Posts Tagged Supreme Court

Lodi Trading, a lotta fog: Kolassa in the Belgian Supreme Court.

Many thanks Michael Verhaeghe  (whom I have the pleasure with jointly to be representing a client) for alerting me to Lodi Trading in which the Belgian Supreme Court applied (and distinguished) Kolassa. Lodi Trading is registered in The Netherlands and seemingly had been duped into transferring funds to a gang of fraudsters.  As always, the judgment is very very scant on factual reference, and I have not been able to find the Court of Appeals’ judgement: if anyone can: Court of Appeal Gent, 8 December 2015.

Like the CJEU itself did clearly in Universal Music, the Hof van Cassatie distinguished Kolassa (although it does not refer to Universal Music in this part of the judgment) by insisting there be circumstances specific to the case, over and above the simple presence of a bank account, which point to the damage occurring in that State.

In Universal Music the CJEU had emphasised the need for case-specific facts for bank accounts to be a relevant factor in determining jurisdiction, by holding that ‘it is only where the other circumstances specific to the case also contribute to attributing jurisdiction to the courts for the place where a purely financial damage occurred, that such damage could, justifiably, entitle the applicant to bring the proceedings before the courts for that place.’ (emphasis added).

What seems (but again: see the joint caveat of the Supreme Court’s judgment being scant and the Court of Appeal’s judgment being untraceable) to be specific to this case is that the Court of Appeal had held in favour of the location of the bank account of recipient of the funds being locus damni, given that ‘internal law’ (by which I take it reference is made to Belgian, not Dutch law) determines that the time of payment is determined by the moment of accreditation of the funds to the beneficiary’s account: not (the alternative reading; but again I am assuming for the judgment’s 10 brief paras do invite speculation) the time of the funds leaving the account holder’s account.

It could well be therefore that the Supreme Court is rebuking the Court of Appeal for having Belgian law enter the equation, given the need for autonomous interpretation of European civil procedure. But I am not entirely sure.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European private international law, second ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Headings 2.2.11.2, 2.2.11.2.7

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The Scottish Government submission to Brexit at the SC, and the EU’s conflict agenda.

For those with an interest in UK constitutional law and its impact on the EU, these evidently are interesting days. I just wanted briefly to flag that the Scottish Government’s submission to the Supreme Court’s Article 50 case contains a short section on the EU’s civil justice agenda. At 48, the submission points out the impact withdrawal will have on the civil justice relations between Scotland, the remainder of the UK, and the EU.

There are plenty of papers out there on the impact of Brexit on conflict of laws. Without the correct arrangements, the UK is bound to lose a lot of its attraction in international dispute settlement. With the falling pound, Christmas shopping in London is particularly attractive to those outside the UK. Forum shopping a lot less so.

Geert.

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CMR and the Brussels regime. The UKSC applies Nipponkoa in BAT /Essers.

Confession time: when teaching the general conflicts course I tend to simply say about Article 71 of the Brussels I Regulation (unchanged in the Recast): ‘it’s complicated’. I have also briefly flagged the Article in my posting on Nickel and Goeldner. I suppose I should not be quite so shy in addressing the relationship even in an introductory conflicts class for, essentially, it is not that complicated at least form a hierarchical point of view. Article 71 mirrors Article 351 TFEU which states that any rights or obligations arising prior to the TFEU shall not be affected by it unless the agreements are not compatible with the TFEU. At stake therefore is a review by the courts whether international agreements between the Member States prior to the creation of the EU, are compatible with the TFEU.

In BAT Denmark v Kazemier and BAT Switserland v Essers, the United Kingdom Supreme Court had to carry out this exercise vis-a-vis the 1956 CMR Convention –   the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road. As Steven Baker notes, Lord Mance kicks off his judgment with the rather delightfully accurate ‘Cigarettes attract smokers, smugglers and thieves’. Tobacco manufactuters are also of course active litigators hence providing us with repeated opportunity to review case-law on a wide variety of contractual and other matters.

In the two appeals, one container load was allegedly hi-jacked in Belgium en route between Switzerland and The Netherlands in September 2011, while another allegedly lost 756 of its original 1386 cartons while parked overnight contrary to express instructions near Copenhagen en route between Hungary and Vallensbaek, Denmark.

The consignors (two of BAT’s corporate vehicles) are claiming against English main contractors who undertook responsibility for the carriage and against sub-contractors in whose hands the cigarettes were when the alleged losses occurred. The carriage was subject to the Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road 1956 (“CMR”), given the force of law in the United Kingdom by the Carriage of Goods by Road Act 1965.

English law and English jurisdiction are said to offer the advantage that such duty and/or taxes are recoverable in a CMR claim against carriers, which is not the case in some other jurisdictions (at 4).

Citing (and reading in a particular way) CJEU precedent, in particular  Nipponkoa Insurance Co (Europe) Ltd v Inter-Zuid Transport BV (DTC Surhuisterveen BV intervening), C-452/12, the Supreme Court held (at 57) that CMR represents a balanced jurisdictional régime adopted across a wide-range of some 55 states, only half of which are Union member states. It did not regard its tailored balance as impinging on any of the principles of Union law which the CJEU would have it check against.

CMR applies therefore and under relevant English application, neither of the defendants can be sued in England.

Geert.

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Toyota v Prolat and the Brussels I arbitration exception. Plus ça change.

In Toyota v Prolat, the High Court was asked by Toyota to confirm the existence of an agreement between parties to arbitrate. The arbitral panel, already seized by Toyota, agreed that it would be best for the Court preemptively to settle this issue since it suspects any ruling by the tribunal itself will be subject to litigation by Prolat. The agreement (existence of which is disputed by Prolat; it had employed an authorised agent, whose signings on behalf of Prolat are disputed) concerns the delivery of sugar by Toyota to Prolat. Prolat objects to the jurisdiction of the tribunal. It has itself started proceedings in Naples for damages for various alleged wrongdoing by Toyota, whether for breach of contract or tort.

The interest of the case for this blog lies in particular with the concurrent proceedings in Italy and the UK. Should the UK decline? The case is subject to Regulation 44/2001, not to the recast. Cooke J holds that ‘This Court is not being asked to interfere with the functions of the Italian court as no form of anti-suit injunction is being sought against Prolat. This Court is being asked to determine whether or not there is an arbitration agreement and to make a declaration in the light of its conclusion.West Tankers is therefore distinguished.  Would, had it applied, Regulation 1215/2012 made a difference? Cooke J held that it would not: ‘Article 1(2)(d) remains unchanged from the earlier Regulation but is more fully explained in paragraph 12 of the Preamble. I was also referred to Article 73 which states that the Regulation will not affect the application of the New York Convention. (…)‘ (at 16)

He concludes ibidem ‘Although it is not yet in force, it was suggested that some might regard the new Regulation as declaratory of the existing state of the law. . The jury on that, as is well-known, is out.

Cooke J further explores the issue of the applicable law to the contract per its putative law (Article 10(1) Rome I). Firm and justifiable conclusion (at 18) there, is: English law.

Geert.

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Supreme Court goes Jules Verne and crosses the HS2 Bridge at high speed. Aarhus, SEA, EIA and supremacy of EU law all fail to make an impact.

In Chapter XXVIII of Jules Verne’s Around the world in Eighty Days, the train driver, egged on by enthusiastic US passengers and despite objections by Passepartout, reverses his train to cross a wobbly bridge (successfully) at high speed. With all passengers on board. It is a favourite chapter of mine and one which comes in handily in risk management classes.

In HS2 Action Alliance v Secretary of State for Transport, the United Kingdom Supreme Court took inspiration from Chapter XXVIII in dismissing all arguments based on the Aarhus Convention, the EIA Directive, the SEA Directive, and supremacy of EU law. These arguments were raised against the UK Government’s  ‘Command paper’, “High Speed Rail: Investing in Britain’s Future – Decisions and Next Steps” . The command papers sets in motion the reality of the development of the HSs high speed rail link between the South of England, the north and Scotland.

Lord Carnwath summarised the legal issues as follows (at 15):

i) SEA whether the DNS in the circumstances of HS2 is a “plan or programme” which “sets the framework for development consent” and was “required by administrative provisions” within the meaning of articles 2-3 of Directive 2001/42/EC (“the SEA Directive”).

ii) Aarhus whether if the interpretation of the majority in the Court of Appeal is correct, article 3(2)(a) of the SEA Directive is inconsistent with article 7 of the Aarhus Convention, and if so with what consequences.

iii) EIA/Hybrid Bill whether the Hybrid Bill procedure as proposed meets the requirements of Directive 2011/92/EU (“the EIA Directive”), taking account in particular that (a) issues of principle will be excluded from the Select Committee stage, and (b) the debate on the Bill at Second and Third Reading will be subject to a Government whip.

iv) Timing whether the court should intervene at this stage, or whether the court should wait until the Parliamentary process is completed;

v) CJEU reference whether any of the above questions raise uncertain issues of European law on which a reference should be made to the European court.

