La coopération judiciaire en matière commerciale - Première session

 

 

Compte-rendu

 

 

Rapport Sir Jonathan Mance (anglais)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Compte-rendu :

14 et 15 octobre 2004

 

Modérateur : M. Pierre Bézard, président honoraire de la Chambre Commerciale de la Cour de Cassation de France et membre du Comité Technique du CREDA

Le rapporteur, Lord Justice Mance de la Court of Appeal de Londres a souligné quant à l’élargissement de l’Europe que les compétences juridictionnelles étaient un sujet de grande importance. Il évoquerait au Forum la question des clauses de juridiction, de la concurrence des procédures ainsi que des « anti-suit injunctions ». Deux décisions récentes de la Cour de Justice Européenne sous la Convention de Bruxelles (désormais Règlement 44/2001, excepté pour le Danemark), en avaient établi les bases : Erich Gasser v. Misat C-116/02 et Turner v. Grovit C-159/02.

Sous le régime de Bruxelles, la règle de base était que les défendeurs devaient être assignés dans leur pays de domicile. Cependant, même cette règle permettait un certain « forum shopping ». L’article 21 (désormais article 27) mit en place un « simple test de priorité chronologique. » Par contraste, l’article 17 (désormais article 23) garantissait la validité générale des accords de juridiction exclusive en conférant la juridiction exclusive sauf s’il en était conclu autrement. Une fois que les parties s’étaient entendues sur la juridiction, les tentatives par l’une ou l’autre de l’éviter ne devaient pas être encouragées. Malheureusement, la décision de la CJCE dans l’affaire Gasser pourrait encourager ce genre de pratique. Dans son arrêt, la CJCE a décidé qu’un tribunal saisi en second devait toujours, sous l’article 21 (désormais article 27) déférer l’affaire au juge étranger saisi en premier, même dans le cas où l’affaire avait été commencée devant le juge saisi en premier en contravention d’une clause de juridiction exclusive en faveur du juge saisi en second. La Convention, selon la Cour, reposait nécessairement sur la confiance mutuelle et cherchait à assurer la clarté du droit.

Selon Lord Justice Mance, tous les systèmes juridiques européens avaient pour objectif la confiance mutuelle et les délégués présents au forum étaient en partie là pour créer cette confiance. Si les parties contractantes choisissaient une juridiction particulière, leur choix devait être vu en considération du fait que des juridictions différentes offrent des produits juridiques différents aux attraits différents. Le respect de l’intégrité des contrats commerciaux et la prévention des manœuvres tactiques devait être au cœur du droit. Une partie ne devrait pas avoir à assigner dans l’Etat B afin de démontrer que l’Etat A était celui de l’accord alors que ceci était évident. Lord Justice Mance n’a pas cherché à montrer qu’il y avait une meilleure solution que celle adoptée dans la décision Gasser, mais simplement à souligner l’émergence de certains problèmes qu’il faudra résoudre.

Le premier problème apparent concernait l’impact de l’arrêt Gasser sur les situations de compétence exclusive de l’article 16 (désormais article 22) ; à première vue, le Rapport Schlosser ne laissait pas de marge de distinction entre la compétence exclusive dans ce contexte et la prorogation de compétence sous l’article 17 (désormais article 23). Ensuite, on pouvait s’attendre à ce que les avocats des demandeurs mettent en œuvre tous les moyens possibles lorsque l’autre partie agissait en contravention d’une clause de for. Deux éventualités avaient été discutées jusqu’à présent. La première était relative à la compatibilité de la décision Gasser avec la jurisprudence de la Cour Européenne des Droits de l’Homme dans les cas ou le juge saisi en premier n’avait pas résolu la question juridictionnelle dans un délai raisonnable. La seconde était relative à la demande potentielle de dommages-intérets devant le juge choisi pour violation de la clause de for.

Lord Justice Mance, évoquant le contexte international, était d’avis que la doctrine française récente se référant au « devoir de confiance » illustrait le problème suivant : la confiance n’était pas un devoir ; elle était un fait si elle existait, sinon ce n’était qu’une aspiration. L’Europe avait l’avantage de pouvoir offrir des services dans un environnement légal sécurisant et la décision Gasser n’assurait pas cette sécurité.

Enfin, Lord Justice Mance a mentionné les « anti-suit injunctions » et l’interdiction totale imposée par la CJCE à ce propos dans l’affaire Turner, se référant encore au devoir de confiance mutuelle. Il semblait que les « anti-suit injunctions » étaient encore admises si elles étaient faites (i) dans le respect de la procédure dans les Etats non adhérents au régime de Bruxelles et (ii) dans le respect de la procédure dans les autres Etats européens qui n’entraient pas dans le cadre du régime de Bruxelles. Un des domaines significatifs de cette dernière catégorie était l’arbitrage et la question était de savoir si ce domaine échapperait à la rigueur de l’approche Turner. Cela pourrait avoir un impact sur la décision de parties commerciales d’arbitrer à Londres, Paris, Genève ou New York.

Le modérateur, M. Bézard a ensuite souhaité la bienvenue aux délégués et a souligné qu’il était très positif de voir l’Europe se développer à ce point et de voir qu’aujourd’hui les systèmes de common law et de droit civil convergeaient.

M. Kelly, juge à la High Court de Dublin, fut le premier intervenant. Selon lui, la CJCE avait émasculé un chef de juridiction qui existait depuis des siècles sans proposer une solution alternative satisfaisante. Il se demanda comment les décisions de la CJCE étaient conciliables avec la jurisprudence de la CEDH, et donna un exemple des problèmes causés par les décisions récentes de la CJCE dans l’affaire de la faillite de Parmalat en Italie et en Irlande.

M. Kerstin Calissendorf, juge à la Cour Suprême de Suède, lui n’était pas convaincu que la solution anglaise était correcte ; l’opinion de l’avocat général dans Gasser était basée sur l’existence d’un choix clair de juridiction. Mais comment faire si (comme dans Gasser) la solution n’était pas claire ? Dans ce cas, il y avait un risque réel de procédures parallèles avec des jugements inconciliables. Y avait-il res judicata ? Qu’en était-il de l’exécution du jugement ? L’origine du problème résidait dans la lenteur de la procédure. M. Calissendorf se demanda aussi si les « anti-suit injunctions » était conciliables avec l’article 6 de la Convention Européenne des Droits de l’Homme.

Le Dr. Eddy Bauw, Conseiller au Conseil judiciaire des Pays-Bas, juge substitut de la Cour d’appel d’Arnhem, fut le troisième intervenant. Il dit que Gasser et Turner posaient seulement un problème pour le Royaume-Uni car les « anti-suits » étaient typiquement un phénomène anglo-américain. Il pensait qu’après Gasser, les accords écrits étaient recommandables et que la confiance mutuelle devait être un pilier de l’Union Européenne.

Une discussion s’ensuivit où contribuèrent entre autres M. Pluyette, conseiller à la Cour de Cassation de France et M. Elmer, vice-président de la Maritime and Commercial Court de Copenhague.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rapport Sir Jonathan Mance (anglais)

Problems of enforcement of european law

October 14-15 2004

 

 

Civil Jurisdiction in Europe

Choice of Court Clauses, Competing Litigation and Anti-Suit Injunctions

Erich Gasser v. Misat and Turner v. Grovit

Sir Jonathan Mance

(Address to Second Conference of European Commercial Judges

Paris – 14 th October 2004)

 

The enlargement of the EU makes jurisdiction a subject of great importance. I shall consider the topics of choice of court or jurisdiction clauses, competing litigation and anti-suit injunctions. They involve interesting conflicts between theory and practice.

In a speech to the European Union Summit in 1994 Jacques Delors said that “You cannot be a true idealist, without being a realist”. He was aiming at the sort of idealist whom H. L. Mencken had in mind, when he said : “An idealist is one, who

noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup”. But matters are never simple, because if H. L. Mencken had substituted rose tea for soup, he might even have been right.

Two recent decisions of the European Court of Justice establish the modern scene. That court is still primarily a court dealing with technical issues of competition, trade and finance. But it is also the final arbiter of issues arising under the Brussels regime - formerly a convention, now (save in relation to Denmark) a regulation No. 44/2001. In Erich Gasser v. Misat Case C-116/02, a reference from Austria, and Turner v. Grovit Case C-159/02, a reference from the United Kingdom, the Court has decided issues of fundamental importance to the operation of the Brussels regime, and to international litigation and even arbitration generally (1).

The Brussels regime

Let me start with some familiar background. The primary rule under the Brussels regime is that defendants should be sued in their country of domicile. But even that rule allows some forum shopping. A claim for a declaration of non-liability is as capable of founding jurisdiction as a claim for positive relief (cf Gubischmaschinenfabrik C-144/86 and The Tatry [1995] 1 Ll.R. 302). The scheme contains alternative jurisdictional bases (e.g. in contractual matters, the place of performance of the obligation in question). These multiply the possibilities. So, the scheme regulates situations of concurrent litigation in different states. Art. 21 (now 27) adopts “a simple test of chronological priority”. It gives priority to the court “first seised” (jurisdiction de la premiére saisie). The Regulation now seeks to give that concept a more precise meaning linked to institution of the suit or, if earlier, service, although it still leaves room for dispute, because of intangible qualifications relating to service contained in its new provisions.

When two parties contract, jurisdictional issues lie in the future. Choice of court clauses are a significant international development of the last century, designed to introduce certainty into that future. Parties agree to pre-empt jurisdictional disputes by choosing a particular jurisdiction, usually exclusive ; it may be a neutral jurisdiction or it may result from one party’s insistence or preference. With limited exceptions for cases where there may be unequal bargaining power (insurance, consumer and employment contracts), art. 17 of the Convention (23 of the Regulation) guarantees the general validity of such agreements in conferring exclusive jurisdiction unless otherwise agreed. This is so, whether or not either party is domiciled in a Contracting or Member State.

Before 1978, art. 17 (now 23) required such agreements to be “in” or “evidenced in” writing - concepts narrowly construed in Estasis Salotti Case C-24/76 [1976] ECR 1831 and Segoura Case C-25/76 [1976] ECR 1851. But in 1978 the article was expanded to embrace agreements in a form according with the parties’ established practice or (in international trade or commerce) with a usage of which they knew or ought to have known and which was widely known to and regularly observed by parties to such contracts in the particular trade or commerce. I understand that ther are still differences between, e.g. France and England, in the detailed application of this article. But, whatever the detailed position, it is clear, as identified in Erich Gasser (para. 50), that the whole revised article depends on “real consent”. It reflects the basic democratic principle of free choice. And once parties have agreed on a particular jurisdiction, attempts by one or other of them to evade it should not be encouraged.

Erich Gasser v. Misat

Unfortunately, the European Court’s decision in Erich Gasser may well encourage such attempts. And the result may not merely hamper effective dispute resolution in European countries. It may even affect some commercial concerns’ willingness to agree to litigate (as distinct from arbitrate) anywhere in Europe.

In Erich Gasser the reference came from the Oberlandesgericht Innsbruck. The Austrian company Gasser had for years supplied the Italian company Misat with childrens’ garments, invoicing them on terms providing for exclusive Austrian jurisdiction. In April 2000 Misat began proceedings against Gasser in Rome for a declaration that it was not responsible for a breakdown in relations and certain loss and expenses. In December 2000 Gasser began proceedings in Austria for non-payment of price, relying on the past invoices, to which Misat had never objected, giving the Austrian court exclusive jurisdiction over all disputes. The Oberlandesgericht referred several questions to Luxembourg. One was whether it, as the court second seised, had under art. 21 (now 27) to defer to a foreign court, in which proceedings had been begun contrary to an agreement assigning exclusive jurisdiction to the Austrian court. Another was whether it would make any difference that the foreign proceedings would take an excessively lengthy time in breach of art. 6 of the Human Rights Convention ; and a further question was whether, if so, Italian law No. 89 of 24 th March 2001 had any relevance.

Italian law No. 89 was passed to provide compensation in the Italian courts for delays occurring in cases before Italian courts, contrary to article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights. It was passed because the number of Italian claimants claiming compensation in Strasbourg for such delays threatened to overwhelm the European Court of Human Rights. 375 out of 695 judgments of the European Court of Human Rights in 2000 apparently involved such cases. An Italian advocate, S. Franzosi, suggested as long ago as 1977 that a defendant wishing to avoid or delay the issue of litigation in another European country should commence proceedings for a negative declaration in Italy – a tactic to which he gave a name which appears in the title of his article : 1977 “Worldwide Patent Litigation and the Italian Torpedo” [1977] 7 EIPRev. 382. In the leading European Court case on the scope of the provisions of the Brussels regime regarding choice of court clauses (Trasporti Castelletti v. Hugo Trumpy Case C-159/97), it took some ten years for the case to get through the Italian courts and, one should add, a further two years for the European Court to decide it. It would be unfair however to concentrate on Italy, and the Italian judiciary is, I know from my own discussions with them, as concerned as anyone to do something about a problem which has many complex origins. Other countries have similar or different problems. The English problem is high legal (not court) costs. There are various reasons, language, proximity, cost, etc. why one party may wish to litigate in a country (state B) other than that which he originally agreed (state A). The question is whether he should be allowed to do so flagrantly and to thwart proceedings in the chosen country in the meanwhile.

The Advocate General in Gasser was M. Philippe Léger. In a comprehensive and nuanced Opinion, he drew the analogy between exclusive jurisdiction under art. 16 (now 22) and 17 (now 23). In paragraphs 57, 62 and 66-68, he pointed out that, if art. 21 (now 27) prevailed, it would “seriously compromise” the utility of art. 17 (now 23) and the legal certainty to which it contributed. He went on :

“67. …. In effect, … the party who, in violation of his obligations resulting from the agreed choice of jurisdiction, has first initiated proceedings before a tribunal which he knows to be incompetent could abusively delay the resolution of the dispute on the merits when he knows that this would be unfavourable to him. …..

68. This consequence is shocking as a matter of principle and risks encouraging delaying tactics. …..”

1. The Advocate General also noted that the basic problem was one of tactical manoeuvring, not simply delay in some judicial systems. A party commencing proceedings in a country (state B) other than the country agreed (state A) would “use every internal means to delay the moment when the decision that this jurisdiction is incompetent becomes definitive” (para. 69). The solution was to allow the court second seised to continue to exercise jurisdiction provided that it could establish the existence and application of the agreed choice of jurisdiction clause in a rigorous manner and beyond any possible doubt – any risk of contradictory decisions being thereby largely avoided (paras. 81- 83).

 

The European Court reached very different conclusions. The court second seised must under art. 21 (now 27) always defer to a court first seised, unless and until that court declares itself incompetent. There should be a clear and precise rule, in view of “the disputes which could arise as to the very existence of a genuine agreement between the parties” within art. 17 (now 23). A court second seised is “in no case …. in a better position that the court first seised to determine whether the latter has jurisdiction” (para. 48). Practical implications were summarily dismissed :

“53. …. the difficulties …. stemming from delaying tactics …. are not such as to call in question the interpretation of any provision of the Brussels Convention as deduced from its wording and its purpose”.

2. Further, an exception to art. 21 (now 27) based on excessive delay was contrary to the letter, spirit and aim of the Convention (para. 70). The Convention was necessarily based on mutual trust, and sought to ensure legal certainty (para. 72). The Court impliedly rejected the UK’s fall-back suggestion that the court of state A could determine its jurisdiction under an exclusive clause where (i) suit was issued in state B in bad faith to block any suit in state A and (ii) the court in state B had failed to adjudicate upon its own jurisdiction within a reasonable time.

3. Mutual trust is the aim of all European legal systems, and we are here today partly to build it. But if contracting parties choose a particular jurisdiction, their choice must derive from the reality or perception that different jurisdictions offer different legal products with differing attractions. The sanctity of commercial contracts and the prevention of tactical manoeuvring should themselves be matters of legal certainty. A party should not be forced to litigate in state B in order to show that state A was agreed, when it is obvious that it was. Issues regarding the validity, exclusivity and application of a contract or a choice of court clause apparently included in it are better decided in the court apparently chosen. That corresponds with general principles of private international law (see e.g. article 8(1) of Rome Convention, even though that Convention does not actually cover such clauses). There was a balance to be struck in Gasser. The Advocate General’s solution, allowing litigation in state A to continue if state A had clearly been chosen, would in my opinion have been preferable. Acte clair is well recognised as the basis on which European courts may decline to refer points to the European Court of Justice. It is also the basis of the European Court’s recently devised principle, according to which states must provide an internal court remedy against decisions even of the state’s highest court, which are “manifestly” contrary to EU law, even when the state was also party to the first decision : Köbler v. Republik Austria Case C-224/01. A test of “manifest” applicability would encourage written agreements, further avoiding jurisdictional disputes.

After Shakespeare’s Richard II banished Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, from England for life, upon pain of death :

“The sly, slow hours shall not determinate (2)
The dateless limit of thy dear exile
The hopeless words of “Never to return”
Breathe I against thee, upon pain of life”

Mowbray was not a good European (or even a typical medieval noble), since he responded by complaining that he could not speak any foreign language :

What is thy sentence then but speechless death ?
That robs my tongue of speaking native breath ?

To which Richard II’s rather brutal reply was :

It boots thee not to be compassionate
After our sentence plaining (3) comes too late !

My aim in what follows is not to complain, after the sentence in Gasser, that there would have been a better solution. It is to highlight some problems that will arise and need addressing following Gasser.

4. The implications for situations of exclusive jurisdition

If article 17 (now 23), which rests of party autonomy, is no exception to article 21 (now 27), what is the position regarding article 16 (now 22) which sets out various situations in which a court has exclusive jurisdiction, e.g. proceedings which have “as their object” rights in immovable property or tenancies, or the validity of the constitution, the nullity or dissolution of a company or the registration of a European patent ? What if a party to an issue within the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of state A simply commences proceedings in state B, claiming that the proceedings have some other object ? Must the courts of state A then defer, unless and until those is state B decline jurisdiction ? Any judgment in state B could under article 35(1) be reviewed in state A and would not be enforceable if the courts of state A concluded that its object fell within their exclusive jurisdiction. But the European Court of Justice in Gasser appears first to eliminate any distinction between cases of exclusive jurisdiction and cases of choice of jurisdiction clauses (para. 48) and then to distinguish them because under article 19 (now 25) courts are obliged to consider of their own motion whether proceedings fall within the exclusive jurisdiction of another state (para. 52). One difficulty with that argument is that the Schlosser Report, to which the European Court does not refer, says expressly that a court “must also of its own motion consider whether there exists an agreement on jurisdiction which excludes the court’s jurisdiction and which is valid in accordance with art. 17 [now 23]” (cf also art. 20, now 26).

Next, just as unscrupulous defendants will with the help of their legal advisers make use of Gasser to avoid or delay their contractually chosen court, so one may expect claimants’ lawyers to rack their brains as to how best to meet conduct flouting an apparently chosen clause. I consider two possibilities which have been mooted.

5. The European Convention on Human Rights

6. If a court of state A chosen by an exclusive choice of court clause but second seised is obliged to stay its proceedings until the date, maybe long distant, when a court first seised in some other state (state B) declines jurisdiction, how is that consistent with the obligations of every court under art. 6(1) of the Human Rights Convention to progress any suit brought before it with reasonable speed ? Is it a defence to breach of art. 6(1) that state A is party to the Brussels Convention or to the European Treaties under which the Brussels Regulation has now been made ? Arguably not, at least for those states which were party to the European Convention on Human Rights prior to entry into the EU – and that probably means all states, since the Convention on Human Rights is the waiting room for membership of the EU. Arguably, art. 6(1) may override art. 21 (now 27) of the Brussels Convention/Regulation. Art. 307 (formerly 234) of the EC Treaty provides :

7. “The rights and obligations arising from agreements concluded before 1 January 1958, or, for acceding States, before the date of their accession, between one or more Member States on the one hand, and one or more third countries on the other, shall not be affected by the provisions of this Treaty.”

8. Consistently with this, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has held that it is no answer to a failure to comply with the Human Rights Convention that a country has undertaken an inconsistent obligation by entering a later European Union Treaty. In Matthews v. UK application no. 24833/94 the inhabitants of Gibraltar complained that they were under the EU Treaty not permitted to vote in European elections. The European Court of Human Rights held that the UK was obliged to permit them to vote, and they have voted in the most recent European elections. Spain is now challenging this in the European Court as contrary to the EU Treaty. So, we may soon have a decision in Luxembourg which will throw light on the inter-relationship of the EU Treaty and the European Court of Human Rights. What Gasser on any view highlights is that there is still a barrier on the Rhine between the concerns which motivate Luxembourg and Strasbourg thinking. Gasser will unquestionably be detrimental to speedy, efficient and predictable dispute resolution, which it has in recent years been a great object of Council of Europe recommendations to promote.

Damages claims

Another possibility which has been mooted is a claim for damages in the chosen court of state A for breach of the choice of jurisdiction clause by the commencement of proceedings in state B. The argument would no doubt be that the cause of action would not be the same within article 27 (formerly 21), but the courts of state A would still probably have to consider, under article 28 (formerly 22), whether the proceedings were so closely related that it was expedient to hear and determine them together to avoid the risk of irreconcilable judgments. I say no more on a subject that may one day arise in court.

