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A free webinar to hear experts of MK Family Law (Washington) and Grotius Chambers (The Hague) discuss pertinent issues relating to international child abduction in times of COVID-19. 

Date: 8 April 2020
Time: 3 pm (CET Amsterdam)

COVID-19 has a significant impact on all aspects of our lives. Since the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic, numerous States have implemented travel bans in an attempt to contain its spread. Moreover, States have closed courts and adjourned or even cancelled hearings.

Such restrictions cause direct impacts on transnational families. They may hinder, in particular, the prompt return of children in cases of international child abduction. Parents may encounter difficulties in commencing proceedings before the competent authorities, as well as complying with an agreement or return order.

Written by Mayela Celis

It is undeniable that there is an increasing interaction between human rights and private international law (and other areas of law). This of course adds an additional layer of complexity to private international law cases, whether we like it or not. Indeed, States can be sanctioned if they do not fulfill specific criteria specified by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Importantly, the European Convention on Human Rights has been considered to be an instrument of European public order (ordre public), to which 47 States are currently parties.

While the Corona Crisis is still alarmingly growing globally, first movers are apparently preparing for mass litigation of ski tourists from all over Europe and beyond against the Austrian Federal State of Tyrol and local businesses. The Austrian Consumer Protection Association (Österreichischer Verbraucherschutzverein, VSV, https://www.verbraucherschutzverein.at/) is inviting tourists damaged from infections with the Corona virus after passing their ski holidays in Tyrol, in particular in and around the Corona super-hotspot of Ischgl, to enrol for collective redress against Tyrol, its Governor, local authorities as well as against private operators of ski lifts, hotels, bars etc., see https://www.verbraucherschutzverein.at/Corona-Virus-Tirol/.

In his Opinion delivered today, Advocate General Tanchev presents his take on Article 10 of the Regulation No 1259/2010 implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the law applicable to divorce and legal separation (commonly referred to as Rome III Regulation), under which ‘[w]here the law applicable pursuant to Article 5 or Article 8 makes no provision for divorce or does not grant one of the spouses equal access to divorce or legal separation on grounds of their sex, the law of the forum shall apply’.

If a defendant is not present in Australia, Uniform Civil Procedure Rules (“UCPR”) of New South Wales provides that service outside of Australia is permitted if the plaintiff’s claim falls within UCPR Schedule 6 or if a leave is granted under UCPR rule 11.5. If a defendant does not respond within 42 days after being served successfully (rule 11.8), the plaintiff must apply for leave to proceed (rule 11.8AA). A defendant can challenge the jurisdiction of the court and apply to set aside service (rule 12.11). The court has discretion to decide whether to assume jurisdiction (rule 11.6).

AGC Capital Securities v Jaijaifu Modern Agriculture (HK) Limited [2019] NSWSC 62, a case decided by NSW Supreme Court in 2019 provides a test to determine a plaintiff’s application for leave to proceed when no appearance by defendant. The test includes four components:

1.      Whether the defendant has been properly served;

2.      Whether the claim in the originating process falls within UCPR Schedule 6;

3.      Whether it be demonstrated that there is a real issue to be determined (this requirement as being that the plaintiff has an arguable case being one that would be sufficient to survive an application for summary judgment); and

4.      Whether this Court is not a clearly inappropriate forum.

The same test is adopted by Yoon v Lee [2017] NSWSC 1338 and Rossiter v. Core Mining [2015] NSWSC 360.

The application for leave in AGC Capital Securities, Yoon, and Rossiter is not related to UCPR r 11.5.  r 11.5 is to determine whether a leave to serve outside of Australia should be granted. However, these three cases are cases where service outside of Australia has been completed. They are concerned with leaves under r 11.8AA, which provides:

UCPR 11.8AA   Leave to proceed where no appearance by person

(1)  If an originating process is served on a person outside Australia and the person does not enter an appearance, the party serving the document may not proceed against the person served except by leave of the court.

(2)  An application for leave under subrule (1) may be made without serving notice of the application on the person served with the originating process.

R11.8AA does not specify a test. In Australia, the leading case for leave to proceed where no appearance by defendant is Agar v Hyde [2000] HCA 41. In Agar, two rugby players at the NSW brought a personal injury claim against the International Rugby Football Board and several national representatives at the Board, alleging that the Board and its representatives own a duty of care for the plaintiffs. The defendants were served outside of Australia and applied to set aside the service. Agar holds that different tests should be adopted for the plaintiff’s application for leave to proceed where no appearance by defendant and for the defendant’s application to set aside the service.

According to Agar, the test for the plaintiff’s application for leave to proceed when no appearance by defendant should focus on the jurisdictional nexus between the plaintiff’s pleading and the forum and should not consider the merits of the case. The High Court considers:

“is the claim a claim in which the plaintiff alleges that he has a cause of action which, according to those allegations, is a cause of action arising in the State? The inquiry just described neither requires nor permits an assessment of the strength (in the sense of the likelihood of success) of the plaintiff’s claim.” (Agar, para 50)

The Court of Appeal required the plaintiff to establish a good arguable case. However, the High Court held that “[t]he Court of Appeal was wrong to make such an assessment in deciding whether the Rules permitted service out.” (Agar, para 51) Instead, the High Court only requires the plaintiff to establish a prima facie case, saying

“[t]he application of these paragraphs of r1A depends on the nature of the allegations which the plaintiff makes, not on whether those allegations will be made good at trial. Once a claim is seen to be of the requisite kind, the proceeding falls within the relevant paragraph or paragraphs of PT 10 r 1A, service outside Australia is permitted, and prima facie the plaintiff should have leave to proceed.” (Agar, para 51)

PT 10 r 1A is functionally equivalent to the current UCPR Sch 6 although their contents differ to some extent. In contrast, the test of “real issue to be determined” held in AGC Capital Securities, Yoon, and Rossiter is on the merits of the case, which is excluded by Agar.

Regarding the defendant’s application to set aside the service, Agar adopts three common grounds:

  • Service is not authorized by the rules (ie, does not fall within UCPR Sch 6 and not otherwise authorised),
  • The Court is an inappropriate forum,
  • The claim has “insufficient prospects of the success to warrant putting an overseas defendant to the time, expense and trouble of defending the claims.” This requires the Court to assess the strength of the claim and the test is the same for summary judgment lodged by a defendant served locally.

These grounds are not exhaustive. For example, the defendant can apply to set aside the service based on an exclusive jurisdiction clause favouring a foreign court.

However, AGC Capital Securities, Yoon, and Rossiter do not concern the defendant’s application to set aside the service. Further, the test of “real issue to be determined” in AGC Capital Securities, Yoon, and Rossiter is not the same as the “insufficient prospects of the success” in Agar. The test of “insufficient prospects of the success” has been embedded in UCPR 11.6(2)(c), while AGC Capital Securities, Yoon, and Rossiter are not concerned with this provision. They are brought on r11.8AA.

Comparing Agar on one hand and AGC Capital Securities, Yoon, and Rossiter on the other, the latter cases consider forum non conveniens when determining the plaintiff’s application to proceed where no appearance by defendant. Is this consistent with Agar? This issue should be discussed from two aspects. First, Agar did not consider forum non conveniens under a clearly inappropriate forum doctrine because parties did not raise this issue. Therefore, it may argue that this issue was not considered by High Court in Agar. Second, Agar limits courts’ consideration to jurisdictional nexus with the forum when determining the plaintiff’s application to proceed where no appearance by defendant. Jurisdictional nexus refers to whether the service is authorized by the UCPR. However, broadly, jurisdictional nexus may cover forum non conveniens considerations.

Further, AGC Capital Securities, Yoon, and Rossiter seem to confuse the test for the plaintiff’s application for leave to proceed where no appearance by defendant with the test for the defendant’s application to set aside the service. The test of “real issue to be determined” requires the court to examine the merits of the plaintiff’s claim. This is permitted when determining the defendant’s application to set aside the service. However, when determining the plaintiff’s application for leave to proceed where no appearance by defendant, Agar says the court should not assess the strength of the plaintiff’s claim. Further, the test of “real issue to be determined” is not equivalent to the test of “insufficient prospects of the success” decided by Agar and embedded in UCPR r 11.6.

Could AGC Capital Securities, Yoon, and Rossiter be justified on policy grounds? A proposed argument is that leave to proceed involves leave, which requires an exercise of discretion; and providing leave to proceed in circumstances where there is “no real issue” would be a waste of limited court resources. However, the difficulty of this argument is that it conflates the leave to proceed with the motion for a summary judgment. If the plaintiff only asks a leave to proceed without applying for a summary judgment, there is no ground for the court to consider the test of “no real issue” sua sponte.

Could AGC Capital Securities, Yoon, and Rossiter be distinguished from Agar? In both Yoon and Rossiter, the court issued a summary judgment for the plaintiff. In AGC Capital Securities, the court directed the plaintiff to apply for a default judgment. AGC Capital Securities, Yoon, and Rossiter are proceedings where the defendants make no appearance. However, Agar is a proceeding where the defendant applied to set aside the service. Although Agar considered the test for the plaintiff’s application to proceed where no appearance by defendant, it did so for the purpose of distinguishing this test from the test for the defendant’s application to set aside the service. Therefore, in this aspect, it may argue that AGC Capital Securities, Yoon, and Rossiter are distinguishable from Agar, because they are the cases where the plaintiff applied for both a leave and a summary judgment. Therefore, the real issue for AGC Capital Securities, Yoon, and Rossiter is that the court conflated the test for the plaintiff’s application to proceed where no appearance by defendant and the test for summary judgment.

