Praxis des Internationalen Privat- und Verfahrensrechts (IPRax) 4/2015: Abstracts

The latest issue of the “Praxis des Internationalen Privat- und Verfahrensrechts (IPRax)” features the following articles:

Holger Jacobs, The necessity of choosing the law applicable to non-contractual claims in international commercial contracts
International commercial contracts usually include choice-of-law clauses. These clauses are often drafted narrowly, such that they do not cover non-contractual obligations. This article illustrates that, as a result, contractual and non-contractual claims closely linked to the contract risk being governed by different laws. This fragmentation might lead to lengthy and expensive disputes and considerable legal uncertainty. It is therefore advisable to expressly include non-contractual claims within the scope of choice-of-law clauses in international commercial contracts.

Leonard Hübner, Section 64 sentence 1 German Law on Limited Liability Companies in Conflict of Laws and European Union Law
The article treats the application of the liability pursuant to § 64 sentence 1 GmbHG to European foreign companies having its centre of main interest in Germany. At the outset, it demonstrates that the rule belongs to the lex concursus in terms of Art. 4 EuInsVO. For the purposes of this examination, the article considers the case law of the ECJ as well as the legal consequences of the qualification. At the second stage, it illustrates that the application of the rule to foreign companies does not infringe the freedom of establishment according to Art. 49, 54 TFEU.

Felix Koechel, Submission by appearance under the Brussels I Regulation and representation in absentia
In response to two questions referred by the Austrian Supreme Court, the ECJ ruled that a court-appointed representative for the absent defendant (Abwesenheitskurator) cannot enter an appearance on behalf of the defendant for the purposes of Article 24 of the Brussels I Regulation. This solution seems convincing because the entering of an appearance by the representative would circumvent the court’s obligation to examine its jurisdiction on its own motion under Article 26 para 1 of the Brussels I Regulation. Considering also the ECJ’s decisions in cases C-78/95 (Hendrikman) and C-327/10 (Hypote?ní banka) it seems that the entering of an appearance within the meaning of the Brussels I Regulation is generally excluded in case of a representation in absentia. It is, however, doubtful whether the very specific solution adopted by the ECJ in the present case should be applied in other cases of representation in proceedings.

Peter Mankowski, Tacit choice of law, more preferential law principle, and protection against unfair dismissal in the conflict of laws of employment agreements
Labour contracts with a cross border element are a particular challenge. They call for a particularly sound administration of justice. Especially, the discharge of employees gives rise to manifold questions. The final decision of the Bundesarbeitsgericht in the case Mahamdia provides a fine example. It tempts to spend further and deepening thoughts on tacit choice of law (with a special focus on jurisdiction agreements rendered invalid by virtue of Art. 23 Brussels Ibis Regulation, Art. 21 Brussels I Regulation/revised Lugano Convention), the most favourable law principle under Art. 8 (2) Rome I Regulation, and whether the general rules on discharge of employee might possibly fall under Art. 9 Rome I Regulation.

Christoph A. Kern, Judicial protection against torpedo actions
In the recent case Weber v. Weber, the ECJ had ruled that, contrary to the principle of priority provided for in the Brussels I Regulation, the court second seized must not stay the proceedings if it has exclusive jurisdiction. The German Federal Supreme Court (BGH) applies this ratio decidendi in a similar case. In its reasons, the BGH criticizes – and rightly so – the court of appeal which, in the face of a manifestly abusive action in Italy, had denied an identity of the claims and the parties by applying an “evaluative approach”. Nevertheless, the repeated opposition of lower courts to apply the principle of priority is remarkable. The Brussels I recast, which corrects the ECJ’s jurisprudence in the case Gasser v. Misat, would, however, allow for an approach based on forum selection: Whenever the parties have had no chance to protect themselves against torpedo actions by agreeing on the exclusive jurisdiction of a court or the courts of a Member State, the court second seized should be allowed to deviate from a strict application of the principle of priority.

Jörn Griebel, The Need for Legal Relief Regarding Decisions of Jurisdiction Subject to Setting Aside Proceedings according to § 1040 of the German Code of Civil Procedure
§ 1040 section 3 of the German Code of Civil Procedure prescribes that a so called “Zwischenentscheid”, an arbitration tribunal’s interim decision on its jurisdiction, can be challenged in national court proceedings. The decision of the German Federal Court of Justice (BGH) concerned the procedural question whether a need for legal relief exists in such setting aside proceedings concerning an investment award on jurisdiction, especially in situations where an award on the merits has in the meantime been rendered by the arbitration tribunal.

Bettina Heiderhoff, No retroactive effect of Article 16 sec. 3 Hague Convention on child protection
Under Article 21 German EGBGB it was possible that a father who had parental responsibility for his child under the law of its former habitual residence lost this right when the child moved to Germany. This was caused by the fact that Article 21 EGBGB connected the law governing parental custody to the place of habitual residence of the child.
Article 16 sec. 1 Hague Convention on child protection (1996) also connects the parental custody to the habitual residence. However, in Article 16 sec. 3 it has a different rule for the above described cases, stating that parental responsibility which exists under the law of the State of the child’s habitual residence subsists after a change of that habitual residence to another State.
The author is critical towards the common understanding of Article 21 EGBGB. The courts should always have interpreted this rule in the manner that is now explicitly fixed in Article 16 sec. 3 Hague Convention. As the rule has been virtually out of force for many years due to the overriding applicability of the Hague Convention, a retroactive change in its interpretation would cause great insecurity.
The essay also deals with various transitional problems. It supports the view of the OLG Karlsruhe, that the Hague Convention cannot be applied retroactively when a child moved to Germany before January 2011.

Herbert Roth, Rechtskrafterstreckung auf Vorfragen im internationalen Zuständigkeitsrecht
The European procedure law (Brussels I Regulation) does not make any statement concerning the scope of substantive res judicata of national judgments. However, the European Court of Justice extends the effects of res judicata to prejudicial questions of the validity of a choice-of-forum clause, in this respect it approves a European conception of substantive res judicata (ECJ, 15.11.2012 – Case C 456/11 – Gothaer Allgemeine Versicherung AG ./. Samskip GmbH, IPRax 2014, p. 163 Nr. 10, with annotation H. Roth, p. 136). The verdict of the higher regional court of Bremen as appellate court had to consider the precedent of the ECJ. It is the final decision after the case was referred back from the ECJ. The international jurisdiction of German courts was rejected in favour of the Icelandic courts, in spite of the defendant’s domicile in Bremen.

Martin Gebauer, Partial subrogation of the insurer to the insured’s rights and the incidental question of a non-contractual claim
The decision, rendered by the local court of Cologne, illustrates some of the problems that arise when the injured party of a car accident brings an action as a creditor of a non-contractual claim against the debtor’s insurer, despite the injured party having already been partially satisfied by his insurer as a consequence of a comprehensive insurance policy. The partial subrogation leads to separate claims of the injured party, on the one hand, and its insurer on the other. According to Article 19 of the Rome II Regulation, the subrogation, and its scope, is governed by the same law that governs the insurance contract between the injured party and its insurer. The non-contractual claim, however, which is the object of the subrogation, is governed by a different law and presents an incidental question within the subrogation. The injured party, as claimant, can sue the debtor’s insurer in the courts of the place where the injured party is domiciled. The injured party’s insurer, however, may not sue the debtor’s insurer in the courts of the place where the injured party is domiciled, but is rather forced to bring the action at the defendant’s domicile. This may lead to parallel proceedings in different states and runs the risk of uncoordinated decisions being made by the different courts regarding the extent of the subrogation.

Apostolos Anthimos, On the remaining value of the 1961 German-Greek Convention on recognition and enforcement
Since the late 1950s, Greece has established strong commercial ties with Germany. At the same time, many Greek citizens from the North of the country immigrated to Germany in pursuit of a better future. The need to regulate the recognition and enforcement of judgments led to the 1961 bilateral convention, which predominated for nearly 30 years in the field. Following the 1968 Brussels Convention, and the ensuing pertinent EC Regulations, its importance has been reduced gradually. That being the case though, the bilateral convention is still applied in regards to cases not covered by EC law and/or multilateral conventions. What is more interesting, is that the convention still applies for the majority of German judgments seeking recognition in Greece, namely cases concerning divorce decrees rendered before 2001, as well as adoption, affiliation, guardianship, and other family and personal status matters. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the significance of the bilateral convention from the Greek point of view, and to report briefly on its field of application and its interpretation by Greek courts.

