Precontractual liability is liability that arises out of a harmful conduct that occurs during the formation period of a contract. Where the harmful conduct occurs during international negotiations, a conflict of laws issue arises. The determination of the applicable law to precontractual liability can be a complex and tedious task, which is why the European Legislature has provided a special conflict-of-law rule in Article 12 of the Rome II Regulation on the applicable law to non-contractual obligations. Through this provision, the European Legislature aims to achieve uniformity between EU Member States, while providing an appropriate conflicts rule. The present essay assesses the European Legislature’s attempt at codification and offers a commentary of Article 12 of the Rome II Regulation. It comes at a time when the Commission is scheduled to submit a report on the application of the Rome II Regulation to the European Parliament, the Council, and the European Economic and Social Committee. This essay will show that the Legislature has displaced the traditional rules of European private international law by adopting a contractual connecting factor in order to determine the applicable law to a non-contractual obligation. Indeed, the European Legislature has, for the purposes of European private international law, chosen to characterize culpa in contrahendo as non-contractual, but has chosen to determine the applicable law to this non-contractual obligation on the basis of a contractual connecting factor. Thus, Article 12(1) of the Rome II Regulation has, in fact, chosen to submit claims arising out of culpa in contrahendo to the lex contractus in negotio. According to this provision, the applicable law to claims arising out of culpa in contrahendo is the law of the contract that was under negotiation. In spite of its advantages, the rule provided by Article 12 of the Rome II Regulation lacks flexibility. The lack of escape devices and the relative inapplicability of the second paragraph of Article 12 of the Rome II Regulation make this rule a rigid one whose application cannot be displaced whenever it reaches inappropriate results.The paper was published in the Northwestern Journal of International Law & Business.
Najib Hage-Chahine has posted Culpa in Contrahendo in European Private International Law: Another Look at Article 12 of the Rome II Regulation on SSRN.