AGC Capital Securities, Yoon, Rossiter, and Agar also bring up another question: why is the test for a plaintiff’s application for leave when no appearance by defendant and the test for a defendant’s application to set aside the service are different? Or should the tests be the same? In the plaintiff’s application for leave to proceed, is the court supposed to take care of the non-responding defendant? The answer is negative partly because the common-law court is not an inquisitorial court in civil-law countries. More important, if the plaintiff only asks a leave to proceed without applying for a summary judgment, there is no ground for the court to consider whether there is real issue to be determined in the plaintiff’s claim.

State immunity in global COVID-19 pandemic:

State immunity in global COVID-19 pandemic: Alters, et. al. v People’s Republic of China, et. al.

By Zheng Sophia Tang and Zhengxin Huo

  1. Background

Four American citizens and a company filed the class-action against Chinese government for damages suffered as the result of the COVID-19 pandemic. None of the named plaintiffs were infected by the COVID-19 but they suffered financial loss due to the outbreak. The defendants include the People’s Republic of China, National Health Commission of PRC, Ministry of Emergency Management of PRC, Ministry of Civil Affairs of PRC, Government of Hubei Province and Government of the City of Wuhan. The plaintiff argued that Chinese government knew COVID-19 was dangerous and capable of causing a pandemic yet covered it up for their economic self-interest and caused injury and incalculable harm to the plaintiffs. (here)

By Ennio Piovesani. The author is a PhD Student at the Università degli Studi di Torino and at the Universität zu Köln.

  1. Summary

The Italian Government has adopted a series of Decree-Laws [1] introducing measures to fight the emergency caused by the “new” Coronavirus.

These measures include “self-proclaimed” overriding mandatory provisions on the reimbursement of prices paid under transport, package travel and accommodation contracts by specified persons affected by the Coronavirus.

  1. Arts. 28 of Decree-Law No. 9/2020 and 88 of Decree-Law No. 18/2020

In particular, on 2.4.3020, the Italian Government adopted Decree-Law No. 9, titled “Urgent measures to support families, workers and businesses, in connection with the epidemiological emergency by COVID-19” [2].

Article 28 of Decree-Law No. 9/2020 provides for “Reimbursement of Travel Tickets and Travel Packages”.

The Court of Justice of the European Union on 27th February 2020 delivered its judgment in Corporis/Gefion Insurance, Case C-25/19. The case concerned rules surrounding service of documents in a specific, yet increasingly common context.

Corporis is a Polish insurance company, who was assigned damages by the owner of a vehicle following a car accident for the value of 30 euro. Gefion was the Danish insurance company covering the risk related to the accident. Under the Solvency II Directive, insurance undertakings may provide services in other Member States without having there an agency or an establishment – yet, for compulsory motor insurance coverages they must appoint a representative with “sufficient powers to represent the undertaking … including the payment of such claims, and to represent it or, where necessary, to have it represented before the courts and authorities of that Member State in relation to those claims” (Art 152). The Polish representative of Gefion was Crawford Polska.

Mareva injunctions in support of foreign proceedings

In Bi Xiaoqing v China Medical Technologies [2019] SGCA 50, the Singapore Court of Appeal provided clarity on the extent of the court’s power to grant Mareva relief in support of foreign proceedings.

The first and second respondents were companies incorporated in the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands. The action was pursued by the liquidators of the first respondent against the appellant, a Singapore citizen, who was formerly involved in the management of the respondents and allegedly misappropriated funds from them.

Hong Kong proceedings were commenced first and a worldwide Mareva injunction was granted against, inter alia, the appellant. The terms of the Hong Kong injunction specifically identified assets in Singapore.

Coronavirus outbreak and force majeure certificate

Due to the outbreak, China has adopted a number of public health measures, including closing schools and workplaces, limiting public gatherings, restricting travel and movement of people, screening , quarantine and isolation. At least 48 cities were locked down by 14 Feb 2020. (here) More than two thirds of China’s migrant workers were unable to return to work, (see here) leaving those firms that have restarted operation running below capacity.  

Coronavirus and the emergency measures significantly affect economic activates in China. The China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), a quasi-governmental entity, issued 3,325 force majeure certificates covering the combined contract value of $38.5bn to exempt Chinese companies from their contractual obligations.