to be of great importance at trial and /or appeal.

At 85 a further issue for debate is trial is announced, namely whether the one-year statute of limitation under Bangladeshi law, should be extended under Article 26 Rome II’s allowance for ordre public (compare Roberts and CJEU C-149/18 Martins v DEKRA – that case concerning lois de police and statutes of limitation. 

Plenty of issues to be discussed thoroughly at trial.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 8, Heading 8.3.

 

 

Follow-on cartel damages suits and statutes of limitation. No conflicts issues in Granville & Ors v Infineon & Anor.

A quick note on Granville Technology & Ors v Infineon Technologies AG & Anor [2020] EWHC 415 (Comm) which concerns proceedings brought by three companies who were engaged in the assembly and sale of desktop PCs and notebooks. The claims arise from a price-fixing cartel, the subject of findings by the EC in COMP/38511. The Cartel concerned the market for direct random access memory (“DRAM”) and Rambus DRAM used in the manufacture of PCs and Notebooks.

Both Infineon (domiciled at Germany) and Micron Europe (of England) have pleaded, among other defences, that the Claimants’ claims are time-barred under relevant UK limitation statutes – their arguments were partially upheld. I keep the note very short for seemingly not at issue was either jurisdiction or applicable law. Of note is the classic appearance in anchored competition cases of the group liability argument held in Cooper Tire, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co Europe Ltd v Shell Chemicals UK Ltd [2010] EWCA Civ 864 , referred to by Foxton J at 123 (followed by a decision on the need for discovery (held: none here) given the Court of Appeal’s finding in Cooper Tire that anchor defendants have to have been parties or aware of the anti-competitive conduct of their parent company” and that “The strength (or otherwise) of any such case cannot be assessed (or indeed usefully particularised) until after disclosure of documents because it is in the nature of anti-competitive arrangements that they are shrouded in secrecy.”

Geert.

 

 

 

 

 

Pandya v Intersalonika. Plenty of (appealable?) things to chew on re limitation periods and Rome II.

Many thanks 2TG for initially flagging the judgment, and for Maura McIntosh and colleagues not just for further reviewing it but also for sending me copy: for the case has not yet appeared on the usual sites.

In Pandya v Intersalonika [2020] EWHC 273 (QB), Tipples J held that proceedings were time-barred in accordance with Greek law as the lex causae, where the claim form was issued in the English courts before the expiry of the applicable Greek limitation period, but was not served until after that period had expired.

The claim arises out of a road traffic accident that happened in Kos, Greece on 29 July 2012. The claimant is a UK national and was on holiday in Kos with her family when she was struck by a motorcycle as she was crossing the road. The claimant suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and was then aged fifteen. Defendant is the Greek-registered insurance company which provided insurance to the motorcyclist or the motorcycle that he was riding.

That claimant is entitled to sue the insurer in England is not of course, contrary to Tipples J passing reference, a result of Rome II but rather of Brussels IA. Jurisdiction however at any rate was not under discussion.

Defendant then relies on A15(h) Rome II to argue a time bar under Greek law, the lex locus damni: service of the claim is a rule of Greek law in relation to limitation and a claim has to be issued and served to interrupt the limitation period. This means that the requirement of service cannot be severed, or downgraded, to a step which is simply governed by the rules of civil procedure under English law. Claimant by contrast argues that service of the claim is a point of pure procedure, which falls squarely within Article 1(3) and is governed by the rules of civil procedure under English law.

At 25 ff Tipples J discusses the issue (I highlight the most relevant arguments; compare nb with the situation under the Rome Convention in Mineworkers):

