Troke v Amgen. On lex causae for interest and the procedural exception of Rome II.

Troke & Anor v Amgen Seguros Generales Compania De Seguros Y Reaseguros SAU (Formerly RACC Seguros Compania De Seguros Y Resaseguros SA) [2020] EWHC 2976 (QB) is an appeal against a decision of the country court at Plymouth. It has a case-name almost as long as the name of some Welsh villages (that’s an observation, I mean no disrespect. I live in a country which has villages names such as Erps-Kwerps; but I stray).

For brevity’s sake I suspect it is best shortened to Troke v Amgen. The case involves only the rate of interest awarded on what were otherwise agreed awards of damages against the defendant insurer  to the  claimant, victims of a road traffic accident in Spain.

Spanish law is lex causae. Rome II like Rome I excludes “evidence and procedure…”. The extent of this exception is not settled as I have discussed before. Of particular recurring interest is its relation with Article 15 ‘scope of the law applicable’ which reads in relevant part for the case

 “15. The law applicable to non-contractual obligations under this Regulation shall govern in particular: (a) the basis and extent of liability… (…) (c) the existence, the nature and the assessment of damage or the remedy claimed; (d) within the limits of powers conferred on the court by its procedural law, the measures which a court may take to prevent or terminate injury or damage or to ensure the provision of compensation;”

Griffiths J refers in particular to Actavis v Ely Lilly and to KMG v Chen, and at 45 holds obiter that were the interest a contractual right, it would clearly not be covered by Rome I’s exclusion for procedural issues seeing as it would then clearly amount to a substantive right under the contract.

At play here however is Rome II. Griffiths J first refers to a number of inconclusive precedent on the interest issue under various foreign applicable laws, to then note at 65 ff that the judge in the county court whose findings are being appealed, was informed in the expert reports that the interest sought under Spanish law were not mandatory ones but rather discretionary ones: the terminology used in the expert report which determined that decision was ‘contemplates’.

This leads Griffiths J to conclude ‘I reject the argument that the Expert Report was describing a substantive as opposed to a procedural right to interest. It follows that the Judge was right not to apply the Spanish rates as a matter of substantive right to be governed by the lex causae.’

This is most odd. It could surely be argued that a discretionary substantive right is still a substantive right, and not a procedural incident. Whether the right is mandatory or discretionary does not in my view impact on its qualification as being substance or procedure.

The judge’s findings

It follows that I agree with the Judge that the award of interest in this case was a procedural matter excluded from Rome II by Article 1(3); that there was no substantive right to interest at Spanish rates to be awarded to the Claimants under the lex causae; that interest could be awarded under section 69 of the County Courts Act 1984 as a procedural matter in accordance with the law of England and Wales as the lex fori; and that he was entitled to award interest at English and not Spanish rates accordingly.

in my view surely therefore most be appealable.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 4, Heading 4.8.

Third edition forthcoming February 2021.

The governing law of privilege. The Dutch courts in re Shell.

This item has been in the queue a long time – apologies. Thank you Marco Vogels for reporting end of 2019 on the Rotterdam court’s approach re privilege in ECLI:NL:RBROT:2019:7856, a criminal prosecution involving Shell. Marco’s report is most complete and I am happy to refer.

Compare the Dutch approach to my earlier reports on the issue in England and in the US. The Rotterdam court takes the law of the place of establishment of the (self-employed) solicitors as the connecting factor, ditto for in-house lawyers (on which The Netherlands takes an unusual (bu continental European standards) position of professional privilege). However the court also held that privilege falls away for the whole in-house legal department and all its lawyers, foreign established or not, if the head of legal is member of the Executive Committee.

Geert.

The RBS rights issue litigation: A missed opportunity for choice of law re privilege to go up to the UKSC.

Update 15 September 2018 the Court of Appeal has overturned on the substance of the case but not on the applicable law issue.

Update 6 January 2018. Thank you Gordon Nardell QC for signalling that the CA has given leave to appeal in [2017] EWHC 1017 (QB) Serious Fraud Office (SFO) v Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation Ltd. The issues there are  summarised by Gordon’s learned friend Christopher Newman here. Appeal in SFO v ENR will give an opportunity to the Court of Appeal to address many of the same privilege issues – although not perhaps lex causae.

Welcome to this end of 2018.

Thank you Kate Wilford for flagging [2016] EWHC 3161 (Ch) The RBS Rights issue litigation. The litigation concerns a rights issue of shares in the Royal Bank of Scotland (“RBS”) which was taken up in 2008. By the various actions, shareholders in RBS seek to invoke statutory remedies against RBS under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 (“FSMA”) whereby to recover substantial investment losses incurred further to the collapse of RBS shares. The prospectus for the Rights Issue was argued not be to accurate or complete.

The case at issue was held December 2016 but has only now come to my attention. Of note to this blog is one of the three issues that were sub judice: whether RBS is entitled to rely on the federal law of the USA as the law applicable to the particular issue, and if so, whether under that law the claim of privilege is maintainable: Hildyard J referred to this as “the Applicable Law Point”. It is discussed under 129 ff.

As Kate notes, the issue was concerned with the availability of legal advice privilege over records of interviews conducted by US lawyers in a fact-gathering investigation. RBS contended that the English court should have applied US privilege rules, which would have afforded the interview records a much broader degree of protection against disclosure.

I reviewed privilege and applicable law in my post on  People of State of New York v. PriceWaterhouseCoopersalbeit that in that case the toss-up was between different States’ law, not federal law. Hildyard J discusses the English 1859 authority Lawrence v Campbell: lex fori applies. Particular attention is paid to the in my view rather convincing arguments of Adam Johnson (who has since taken silk) as to why this 1859 authority should no longer hold, see 145-147.  Yet his arguments were all rejected, fairly summarily. RBS’ lawyers proposed an alternative rule (at 137): “Save where to do so would be contrary to English public policy, the English court should apply the law of the jurisdiction with which the engagement or instructions, pursuant to which the documents came into existence or the communications arose, are most closely connected.”

Rome I or II did not feature at all in the analysis – wrongly I believe for there could have been some useful clues there and at any rate the applicable law rules of the Regulations certainly apply to the litigation at issue and should have been considered.

Now, there seems to have been consensus that the case was Supreme Court material – however RBS did not pursue the point. We’ll have to wait therefore until another suitable case comes along which I imagine should not be too long in the making.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 1.