The Nigerian Court of Appeal declines to enforce an Exclusive English Choice of Court Agreement

 

The focus of this write-up is a case note on a very recent decision of the Nigerian Court of Appeal that declined to enforce an exclusive English choice of court agreement.[1] In this case the 1st claimant/respondent was an insured party while the defendant/appellant was the insurer of the claimant/respondent. The insurance agreement between the 1st claimant/respondent and defendant/appellant provided for both an exclusive choice of court and choice of law agreement in favour of England. The claimants/respondents issued a claim for significant compensation before the High Court of Cross Rivers State, Nigeria for breach of contract and negligence on the part of the defendant/appellant for failure to fully perform the terms of the insurance contract during the period the 1st claimant/respondent was sick in Nigeria. The defendant/appellant challenged the jurisdiction of the High Court of Cross Rivers State, and asked for a stay of proceedings on the basis that there was an exclusive choice of court agreement in favour of England. The 1st claimant/respondent in a counter affidavit stated mainly at the trial court that he was critically ill, and the 2nd claimant/respondent (the employer of the 1st claimant/respondent) had serious financial difficulties in paying the 1st claimant/respondent’s salaries, so in the interest of justice a stay should not be granted.

Both opposing parties were in agreement throughout the case that it was the Brandon test,[2] as applied by the Nigerian Supreme Court[3] that was applicable in this case to determine if a stay should be granted in the enforcement of a foreign choice of court agreement. Now the Brandon test (named after an English judge called Brandon J, who formulated the test) as applied in the Nigerian context is as follows:

Save the date: University of Bonn/HCCH Conference “The HCCH 2019 Judgments Convention: Cornerstones – Prospects – Outlook”, 9 and 10 September 2022, Bonn University, Germany

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

During the ongoing pandemic, the University of Bonn has remained very careful and did not allow on-site events of a larger scale so far. We have therefore once again made the decision to reschedule our Conference (originally planned for the 25/26 September 2020, and postponed to 13/14 September 2021) now to Friday and Saturday, 9 and 10 September 2022. Let’s hope the best that the pandemic will have withdrawn to an extent that allows our conference taking place as now planned.

As there are reasonable expectations for the HCCH 2019 Judgments Convention to enter into force by the end of 2022 or early 2023, we are confident – especially with a view to the latest Proposal of the European Commission – that we will experience an even more focused and rewarding discussion of our topic.

Appeal on Merits in Commercial Arbitration?–An Overview

(authored by Chen Zhi, Wangjing & GH Law Firm, PhD Candidate at University of Macau)

Finality of tribunal’s decision without any challenging system on merits issues has been well established and viewed as one of the most cited benefits of arbitration, which can be found in most influential legal documents such as 1958 New York Convention and UNCIITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (issued in 1985, as revised in 2006).

Nevertheless, among all salient features of arbitration, finality of award is probably the most controversial one. In the investment arbitration, the question has been canvassed at length and has been serving as one of the central concerns in the ongoing reform of investment arbitration.[i] While in commercial arbitration, some practitioners and commentators are also making effort to advocate an appeal system. For example, a report by Singapore Academy of Law Reform Committee in February of 2020 strongly recommended introduction of appeals on question of law into international arbitration seated in Singapore,[ii] and has ignited a debate in this regard.

Virtual Hearing in China’s Smart Court

By Zheng Sophia Tang, Wuhan University (China) and Newcastle University (UK)

Mr Ting Liao, PhD candidate at the Wuhan University Institute of International Law, published a note on the Chinese Smart Court, which attracted a lot of interest and attention. We have responded a few enquires and comments, some relating to the procedure and feasibility of virtual/remote hearing. Based on the questions we have received, this note provides more details on how the virtual hearing is conducted in China.

  1. Background

The fast development of virtual hearing and its wide use in practice in China are attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic causes serious disruption to litigation. China is a country that has adopted the toughest prevention and controlling measures. Entrance restriction, lockdown, quarantine and social distancing challenge the court process and case management. In the meantime, this challenge offers the Chinese courts a chance to reform and modernize their judicial systems by utilizing modern technology. Since suspending limitation period may lead to backlog and delay, more Chinese courts favour the virtual proceedings. This strategy improves judicial efficiency and helps parties’ access to justice in the unusual circumstances.

How Emerging Technologies Shape the Face of Chinese Courts?

Author: Ting LIAO, Ph.D. candidate, Wuhan University Institute of International Law

A. Technology in the Context of Judicial Reform

According to Max Weber, “the modern judge is a vending machine into which the pleadings are inserted together with the fee, and which then disgorges the judgment together with the reasons mechanically derived from the code.” [1]Max Weber’s conjecture is a metaphor for the vital connotation of intelligence. The key elements of intelligence are people, data and technology. So, how these elements are utilized in the judicial system?