The wider international picture

The “legal certainty” esteemed by the Court consisted in knowing “clearly and precisely which of the two national courts is to establish whether it has jurisdiction under the rules of the Convention” (paras. 51 and 72). But the parties’ commitment, when contracting, was that their chosen court should assume its exclusive jurisdiction without delay and without either party having to engage in litigation elsewhere to achieve this. When international businesses select the courts of London, Hamburg, Geneva or Paris to settle their dispute, they want certainty. In an interesting commentary on Gasser, in Recueil Dalloz 2004, no. 27, the writer spoke of “le devoir of confiance” – the duty of confidence. This highlights the problem – confidence is not a duty ; it is either a fact, if it exists, or an aspiration if it does not. Unless businessmen can be confident that their preferred choice of court will be respected, they will go elsewhere. If there is a risk that they may find themselves having to litigate elsewhere in Europe, before being allowed to pursue proceedings in their chosen jurisdiction, they are going to choose New York or Singapore or Hong Kong. I appreciate that I am here dealing with international commercial litigation of a particular sort and that this problem is of particular interest to London. London is an international legal centre of choice. In over 50% of all Commercial Court cases in London, both sides are foreign, and in some 75% one party is foreign. But Europe generally benefits from being able to offer a package of services, with a secure legal background. For all the European Court of Justice’s good intentions, Gasser is unlikely to provide that background.

The Hague Conference on Private International Law

The Hague Conference (4) has drafted a proposed international convention on exclusive choice of court (or jurisdiction) clauses, on which the European Commission is currently consulting. This takes a very different line to the Brussels Convention and to Gasser. The courts of a designated state have jurisdiction unless the agreement is null and void (art. 5(1)). Judgments of the chosen court are to be recognised (art. 9(1)). Any other court shall dismiss or suspend proceedings brought before it (art. 7), including proceedings for recognition or enforcement of any judgment rendered in contravention of an exclusive jurisdiction clause (art. 11). There is therefore no requirement or possibility that the chosen court should have to stand by idly, while proceedings brought abusively in a foreign court drag on. The proposed Hague Convention will not however itself have any effect on the Brussels regime or Gasser, save perhaps in a few very marginal situations. It expressly provides that it does not affect any international instrument to which its Contracting Parties are parties and which contain provisions on matters governed by it (art. 23(1)).

Anti-suit injunctions

An anti-suit injunction is perhaps a misnomer. The injunction is addressed by the courts of state A to a person, usually a party to domestic proceedings in state A, and it restrains that person from taking proceedings in a foreign state. The object is to confine the person to the one set of proceedings. Although the European Court in Turner v. Grovit expressed concern that such injunctions could lead in effect to chaos, experience is that they are remarkably effective, and resolve, rather than cause competing litigation.

Let me also dispel the common idea (revealed also in the Advocate General’s opinion in Turner v. Grovit) that anti-suit injunctions are an entirely common law institution. In SA Banque Worms c/Epoux Brachot et al. [arret No. 1630 P+R] [Juris Data No. 2002-016420], the French courts were seised of proceedings with a view to collective distribution of the assets of M et Mme Brachot and one of their companies. The bank commenced proceedings in Spain to seize a flat belonging to the Brachots there. The Cour de Cassation upheld the issue by the Versailles Court of Appeal of an injunction ordering the bank to give up all proceedings abroad. Both the Advocate General and the commentator explicitly refer to academic writing by Professor Muir-Watt drawing on common law authority. That however was a case of or analogous to bankruptcy, judicial arrangement or composition which falls outside the scope of the Brussels regime, by virtue of the express exceptions in article 1 of the regulation.

In cases within the Brussels regime, it has been reasonably clear since Gasser, that there could be no future for the court of a state apparently chosen by a choice of jurisdiction clause to issue an anti-suit injunction restraining a party from pursuing proceedings in state B - even if it was clear that the proceedings in state B should never have been brought. The courts of state A must wait patiently in the hope that state B will decline jurisdiction, as they should do. But what if the courts of state A are first seised and then proceedings are brought abroad in state B and it can be shown that the aim was to put the claimant in state A to crippling inconvenience and cost in having to try to have the proceedings in state B stopped ? Would the courts of state A still be powerless ? In reality of course the defendant in state A will probably be more subtle, and try to dress up the proceedings in state B so that they do not appear to be the mirror image of the proceedings in state A ? The defendant in state A may even try to introduce a different and extra claimant in state B. The courts of state A would be well placed to detect such abuse. Could they act ?