  • starting with the principle of autonomous interpretation;
  • further, a need for wide interpretation of A15 which she derives from its non-exhaustive character. I do not agree that non-exhaustive listings necessarily equate broad interpretations;
  • thirdly the need, by contrast, to interpret A1(3) narrowly ‘because it is an exception’ to the general rule of lex locus damni in A4. This too I disagree with: A1(3) states it ‘it shall not apply to evidence and procedure, without prejudice to Articles 21 and 22’ (which concern formal validity and burden of proof). In my view A1(3) like A1(2) defines the scope of application, like A1(2). It is listed separately from the issues in A1(2) for unlike those issues, part of the excluded subject-matter is partially brought back into the scope of application. If anything therefore needs to be interpreted restrictively, it is the partial cover of evidence and procedure.  Seemingly between parties however this was not disputed.
  • Further support is found in Dicey & Morris 15th ed., which refers to Wall v Mutuelle de Poitiers a case which discusses the issues somewhat, yet if anything more in support of English law applying to the discussion in Pandya rather than the other way around. (A reference further on in Andrew Dickinson’s Rome II Volume with OUP in my mind, too, further underlines the opaqueness of the A1 /A15 distinction and does not clearly lend support pro the lex causae argument).
  • Fifth, predictability and certainty are cited in support however how these gazump exclusions from the scope of application is not clear to me.
  • Finally PJSC Tatneft v Bogolyubov is referred to but dismissed as irrelevant (which surprises me).

Held: the claim was time-barred and therefore dismissed.

I would suggest there is plenty of scope for appeal here.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geert.

 

 

Spring v MOD and Evangelisches Krankenhaus Bielefeld. Joinder (based on Article 8(1) Bru I Recast) ultimately fails given limitation period in the lex causae.

[2017] EWHC 3012 (QB) Spring v MDO and Evengelisches Krankenhaus Bielefeld is unreported as far as I can tell (and I have checked repeatedly). Thank you Max Archer for flagging the case and for sending me copy of judgment a few months back. (I am still chipping away at that queue).

In 1997, Claimant was stationed in Germany with the British Army. The Claimant very seriously fractured his right leg and ankle whilst off duty in Germany (the off duty element evidently having an impact – on duty injuries arguably might not have been ‘civil and commercial’). He was then treated at the Second Defendant’s hospital under an established arrangement for the treatment of UK service personnel between the First (the Ministry of Defence) and Second Defendants (the German hospital). Various complications later led to amputation.

The Brussels I Recast Regulation applies for claimant did not introduce the claim against the second defendant until after its entry into force: 18 years in fact after the surgery. This was the result of medical reports not suggesting until after July 2015 that the German hospital’s treatment has been substandard. Rome II ratione temporis does not apply given the timing of the events (alleged wrongful treatment leading to damage).

Yoxall M held that Article 8(1)’s conditions for anchoring /joinder were fulfilled, because of the risk of irreconcilable judgments (at 35). Even if the claim against the First Defendant is a claim based on employer’s liability whereas the claim against the Hospital is based on clinical negligence. Should the proceedings be separate there is a risk of the English and German courts reaching irreconcilable judgments on causation of loss. At 35: ‘It would be expedient for the claims to be heard together – so that all the factual evidence and expert evidence is heard by one court. In this way the real risk of irreconcilable judgments can be avoided.’

With reference to precedent, Master Yoxall emphasised that ‘in considering Article 8(1) and irreconcilable judgments a broad common sense approach is justified rather than an over-sophisticated analysis’ (at 36).

Yoxal M is entirely correct when he states at 37 that Article 8(1) does not include a requirement that the action brought against the different defendants have identical legal bases. For decisions to be regarded as contradictory the divergence must arise in the context of the same situation of law and fact (reference is made to C-98/06 Freeport).

Next however the court considers as a preliminary issue, the limitation period applying between claimant and the German defendant and holds that the Hospital have an arguable case that the claim is statute barred in German law (German expert evidence on the issue being divided). The latter is the lex causae for the material dispute (on  the basis of English residual private international law), extending to limitation periods per Section 1(3) of the Foreign Limitations Period Act 1984 (nota bene partially as a result of the 1980 input by the Law Commission, and not entirely in line with traditional (or indeed US) interpretations of same). This ultmately sinks the joinder.

As a way forward for plaintiff, the Court suggests [2005] EWCA Civ 1436 Masri. In this case the Court of Appeal essentially held that joinder on the basis of Article 8(1) may proceed even if litigation against the England-based defendants are not the same proceedings, but rather take place in separate action. Masri has not been backed up as far as I know, by European precedent: Clarke MR held it on the basis of the spirit of C-189/87 Kalfelis, not its letter. Moreover, how the German limitation periods would then apply is not an obvious issue, either.

An interesting case and I am pleased Max signalled it.

Geert.

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