David Hart QC superbly summarises the Court’s findings and much of its reasoning over at the Human Rights blog and I am happy to refer my readers to him to get, well, up to speed on the judgment. I should simply like to point out that the Court’s boldness lies not so much in the merits of its decision, rather in the more or less belligerent wording and indeed telling off aimed at the Court of Justice.

With respect to Strategic Environmental Assessment – SEA [aimed at ensuring that environmental impacts are identified upstream, by ensuring that programs and plans which will lead to EIA-bound projects, are vetted themselves], a command paper formally does not set anything in stone about the ensuing (or not) development of the project which it will lead to. Much can still change and Members of Parliament have every right and prerogative to have the project amended or indeed scrapped altogether. However, clearly this is a project the realisation of which the government will want to ensure. It is in my view not merely ‘policy’, but a proper plan. Whence in reality this is exactly the kind of program which the SEA Directive had in mind when pressing for impact assessment upstream. Like the train carrying Passepartout et al, the adoption of this Command Paper has set in motion developments which will be all but impossible to stop. With one step following logically from the other, the intentions addressed in the Command Paper display a high degree therefore of fait accompli. The intent and purpose of the SEA Directive in my view does require its application in casu. I appreciate however that intent and purpose as interpretative tool is met lukewarmly by the Supreme Court. (I grant moreover that the Supreme Court does justifiably criticise some of the ECJ’s case-law on the EIA Directive, where very clear provisions nevertheless were altered in their meaning by reference to intent and purpose. The ‘claris’ in ‘in claris non fit interpretatio’ clearly lies in the eye of the beholder).

Of particular EU institutional interest is the Supreme Court’s reference to the Bill of Rights (at 206), Parliamentary Sovereignty, and the 2013 Bundesverfassungsgericht’s judgment on  the Counter-Terrorism Database Act. (Translated by the SC in relevant part as as part of a co-operative relationship, a decision of the Court of Justice should not be read by a national court in a way that places in question the identity of the national constitutional order). The SC is right in pointing out the difficulty under the doctrine of separation of powers, of courts second-guessing not the way in which data were put before parliament, but rather how members of that parliament subsequently interpret and apply those data. More generally, though, in suggesting, when criticising the ECJ judgments on that role of the courts, to restrain the ECJ in its interpretative space, the Supreme Court inevitably joins the queue of national supreme courts which are jittery about the positioning of the ECJ (and the ECtHR) on their turf.

This judgment is of very high relevance both for EIA and SEA, and for EU Institutional law. No doubt much more to be chewed on.

Geert.

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Extended producer responsibility, former students and Israeli law – The Supreme Court in Eitanit construction products

Eitanit construction products (formerly known as Isasbest) failed in its judicial review of an Israeli Act which holds producers of hazardous materials (partially) liable for the remediation costs following pollution by said materials. The Israeli High Court rejected the asbestos manufacturer’s arguments, which were mainly based, I understand, on the protection of property rights. It upheld instead the application of the polluter pays principle. It also referred to a cradle to grave /well to wheel approach which is evident in for instance the European Union’s extended producer responsibility scheme.

In doing so, it referred to Aaron Ezroj’s 2009 article Extended Producer Responsibility Programs in the European Union, 20 Colo. J. J. Int’l L. & Pol’y 199. Aaron is a former student of mine, the article is based on his master paper here at Leuven.

I have yet to see an English version of the judgment. I have a Hebrew version on file for those versed in the language. English language reporting is available from Jonathan Zasloff and on JSpace. Discussion also included the principle of equality (non-discrimination) and retroactivity of Statute.

Geert.

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Supreme Court confirms broad use of anti-suit injunctions to support arbitration

The UK Supreme Court confirmed on 13 June the broad use of anti-suit injunctions in Ust-Kamenogorsk. I have reported earlier (e.g. here) on the tension between the common law and the ECJ over the use of anti-suit injunctions. The judgment only holds for injunctions served outside of the Brussels-I (and Lugano) States.  The case at issue was peculiar in that no arbitral proceedings had been commenced or were as yet proposed – however the respondent remained concerned that the appellant would seek to bring further court proceedings in Kazakhstan in breach of the contractual agreement that such disputes should be subject to arbitration in London. As a result the respondent continued with the proceedings.

Geert.

