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. 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, as applied by the Nigerian Supreme Court 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: