United Kingdom Supreme Court confirms that consequential loss satisfies the tort gateway for service out of the jurisdiction
This post is written by Joshua Folkard, Barrister at Twenty Essex.
In FS Cairo (Nile Plaza) LLC v Lady Brownlie  UKSC 45 (“Brownlie II”), the Supreme Court held as a matter of ratio by a 4:1 majority that consequential loss satisfies the ‘tort gateway’ in Practice Direction (“PD”) 6B, para. 3.1(9)(a).
PD 6B, para. 3.1(9)(a) provides that tort claims can be served out of the jurisdiction of England & Wales where “damage was sustained, or will be sustained, within the jurisdiction”. Brownlie concerned a car accident during a family holiday to Egypt, which tragically claimed the lives of Sir Ian Brownlie (Chichele Professor of Public International Law at the University of Oxford) and his daughter Rebecca: at ,  & . On her return to England, however, Lady Brownlie suffered consequential losses including bereavement and loss of dependency in this jurisdiction: at .
The question whether mere consequential loss satisfies the tort gateway had been considered before by the Supreme Court in the very same case: Brownlie v Four Seasons  UKSC 80;  2 All ER 91 (“Brownlie I”). By a 3:2 majority expressed “entirely obiter” (Brownlie II, at ) the Court had answered affirmatively: - (Baroness Hale),  (Lord Wilson) & - (Lord Clarke). However, the obiter nature of that holding combined with a forceful dissent from Lord Sumption (see -) had served to prolong uncertainty on this point.
When asked the same question again, however, a differently-constituted majority of the same Court gave the same answer. Lord Lloyd-Jones (with whom Lords Reed, Briggs, and Burrows agreed: see  & )) concluded that there was “no justification in principle or in practice, for limiting ‘damage’ in paragraph 3.1(9)(a) to damage which is necessary to complete a cause of action in tort or, indeed, for according any special significance to a place simply because it was where the cause of action was completed”: at . The ‘consequential’ losses suffered in England were accordingly sufficient to ground English jurisdiction for the tort claims.
Three main reasons were given. First, Lord Lloyd-Jones held that there had been no “assimilation” of the tests at common law and under the Brussels Convention/Regulation, which would have been “totally inappropriate” given the “fundamental differences between the two systems”: at -. Second, his Lordship pointed to what he described as an “impressive and coherent line” of (mostly first-instance) authority to the same effect: at . Third, it was said that the “safety valve” of forum conveniens meant that there was “no need to adopt an unnaturally restrictive reading of the domestic gateways”: at .
What is now the position as regards pure economic loss cases? Although Lord Lloyd-Jones concluded that the term “damage” in PD 6B, para. 3.1(9)(a) “simply refers to actionable harm, direct or indirect, caused by the wrongful act alleged” (at ), his Lordship expressly stated that:
- “I would certainly not disagree with the proposition, supported by the economic loss cases, that to hold that the mere fact of any economic loss, however remote, felt by a claimant where he or she lives or, if a corporation, where it has its business seat would be an unsatisfactory basis for the exercise of jurisdiction”: at .
- “The nature of pure economic loss creates a need for constraints on the legal consequences of remote effects and can give rise to complex and difficult issues as to where the damage was suffered, calling for a careful analysis of transactions. As a result, the more remote economic repercussions of the causative event will not found jurisdiction”: at .
The status of previous decisions on the meaning of PD 6B, para. 3.1(9)(a) in economic tort cases appears to have been called into doubt by Brownlie II because (as noted by Lord Leggatt, dissenting: at ) those decisions had relied upon an “inference” that PD 6B, para. 3.1(9)(a) should be interpreted consistently with the Brussels Convention/Regulation. That approach was, however, rejected by both the majority and minority of the Supreme Court: at  & . It therefore appears likely that the application of Brownlie II to economic torts will be the subject of significant future litigation.