Turner v. Grovit was regarded by the English Court of Appeal as being just such a case. It issued an injunction restraining proceedings by the English defendant, an associated company and their controller in Spain which it concluded had been commenced abusively solely in order to oppress the English claimant and frustrate the existing English proceedings. The English claimant had not appeared in Spain, and the Spanish court is unlikely to have known much about the English proceedings. The House of Lords referred the case to Luxembourg, but made clear its support for the Court of Appeal. The Advocate General and the Court decided otherwise. Again, it relied on the duty of mutual trust. It refused to accept such an injunction as a domestic procedural remedy of state A designed to protect the proper progress of the litigation and the proper conduct of litigants in state A. On the contrary, it viewed it, although directed to the persons of the English defendant and Spanish claimants, as an indirect interference with the Spanish court’s jurisdiction. The procedural powers possessed by national courts, according to Kongress Agentur Hagen v Zeehaghe C ase 365/88 , have thus been restrictively delineated. In view of this and in the absence of any international tribunal with power to resolve such situations, every national court will in future need to be very conscious of the risk that its procedures may be used to frustrate or undermine proceedings in another state.

When then are anti-suit injunctions still permissible ? First, of course, in respect of proceedings in states not party to the Brussels regime. Second, in respect of proceedings in other European states, but falling outside the scope of the Brussels regime cases, e.g. cases such as Brachot. Another very significant example within the second category is according to present English authority (The Angelic Grace [1995] 1 Ll. R. 87 (CA) ; The Ivan Zagubanski [2002] 1 Ll. R. 106) arbitration, because of its exception from the scope of the Brussels regime under article 1. In The Ivan Zagubanski, arbitration clauses in various bills of lading provided on the face of it for arbitration in London. Cargo owners commenced court proceedings against the carrying vessel in Marseilles. The English Commercial Court injuncted cargo owners from pursuing the French proceedings, in order in effect to compel them to arbitrate in London as agreed. On the other hand, in a sensitive consumer context, where German individuals sued their English futures and securities brokers in Germany in breach of a London arbitration clause, the English court of appeal refused any injunction : Philip Alexander Securities and Futures Ltd. v. Bamberger [1996] CLC 1,757. One day there will probably be some further guidance from appellate courts and perhaps also Luxembourg on the scope of the arbitration exclusion in article 1 (see generally Layton and Mercer’s European Civil Practice, paras. 12.044 to 12.055). And its true scope may in turn have some impact on whether parties agree to arbitrate in London, in Paris, in Geneva or in New York.

9. Conclusion

Time will, I hope, see the achievement of the European dream of common standards and harmonious collaboration between different European legal systems. Both Gasser and Turner v. Grovit underline the importance attaching to meetings like this. We need to understand each other’s systems and problems, to learn from each other and where practicable to assimilate practices and develop procedures, in such a way that the differences between different systems and jurisdictions cease to be so important, and we can provide the true international cooperation that litigants deserve. In particular, courts need better mechanisms for understanding, and communicating information, about parallel proceedings in different states – and a more developed common understanding of how article 28 (formerly 22) concerning “related actions” applies. We also need procedures to ensure that articles 27 and 28 (formerly 21 and 22) are applied speedily and summarily early in litigation. In such ways – although I doubt very much whether we will see the end of choice of court clauses for a long time - mutual trust will become not just a duty, but a reality and an undiluted pleasure.

 

 

 

(1) I have previously considered these cases in Exclusive Jurisdiction Agreements and European Ideals [2004] LQR 357. For other commentaries, see A Charter for Tactical Litigation in Europe – Turner v. Grovit [2004] LQR 273 by Andrew Dickinson and Zwei Enschreankungen des Prioritaetsprinzips im europaeischen Zustaendigkeitsrecht IPRax 2004 Heft 3, p. 205, by Prof. Dr. Helmut Grothe, as well as a forthcoming article by Prof. Trevor Hartley in 2004 Revue Critique de Droit Internationale.

(2) I.e. terminate or end.

(3) I.e. complaining.

(4) Website = www.hcch.net