Posts Tagged statute of limitations
Done but not dusted. Sophocleous v Foreign Secretary (historic human rights infringement): common law conflicts history (double actionability, tort) at the Court of Appeal.
 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  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 The 1995 Act has itself been largely superseded by the provisions of the Rome II Convention (sic) but that likewise only applies to events occurring after its entry into force.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.
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.
 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  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.
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 184.108.40.206.