Supreme Court Press Release

Background to the appeals. The appellant is the owner of a hydroelectric power plant in Kazakhstan. The respondent is the current operator of that plant. The concession agreement between the parties contains a clause providing that any disputes arising out of, or connected with, the concession agreement are to be arbitrated in London under International Chamber of Commerce Rules. For the purposes of this appeal the parties are agreed that the arbitration clause is governed by English law. The rest of the concession agreement is governed by Kazakh law.

Relations between the owners and holders of the concession have often been strained. In 2004 the Republic of Kazakhstan, as the previous owner and grantor of the concession, obtained a ruling from the Kazakh Supreme Court that the arbitration clause was invalid. In 2009 the appellant, as the current owner and grantor of the concession, brought court proceedings against the respondent in Kazakhstan seeking information concerning concession assets. The respondent’s application to stay those proceedings under the contractual arbitration clause was dismissed on the basis that the Kazakh Supreme Court had annulled the arbitration clause by its 2004 decision.

Shortly thereafter the respondent issued proceedings in England seeking (a) a declaration that the arbitration clause was valid and enforceable and (b) an anti-suit injunction restraining the appellant from continuing with the Kazakh proceedings. An interim injunction was granted by the English Commercial Court and the appellant subsequently withdrew the request for information which was the subject of the Kazakh proceedings. However, the respondent remained concerned that the appellant would seek to bring further court proceedings in Kazakhstan in breach of the contractual agreement that such disputes should be subject to arbitration in London. As a result the respondent continued with the proceedings. The English Commercial Court found that they were not bound to follow the Kazakh court’s conclusions in relation to an arbitration clause governed by English law and refused to do so. The Commercial Court duly granted both the declaratory and final injunctive relief sought.

The appellant appealed to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on the grounds that English courts have no jurisdiction to injunct the commencement or continuation of legal proceedings brought in a foreign jurisdiction outside the Brussels Regulation/Lugano regime where no arbitral proceedings have been commenced or are proposed.

Judgment. The Supreme Court unanimously dismisses the appeal. The English courts have a long-standing and well-recognised jurisdiction to restrain foreign proceedings brought in violation of an arbitration agreement, even where no arbitration is on foot or in contemplation. Nothing in the Arbitration Act 1996 (“the 1996 Act”) has removed this power from the courts. The judgment of the court is given by Lord Mance.

Reasons

  • § An arbitration agreement gives rise to a ‘negative obligation’ whereby both parties expressly or impliedly promise to refrain from commencing proceedings in any forum other than the forum specified in the arbitration agreement. This negative promise not to commence proceedings in another forum is as important as the positive agreement on forum [21-26].
  • § Independently of the 1996 Act the English courts have a general inherent power to declare rights and a well-recognised power to enforce the negative aspect of an arbitration agreement by injuncting foreign proceedings brought in breach of an arbitration agreement even where arbitral proceedings are not on foot or in contemplation [19-23].
  • § There is nothing in the 1996 Act which removes this power from the courts; where no arbitral proceedings are on foot or in prospect the 1996 Act neither limits the scope nor qualifies the use of the general power contained in section 37 of the Senior Courts Act 1981 (“the 1981 Act”) to injunct foreign proceedings begun or threatened in breach of an arbitration agreement [55]. To preclude the power of the courts to order such relief would have required express parliamentary provision to this effect [56].
  • § The 1996 Act does not set out a comprehensive set of rules for the determination of all jurisdictional questions. Sections 30, 32, 44 and 72 of the 1996 Act only apply in circumstances where the arbitral proceedings are on foot or in contemplation; accordingly they have no bearing on whether the court may order injunctive relief under section 37 of the 1981 Act where no arbitration is on foot or in contemplation [40].
  • § The grant of injunctive relief under section 37 of the 1981 Act in such circumstances does not constitute an “intervention” as defined in section 1(c) of the 1996 Act; section 1(c) is only concerned with court intervention in the arbitral process [41].
  • § The reference in section 44(2)(e) of the 1996 Act to the power of the court to grant an interim injunction “for the purposes of and in relation to arbitral proceedings” was not intended to exclude or duplicate the court’s general power to grant injunctive relief under section 37 of the 1981 Act [48].
  • Service out of the jurisdiction may be affected under Civil Procedure Rule 62.2 which provides for service out where an arbitration claim affects arbitration proceedings or an arbitration agreement; this provision is wide enough to embrace a claim under section 37 to restrain foreign proceedings brought or continued in breach of the negative aspect of an arbitration agreement [49].

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