Court of Appeal allows in England claims against English-based multinational for overseas human rights violations

Written by Ekaterina AristovaPhD in Law Candidate, University of Cambridge

On 14 October 2017, the London’s Court of Appeal passed its long awaited decision in Lungowe v Vedanta confirming that foreign citizens can pursue in England legal claims against English-based multinationals for their overseas activities.

In 2015, Zambian villagers commenced proceedings against Vedanta, an English-based mining corporation, and its indirect Zambian subsidiary, KCM, alleging responsibility of both companies for the environmental pollution arising out of the operation in Zambia of the Nchanga Copper Mine by KCM. In 2016, the High Court allowed claims against both companies to be heard in England. The overall analysis of the judgement (see the author’s earlier post on this blog) suggested that (1) claims against the parent company on the breach of duty of care in relation to the overseas operations of the foreign subsidiary can be heard in the English courts and (2) the existence of an arguable claim against the English-domiciled parent company also establishes jurisdiction of the English courts over the subsidiary even if the factual basis of the case occurs almost exclusively in the foreign state. The Court of Appeal has entirely upheld a High Court ruling.

Dutch collective redress dangerous? A call for a more nuanced approach

Prepared by Alexandre Biard, Xandra Kramer and Ilja Tillema, Erasmus University Rotterdam

The Netherlands has become dangerously involved in the treatment of mass claims, Lisa Rickard from the US Chamber of Commerce recently said to the Dutch financial daily (Het Financieele Dagblad, 28 September 2017) and the Dutch BNR newsradio (broadcast of 28 September 2017). This statement follows the conclusions of two reports published in March and September 2017 by the US Institute for Legal Reforms (ILR), an entity affiliated with the US Chamber of Commerce. Within a few hours, the news spread like wildfire in online Dutch newspapers, see for instance here.

Worryingly enough, the March 2017 report, which assessed collective redress mechanisms in ten Member States, predicted that ‘there are a number of very powerful indicators that all of the same incentives and forces that have led to mass abuse in other jurisdictions are also gathering force in the EU’. Among the jurisdictions surveyed, the Netherlands appeared as a place particularly prone to such abuse. The September 2017 report focuses on consumer attitudes towards collective redress safeguards, and ultimately concludes that 85% of respondents tend to support the introduction of safeguards for the resolution of mass claims.

I thought we were exclusive? Some issues with the Hague Convention on Choice of Court, Brussels Ia and Brexit

This blog post is by Dr Mukarrum Ahmed (Lancaster University) and Professor Paul Beaumont (University of Aberdeen). It presents a condensed version of their article in the August 2017 issue of the Journal of Private International Law. The blog post includes specific references to the actual journal article to enable the reader to branch off into the detailed discussion where relevant. It also takes account of recent developments in the Brexit negotiation that took place after the journal article was completed.    

On 1 October 2015, the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements 2005 (‘Hague Convention’) entered into force in 28 Contracting States, including Mexico and all the Member States of the European Union, except Denmark. The Convention has applied between Singapore and the other Contracting States since 1 October 2016. China, Ukraine and the USA have signed the Convention indicating that they hope to ratify it in the future (see the official status table for the Convention on the Hague Conference on Private International Law’s website). The Brussels Ia Regulation, which is the European Union’s device for jurisdictional and enforcement matters, applies as of 10 January 2015 to legal proceedings instituted and to judgments rendered on or after that date. In addition to legal issues that may arise independently under the Hague Convention, some issues may manifest themselves at the interface between the Hague Convention and the Brussels Ia Regulation. Both sets of issues are likely to garner the attention of cross-border commercial litigators, transactional lawyers and private international law academics. The article examines anti-suit injunctions, concurrent proceedings and the implications of Brexit in the context of the Hague Convention and its relationship with the Brussels Ia Regulation. (See pages 387-389 of the article)

On the Global Community of Private International Law – Impressions from Brazil

From August 3-5 this year, the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro hosted the 7th biennial conference of the Journal of Private International Law. Ably organized by Nadia de Araujo and Daniela Vargas from the host institution, together with Paul Beaumont from Aberdeen, the conference was a great success, as concerns both the quality and quantity of the presentations. Instead of a conference report, I want to provide some, undoubtedly subjective, impressions as concerns the emerging global community of private international law.

First, no less than 168 participants attended, from all over the world. The Journal conference has, by now, become something like a World Congress of Private International Law. This is no small achievement. The Journal of Private International Law started out in 2005 as a very doctrinal publication focusing primarily on common law systems and European private international law. Fittingly, the first two conferences took place in the UK. It was a very wise decision to move, after that, to cities in other countries—New York (2009), Milan (2011), Madrid (2013) and now, after a return to the UK (Cambridge) for the ten-year anniversary in 2015, Rio de Janeiro (2017). By now, it can be said that Journal and conference both really represent the world. And what is emerging is a global community that comes together at these and other events.

Grounds for Refusal of Recognition of (Quasi-) Annex Judgements in the Recast European Insolvency Regulation

Written by Zoltán Fabók, Fellow of INSOL International, Counsel at DLA Piper (Hungary) and PhD Candidate at Nottingham Trent University

Insolvency-related (annex) actions and judgements fall within the scope of the Recast European Insolvency Regulation (‘Recast EIR’). That instrument both determines international jurisdiction regarding annex actions and sets up a simplified recognition system for annex judgements. However, tension between the Recast EIR’s provisions on jurisdiction and recognition arises when a court of a state different from the state of insolvency erroneously assumes jurisdiction for annex actions. Such ‘quasi-annex’ judgements rendered by foreign courts erroneously assuming jurisdiction threaten the integrity of the insolvency proceedings. Besides, the quasi-annex judgements may violate the effectiveness and efficiency of the insolvency proceedings as well as the principle of legal certainty.

Egyptian Court of Cassation on the application of the Hague Service Convention

[The author wishes to thank Justice Hossam Hesham Sadek, Vice President of the Civil and Commercial Chamber of the Court of Cassation, and reporting judge in the case at hand, for granting access to the Supreme Court’s ruling].

1.  Introduction

In a recent ruling (22/05/2017), the Egyptian Court of Cassation tackled with the issue of service of process abroad. The facts of the case were the following: The claimant (and appellant) was an Egyptian Medical Equipment company, situated in Cairo. The respondents and appellees were a Chinese company, with its seat in Nanshan district, Shenzen, the Egyptian General Organization for Import and Export Control, and an Egyptian company, with its seat in Heliopolis, Cairo.

2. Facts and instance ruling

The Justice Initiative Frankfurt am Main 2017

Written by Prof. Dr. Dres. h.c. Burkhard Hess, Executive Director Max Planck Institute Luxembourg for Procedural Law

Against the backdrop of Brexit, an initiative has been launched to strengthen Frankfurt as a hot spot for commercial litigation in the European Judicial Area. On March 30, 2017, the Minister of Justice of the Federal State Hessen, Ms Kühne-Hörmann, organized a conference at which the Justice Initiative was presented. More  than 120 stakeholders (lawyers, judges, businesses) attended the conference. The original paper was elaborated by Professors Burkhard Hess (Luxembourg), Thomas Pfeiffer (Heidelberg), Christian Duve (Heidelberg) and Roman Poseck (President of the Frankfurt Court of Appeal). Here, we are pleased to provide an English translation of the position paper with some additional information on German procedural law for an international audience. The proposal has, as a matter of principle, been endorsed by the Minister of Justice. Its proposals are now being discussed and shall be implemented in the next months to come. The paper reads as follows: Read more

Paris, the Jurisdiction of Choice?

On January 17th, the President of the Paris Commercial Court (Tribunal de commerce) inaugurated a new international division.

The new division, which is in fact the 3rd division of the court (3ème Chambre), is to be staffed with nine judges who speak foreign languages, and will therefore be able to assess evidence written in a foreign language. For now, the languages will be English, German and Spanish, as one juge speaking Spanish and two speaking German are currently on the court.

In an interview to the Fondation de droit continental (Civil law initiative), the President of the Court explained that the point was to make French justice more competitive and attract international cases. It also made clear that France was following Germany’s lead, where several international divisions were established in 2009 in Hamburg and Cologne.

French Commercial Courts

It should be pointed out to readers unfamiliar with the French legal system that French commercial courts are not staffed with professional judges, but with members of the business community working part-time at the court (and for free). In Paris, however, many of these judges work in the legal department of their company, and are thus fine lawyers.

Also, French commercial courts (and French civil courts generally) virtually never hear witnesses, so the issue of the language in which they may address the court does not arise.

Some issues

So, the new international division will be able to read documents in several foreign languages. However, nothing suggests that parties or lawyers will be able either to speak, or to write pleadings, in any other language than French. Lawyers arguing these cases will still need to file their pleadings in French, and thus to translate them in English beforehand for their clients. Furthermore, the interview of the Court’s President seems to suggest that using a foreign language will not be a right for the parties. Quite to the contrary, it seems that it will not be possible if one of the parties disagrees, and demands documents be translated in French.

Will that be enough to attract additional commercial cases to Paris?

I wonder whether introducing class actions in French civil procedure would have been more efficient in this respect.

For the full interview of the Court’s President, see after the jump.

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