David B. Adler, Step towards the accommodation of the German-American judicial dispute? – The planned restriction of Germany’s blocking statute regarding US discovery requests.
Until today, US and German jurisprudence argue whether US courts are allowed to base discovery orders on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure instead of the Hague Evidence Convention, despite the fact that evidence (e.g. documents) is located outside the US but in one of the signatory states. While the one side argues that the Hague Convention trumps the Federal Rules and has to be primarily, if not exclusively, utilized in those circumstances, the other side, especially many US courts, constantly resisted interpreting the Hague Evidence Convention as providing an exclusive mechanism for obtaining evidence. Instead, they have viewed the Convention as offering discretionary procedures that a US court may disregard in favor of the information gathering mechanisms laid out in the federal discovery rules. The Hague Evidence Convention has therefore, at least for requests from US courts, become less important over time.
The German Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection intends to put this debate to an end and to reconcile the differing legal philosophies of Civil Law and Common Law with regard to the collecting of evidence. It plans to alter the wording of the German blocking statute which, up to this date, does not allow US litigants to obtain pretrial discovery in the form of documents which are located in Germany at all. Instead of the overall prohibition of such requests, the altered statute is intended to allow the gathering of information located in Germany if the strict requirements of the statute, especially the substantiation requirements towards the description of the documents, are fulfilled. By changing the statute, Germany plans to revive the mechanisms of the Hague Evidence Convention with the goal of convincing the US courts to place future exterritorial evidence requests on those mechanisms rather than on the Federal Rules.
The article critically analyses the planned statutory changes, especially with regard to the strict specification and substantiation requirements concerning the documents requested. The author finally discusses whether the planned statutory changes will in all likelihood encourage US courts to make increased usage of the information gathering mechanisms under the Hague Evidence Convention with regards to documents located in Germany, notwithstanding the effective information gathering tools under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Steffen Leithold/Stuyvesant Wainwright, Joint Tenancy in the U.S.
Joint tenancy is a special form of ownership with widespread usage in the USA, which involves the ownership by two or more persons of the same property. These individuals, known as joint tenants, share an equal, undivided ownership interest in the property. A chief characteristic of joint tenancy is the creation of a “Right of Survivorship”. This right provides that upon the death of a joint tenant, his or her ownership interest in the property transfers automatically to the surviving joint tenant(s) by operation of law, regardless of any testamentary intent to the contrary; and joint tenants are prohibited from excluding this right by will. Joint tenancies can be created either through inter vivos transactions or testamentary bequests, and for the most part any asset can be owned in joint tenancy. A frequent reason for owning property in joint tenancy is to facilitate the transfer of a decedent’s ownership interest in an asset by minimizing the expense and time-constraints involved with the administration of a probate proceeding. Additional advantages of owning property in joint tenancy include potential protections against a creditor’s claims or against assertions by a spouse or minor children of homestead rights. Lastly, owning property in joint tenancy can result in inheritance, gift, property and income tax consequences.

Tobias Lutzi, France’s New Conflict-of-Laws Rule Regarding Same-Sex Marriage and the French ordre public international
On 28 January, the French Cour de cassation confirmed a highly debated decision of the Cour d’appel de Chambéry, according to which the equal access to marriage for homosexual couples is part of France’s ordre public international, allowing the court to disregard the Moroccan prohibition of same-sex marriage in spite of the Franco-Moroccan Agreement of 10 August 1981 and to apply Art. 202-1(2) of the French Code civil to the wedding of a homosexual Franco-Moroccan couple. The court expressly upheld the decision but indicated some possible limitations of its judgment in a concurrent press release.

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