Generally, a significant number of courts are experimenting with the use of internet, artificial intelligence and blockchain for case filling, investigation and evidence obtaining, trials and the initiation of ADR procedures. The so-called smart justice projects are commenced in many countries. China has also made significant progress in this domain. In addition to accelerating the use of the internet technology, the Supreme People’s Court of China has demonstrated its ambition to use AI  and blockchain to solve problems in the judicial proceedings.[2]

Ducking the Ricochet: The Supreme Court of Canada on Foreign Judgments

Written by Stephen G.A. Pitel, Western University

The court’s decision in HMB Holdings Ltd v Antigua and Barbuda, 2021 SCC 44 (available here) is interesting for at least two reasons. First, it adds to the understanding of the meaning of “carrying on business” as a test for being present in a jurisdiction. Second, it casts doubt on the application of statutory registration schemes for foreign judgments to judgments that themselves recognize a foreign judgment (the so-called ricochet).

In this litigation HMB obtained a Privy Council judgment and then sued to enforce it in British Columbia. Antigua did not defend and so HMB obtained a default judgment. HMB then sought to register the British Columbia judgment in Ontario under Ontario’s statutory scheme for the registration of judgments (known as REJA). An important threshold issue was whether the statutory scheme applied to judgments like the British Columbia one (a recognition judgment). In part this is a matter of statutory interpretation but in part it requires thinking through the aim and objectives of the scheme.

Read more

Indonesia deposits its instrument of accession to the HCCH 1961 Apostille Convention

Guest post by Priskila P. Penasthika, Ph.D. Researcher at Erasmus School of Law – Rotterdam and Lecturer in Private International Law at Universitas Indonesia.

Indonesian Accession to the HCCH 1961 Apostille Convention

After almost a decade of discussions, negotiations, and preparations, Indonesia has finally acceded to the HCCH 1961 Apostille Convention. In early January this year, Indonesia enacted Presidential Regulation Number 2 of 2021, signed by President Joko Widodo, as the instrument of accession to the HCCH 1961 Apostille Convention. The HCCH 1961 Apostille Convention is the first HCCH Convention to which Indonesia became a Contracting Party.

In its accession to the HCCH 1961 Apostille Convention, Indonesia made a declaration to exclude documents issued by the Prosecutor Office, the prosecuting body in Indonesia, from the definition of public documents whose requirements of legalisation have been abolished in accordance with Article 1(a) of the HCCH 1961 Apostille Convention.

In accordance with Article 12 of the Convention, Indonesia deposited its instrument of accession to the HCCH 1961 Apostille Convention with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands on 5 October 2021. The ceremony was a very special occasion because it coincided with the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Convention. Therefore, the ceremony was part of the Fifth Meeting of the Special Commission on the practical operation of the HCCH 1961 Apostille Convention and witnessed by all Contracting Parties of the Convention.

The Minister of Law and Human Rights of the Republic of Indonesia, Yasonna H. Laoly, joined the ceremony and delivered a speech virtually via videoconference from Jakarta. Minister Laoly voiced the importance of the HCCH 1961 Apostille Convention for Indonesia and underlined Indonesia’s commitment to continue cooperating with the HCCH.

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 [2021] 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).

 

Background

 

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 [1], [10] & [91]. On her return to England, however, Lady Brownlie suffered consequential losses including bereavement and loss of dependency in this jurisdiction: at [83].

Which law governs disputes involving corporations?

Guest post by Dr Sagi Peari, Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor at the University of Western Australia

When it comes to the question of the applicable law that governs disputes involving corporations: one must make a sharp distinction between two principal matters: (1) matters relating to external interactions of corporation (such as disputes between a corporation and other external actors, such as other business entities or individuals); and (2) matters relating to the internal interactions of a corporation (such as disputes within the corporate structure or  litigation between a corporation and its directors). A claim of a corporation against another in relation to a breach of contract between the two is an example of a dispute related to external affairs of a corporation. A claim of a corporate shareholder against a director in the firm is an example of a dispute concerning corporate internal affairs.

Forum Selection Clauses, Afghanistan, and the United States

One Afghanistan-based company sues another in commercial court in Afghanistan. The plaintiff wins at trial. The Afghanistan Supreme Court reverses. It orders the parties to resolve their dispute in the United States. The plaintiff files suit in the United States. Chaos ensues.

This may sound like an unlikely scenario. It is, however, a concise description of the facts presented in Nawai Wardak Transportation Co. v. RMA Grp. Afghanistan Ltd, No. 350393 (Mich. Ct. App. 2021). This case is noteworthy for a number of reasons. It offers insights into best drafting practices for choice-of-court clauses. It illustrates how U.S. courts decide whether these clauses should be enforced. And it suggests that the Afghanistan Supreme Court takes the principle of party autonomy pretty seriously.

In July 2012, the United States Agency for International Development (“USAID”) contracted with Aircraft Charter Solutions (“ACS”) to perform aircraft flight operations out of Kabul International Airport in Afghanistan. ACS entered into a contract with RMA Afghanistan (“RMA”), an Afghanistan-based company, to supply fuel to locations throughout Afghanistan. RMA, in turn, entered into a contract with Nawai Wardak Transportation Company (“NWTC”), another Afghanistan-based company, to supply fuel in support of the contract between USAID and ACS. The contract between RMA and NWTC contained the following provision: