Tag Archive for: choice of law

Australia’s statutist orthodoxy: High Court confirms the extraterritorial scope of the Australian Consumer Law in the Ruby Princess COVID-cruise case

The Ruby Princess will be remembered by many Australians with disdain as the floating petri dish that kicked off the spread of COVID-19 in Australia. The ship departed Sydney on 8 March 2020, then returned early on 19 March 2020 after an outbreak. Many passengers became sick. Some died. According to the BBC, the ship was ultimately linked to at least 900 infections and 28 deaths.

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Choice of law in commercial contracts and regulatory competition: new steps to be made by the EU?

The recently published study titled ‘European Commercial Contract Law’, authored by Andrea Bertolini, addresses the theme of regulatory competition. It offers new policy recommendations to improve EU legal systems’ chances of being chosen as the law governing commercial contracts.

 

The Study’s main question

The European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs has published a new study authored by Andrea Bertolini, titled ‘European Commercial Contract Law’ (the ‘Study’). The Study formulates the main question as follows: ‘why the law chosen in commercial contracts is largely non-European and non-member state law’. The expression ‘non-European and non-member state’ law is specified as denoting the legal systems of England and Wales, the United States, and Singapore, and more generally, common law legal systems. The Study states:

It is easily observed how most often international contracts are governed by non-European law. The reasons why this occurs are up to debate and could be quite varied both in nature and relevance. Indeed, a recent study by Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) found that 43 per cent of commercial practitioners and in-house counsel preferred English law as the governing law of the contracts. Read more

Mbatha v. Cutting: Implications for Litigants of Indian Origin

Guest Post by Chytanya S. Agarwal*

I. Introduction

Rising cross-border migration of people and concomitant increase in lawsuits relating to matrimonial disputes between couples brings to the forefront the issue of conflict of jurisdictional laws (219th Law Commission Report, ¶1.1-¶1.2). Mbatha v. Cutting is one such recent case that grapples with conflict of laws pertaining to divorce and division of matrimonial property when the spouses are domiciled in separate jurisdictions. In this case, the Georgian Court of Appeal dealt with competing claims from a couple who married in New York and had their matrimonial domicile in South Africa. The wife, domiciled in Georgia, USA, argued for the application of the matrimonial property regime of South Africa – their only (though temporary) common matrimonial domicile. In determining the applicable law, the Court upheld the traditional approach, which favours lex situs for real property and lex domicilii for personal property.

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Measure twice, cut once: Dutch case Presta v VLEP on choice of law in employment contracts

Presta v VLEP (23 june 2023) illustrates the application of the CEJU’s Gruber Logistics (Case C-152/20, 15 July 2021) by the Dutch Supreme Court. In order to determine the law applicable to an individual employment contract under article 8 Rome I, one must compare the level of protection that would have existed in the absence of a choice of law (in this case, Dutch law) with the level of protection offered by the law chosen by the parties in the contract (in this case, the laws of Luxembourg), thereafter, the law of the country offering the highest level of employee protection should be applied.

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The Dutch Supreme Court on how to deal with the CISG on appeal (Willemen Infra v Jura)

On 24 February 2023, the Dutch Supreme court has ruled in the case Willemen Infra v Jura, ECLI:NL:HR:2023:313. The ruling clarifies the scope of the Dutch courts’ duty to apply the CISG (UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, 1980) ex officio on appeal. The Dutch appellate courts shall not review of their own motion whether the first instance court had to apply the CISG to the dispute, if the question of governing law was not the subject of parties’ objections on appeal and thus got “beyond the parties’ dispute”.

Facts

The facts of this case related to a sale of gutters by a Dutch seller to a Belgian buyer. The gutters were to be used for the renovation of a runway at Zaventem airport. According to the seller’s general terms and conditions, the disputes were to be resolved before a Dutch court on the basis of Dutch law.

After the start of performance, the buyer had reasons to assume that that the seller was unable to timely supply the products of the required quality. The buyer refused to take all the purchased gutters.

Proceedings

The seller disagreed and claimed damages for the loss of profit caused by the breach of contract. In the proceedings, the buyer submitted a counterclaim, invoking partial avoidance of contract and, alternatively, nullity of contract due to vitiation of consent. The buyer submitted namely that it had concluded the contract based on misrepresentation relating to the products’ quality (the certificates which the products should have) and the delivery time.

The seller relied on both the CISG and Dutch law in its written submissions, including the statement that the choice for Dutch law in the general terms and conditions should be interpreted as excluding the application of the CISG. During the oral hearing, both parties referred to Dutch law only (see on this the Conclusion of the Advocate General, at [3.4]). The first instance court ruled as follows in relation to applicable law: ‘According to the [seller], the contract is governed by Dutch law. (…) ‘The court contends that [the buyer] also relies on Dutch law in its arguments, and thus follows [the seller’s] reasoning. The court follows the parties in this and shall apply Dutch law.” (the formulation is quoted in Willemen Infra v Jura at [4.3.1], compare to Advisory Council’s Opinion nr 16). The court has then applied the Dutch civil code, not the CISG, to the dispute.

The seller appealed against the decision, but not against the applicable law. Nevertheless, the appellate court considered of its own motion, whether the contract was governed by the CISG. It ruled that the contract fell under the CISG’s scope; the Convention was directly applicable on the basis of article 1(1)(a) CISG, as both Belgium and the Netherlands are Contracting States to CISG. Furthermore, the parties to the dispute have not explicitly excluded the CISG’s application based on article 6. The appellate court has applied the CISG to the contractual claim, and Dutch law – to the claim relating to the vitiation of consent, as this matter falls outside the Convention’s scope. The buyer has labelled the application of the CISG ‘surprising’, because no claim in appeal targeted applicable law.

In cassation, the Dutch Supreme has ruled that applicable law was indeed “beyond the parties’ dispute” on appeal. Therefore, the appellate court was neither free to determine applicable law anew nor free to apply CISG of its own motion (Willemen Infra v Jura at [2.1.2]- [3.1.6]).

CISG and procedural ordre public?

The ruling is logical from the point of view of civil procedure. Appellate review follows up on – and is limited by – the points invoked on appeal. Issues “beyond the parties’ dispute” are not reviewed, unless these issues fall under the rules of procedural ordre public, which the appellate courts must apply of their own motion. While there is no unanimously accepted definition of the Dutch procedural ordre public, the cassation claim explicitly suggested that ‘the CISG is not of ordre public’ (see Conclusion of the Advocate General, at [3.3.]). Whereas this element of the cassation claim has been satisfied, neither the Advocate General nor the Court have engaged with the discussion whether procedural ordre public covers direct application (or applicability) of the Convention’s uniform substantive sales law, even if it would be confined to establishing whether the parties have opted-out the CISG based on its article 6.

Choice of Law in the American Courts in 2022: Thirty-Sixth Annual Survey

The 36th Annual Survey of Choice of Law in the American Courts (2022) has been posted to SSRN.

The cases discussed in this year’s survey cover such topics as: (1) choice of law, (2) party autonomy, (3) extraterritoriality, (4) international human rights, (5) foreign sovereign immunity, (6) foreign official immunity, (7) adjudicative jurisdiction, and (8) the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. Happy reading!

John Coyle (University of North Carolina School of Law)
William Dodge (University of California, Davis School of Law)
Aaron Simowitz (Willamette University College of Law)

HCCH Monthly Update: May 2021

Conventions & Instruments

On 24 May 2021, Niger deposited its instrument of accession to the HCCH 1993 Adoption Convention. With the accession of Niger, the Adoption Convention now has 104 Contracting Parties. It will enter into force for Niger on 1 September 2021. More information is available here.

Meetings & Events

On 4 May 2021, the HCCH participated in the virtual launch of the book Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts, published by Oxford University Press. The recording of the event is available here.

From 3 to 6 May 2021, the Experts’ Group on the e-APP and New Technologies met via videoconference. The Group discussed the current use of the electronic Apostille Programme (e-APP), and future solutions. It endorsed a set of key principles and good practices for Contracting Parties in the implementation of the e-APP, and invited the PB to develop an online forum to facilitate intersessional discussion and information sharing, including in relation to best practices, between meetings of the Special Commission and the International Forum on the e-APP. More information is available here.

On 10 and 11 May 2021, the Administrative Cooperation Working Group on the 2007 Child Support Convention met via videoconference. The Group continued its work as a forum for discussion of issues pertaining to administrative cooperation, making significant progress on a Draft Statistical Report under the 2007 Child Support Convention. More information is available here.

From 18 to 22 May 2021, the HCCH co-organised a virtual seminar for judges on adoption and the protection of the rights of children and adolescents, in collaboration with the Judiciary Council and the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion of Ecuador. More information on the HCCH 1993 Adoption Convention is available here.

Publications & Documentation

On 21 May 2021, the HCCH and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) launched a questionnaire on the intersection of private international law and intellectual property. The Questionnaire is open for consultation to a wide audience, including Member States of both Organisations, other intergovernmental organisations, non-governmental organisations, practitioners, in-house counsel, academics and other private individuals. Responses will be received until 30 June 2021, after which they will be compiled and analysed, with the results to be submitted to the HCCH’s Council on General Affairs and Policy (CGAP) ahead of its 2022 meeting. More information is available here.

 

These monthly updates are published by the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH), providing an overview of the latest developments. More information and materials are available on the HCCH website.

Choice of Australian Aboriginal Customary Law

The relationship between the conflict of laws and constitutional law is close in many legal systems, and Australia is no exception. Leading Australian conflict of laws cases, including, for example, John Pfeiffer Pty Ltd v Rogerson (2000) 203 CLR 503, which adopted a lex loci delicti rule for intra-Australian torts, are premised on public law concepts essential to our federation. These cases illustrate how the conflict of laws bleeds into other disciplines.

Love v Commonwealth [2020] HCA 3 is a recent decision of the High Court of Australia that highlights the breadth and blurry edges of our discipline. Most legal commentators would characterise the case in terms of constitutional law and migration law. The Court considered a strange question: can an Aboriginal Australian be an ‘alien’?

Policy background

Australia’s disposition to migration is controversial to say the least. Our government’s migration policies, which often enjoy bi-partisan support, are a source of embarrassment for many Australians. One controversial migration policy involves New Zealanders. Australia and New Zealand enjoy a very close relationship on several fronts, including with respect to private international law: see the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Act 2010 (Cth). New Zealanders often enjoy privileges in Australia that are not afforded to persons of other nationality.

Yet recently, Australia began to deport New Zealanders who had committed crimes in Australia no matter how long they had lived in Australia. In February, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that the policy was ‘testing’ our countries’ friendship. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison replied, ‘[w]e deport non-citizens who have committed crimes in Australia against our community’. Sections of the Australian community are seeking to change Australia’s policy on point, which is effected by the Migration Act 1958 (Cth).

Facts and issues

The Court heard two special cases together. As Kiefel CJ explained: ‘[e]ach of the plaintiffs was born outside Australia – Mr Love in Papua New Guinea and Mr Thoms in New Zealand. They are citizens of those countries. They have both lived in Australia for substantial periods as holders of visas which permitted their residence but which were subject to revocation. They did not seek to become Australian citizens’.

Section 501(3A) of the Migration Act requires the Minister for Home Affairs to a cancel a person’s visa if they have been convicted of an offence for which a sentence of imprisonment of 12 months or more is provided. Each of the plaintiffs committed crimes and had their visas cancelled. The effect of which was that they became ‘unlawful non-citizens’ who could be removed from Australia.

The plaintiffs’ cases turned on s 51(xix) of the Commonwealth Constitution, which provides:

The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to… naturalization and aliens…

The plaintiffs contended that they were outside the purview of the Migration Act, the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 (Cth) and s 51(xix) because they each had a special status as a ‘non-citizen, non-alien’. ‘They say that they have that status because although they are non-citizens they cannot be aliens because they are Aboriginal persons’: [3]. Each plaintiff arguably satisfied the tripartite test for Aboriginality recognised at common law and considered below. Thoms was even a native title holder.

The High Court was asked to consider whether each plaintiff was an ‘alien’ within the meaning of s 51(xix) of the Constitution. Kiefel CJ clarified that the question is better understood as follows: ‘whether it is open to the Commonwealth Parliament to treat persons having the characteristics of the plaintiffs as non?citizens for the purposes of the Migration Act’: [4].

The High Court split

The High Court’s seven justices departed from usual practice and each offered their own reasons. The majority of four (Bell, Nettle, Gordon and Edelman JJ) answered as follows:

The majority considers that Aboriginal Australians (understood according to the tripartite test in Mabo v Queensland [No 2] (1992) 175 CLR 1 at 70) are not within the reach of the “aliens” power conferred by s 51(xix) of the Constitution. The majority is unable, however, to agree as to whether the plaintiff is an Aboriginal Australian on the facts stated in the special case and, therefore, is unable to answer this question.

Arcioni and Thwaites explain: ‘The majority rested their reasoning on the connection of Aboriginal Australians with Australian land and waters. Aboriginal Australians were a unique, sui generis case, such that Aboriginality may generate a class of constitutional members (non-aliens) who are statutory non-citizens’. The minority of Kiefel CJ, Gageler and Keane JJ dissented for different reasons. A common theme of those reasons was that ‘alien’ is the antonym of ‘citizen’.

Is this a choice of law case?

The case is about constitutional law. It is also about status. ‘Alienage or citizenship is a status created by law’: [177] per Keane J. One understanding of the difference between the majority and minority is a difference in opinion as to the applicable law to determine status as ‘alien’ in this context.

According to Nettle J, ‘status [as a member of an Australian Aboriginal society] is inconsistent with alienage’: [272]. ‘Aboriginal Australians are not outsiders or foreigners – they are the descendants of the first peoples of this country, the original inhabitants, and they are recognised as such’: [335] per Gordon J. The majority appealed to the common law’s recognition of native title rights underpinned by traditional laws and customs in support of their analyses (see, eg, [339]).

The minority denied that status as Aboriginal could determine whether a person has the status of an ‘alien’ within the meaning of the Constitution.

Recognition of non-state law?

Nettle J quoted (at [269]) the following passage from the native title case Yorta Yorta Aboriginal Community v Victoria (2002) 214 CLR 422, 445 [49] (Gleeson CJ, Gummow and Hayne JJ):

Laws and customs do not exist in a vacuum. They are, in Professor Julius Stone’s words, ‘socially derivative and non-autonomous’. As Professor Honoré has pointed out, it is axiomatic that ‘all laws are laws of a society or group’. Or as was said earlier, in Paton’s Jurisprudence, ‘law is but a result of all the forces that go to make society’. Law and custom arise out of and, in important respects, go to define a particular society. In this context, ‘society’ is to be understood as a body of persons united in and by its acknowledgment and observance of a body of law and customs.

The status of the laws and customs of Australia’s Aboriginal peoples has been the subject of case consideration for decades. In Milirrpum v Nabalco Pty Ltd (1971) 17 FLR 141, 267, for example, Blackburn J said:

The evidence shows a subtle and elaborate system highly adapted to the country in which the people led their lives, which provided a stable order of society and was remarkably free from the vagaries of personal whim or influence. If ever a system could be called “a government of laws, and not of men”, it is that shown in the evidence before me.

Later, in Mabo (No 2), the High Court finally recognised the significance of those laws to recognition of native title. In that case, the Court articulated a tripartite test for whether a person is an Aboriginal Australian: biological descent, self-identification, and recognition by the relevant Aboriginal community (see [291] per Gordon J). As explained further below, satisfaction of this test depends on application of traditional laws and customs. Arguably, satisfaction of the test requires recognition of the positive force of that non-state law.

Against that, Keane J held, ‘[t]he common law’s recognition of customary native title does not entail the recognition of an Aboriginal community’s laws’: [202]. Rather, it goes the other way: Aboriginal laws are necessary for recognition of native title. Kiefel J also explicitly rejected recognition of Aboriginal customary law: ‘[i]t is not the traditional laws and customs which are recognised by the common law. It is native title … which is the subject of recognition by the common law, and to which the common law will give effect. The common law cannot be said by extension to accept or recognise traditional laws and customs as having force or effect in Australia’: [37]. Arguably, this means that there is no choice of law at play in this case: there is just one law at issue, being the law of Australia.

Yet even in transnational cases within the traditional domain of the conflict of laws, Australian courts will only apply foreign laws via application of the lex fori: Pfeiffer, [40]–[41]; Nygh’s Conflict of Laws in Australia, ch 12. For practical purposes, the majority approach does recognise Aboriginal non-state law as capable of application to resolve certain issues of (non-Aboriginal) Australian law.

A choice of law rule?

Nettle J came close to articulation of a new intra-Australian choice of law rule at [271]:

for present purposes, the most significant of the traditional laws and customs of an Aboriginal society are those which allocate authority to elders and other persons to decide questions of membership. Acceptance by persons having that authority, together with descent (an objective criterion long familiar to the common law of status) and self-identification (a protection of individual autonomy), constitutes membership of an Aboriginal society: a status recognised at the “intersection of traditional laws and customs with the common law”.

If there is a choice of law rule in there, its significance might be expressed through this syllogism:

  • P1. Whether a person is capable of being deported after committing a serious crime depends on whether they are an ‘alien’.
  • P2. Whether a person is an ‘alien’ depends on whether they are ‘Aboriginal’.
  • P3. Whether a person is ‘Aboriginal’ depends on whether they satisfy the tripartite test in Mabo [No 2] with respect to a particular Aboriginal society.
  • P4. Whether a person satisfies the tripartite test turns on the customary law of the relevant Aboriginal society.

Like questions of foreign law, ‘[w]hether a person is an Aboriginal Australian is a question of fact’: [75] per Bell J. How does one prove the content of the relevant Aboriginal law? Proof of traditional laws and customs often occurs in native title cases. It was considered at [281] per Nettle J:

It was contended by the Commonwealth that it might often prove difficult to establish that an Aboriginal society has maintained continuity in the observance of its traditional laws and customs since the Crown’s acquisition of sovereignty over the Australian territory. No doubt, that is so. But difficulty of proof is not a legitimate basis to hold that a resident member of an Aboriginal society can be regarded as an alien in the ordinary sense of the term. It means only that some persons asserting that status may fail to establish their claims. There is nothing new about disputed questions of fact in claims made by non-citizens that they have an entitlement to remain in this country.

Minority critique of the choice of law approach

As a dissentient in the minority, Gageler J offered a compelling critique of what I construe to be the choice of law approach of the majority (at [137]):

To concede capacity to decide who is and who is not an alien from the perspective of the body politic of the Commonwealth of Australia to a traditional Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander society or to a contemporary Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community, or to any other discrete segment of the people of Australia, would be to concede to a non?constitutional non?representative non?legally?accountable sub?national group a constitutional capacity greater than that conferred on any State Parliament. Yet that would be the practical effect of acceptance of either of the first and second variations of the plaintiffs’ argument.

The choice of non-state law is arguably made more controversial by the character of those laws’ content. Nettle J explained at [276]: ‘As is now understood, central to the traditional laws and customs of Aboriginal communities was, and is, an essentially spiritual connection with “country”, including a responsibility to live in the tracks of ancestral spirits and to care for land and waters to be handed on to future generations’. Gordon J held at [290], ‘[t]hat connection is spiritual or metaphysical’. Tacit in the majority’s mode of analysis, then, is that a person’s spiritual or religious views can have an impact on their status as an ‘alien’, or otherwise, within the Commonwealth Constitution. (A once-Aboriginal non-citizen who lacks those spiritual views and renounces their membership of their Aboriginal society may still be an ‘alien’ following this case: see [279], [372].) From a secular perspective within an increasingly secular nation, that is a striking proposition.

Conclusion

This is not the first time that the relationship between the conflict of laws and issues affecting indigenous peoples has been considered. More generally, whether non-state law may be the subject of choice of law is a topic that has been considered many times before. One of the factors that makes Love v Commonwealth unique, from an Australian legal perspective, is the majority’s effective choice of Aboriginal customary law to determine an important issue of status without really disturbing the common law proposition that Aboriginal groups lack political sovereignty within the Australian federation (see [37], [102], [199]). COVID-19 may have stalled sought after changes to the Australian Constitution with respect to recognition of indigenous peoples (see (2019) 93 Australian Law Journal 929), yet it remains on the national agenda. In any event, Australia’s very white judiciary may not be the best forum for recognition of the sovereignty of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Ontario Court Holds Law of Bangladesh Applies to Rana Plaza Collapse Claim

The Court of Appeal for Ontario has upheld a decision of the Superior Court of Justice dismissing a $2 billion claim against Loblaws relating to the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Savar, Bangladesh.  In Das v George Weston Limited, 2018 ONCA 1053 (available here) the court concluded that the claims were governed by the law of Bangladesh (not Ontario).  It went on to conclude that most of the claims were statute barred under the Bangladeshi limitation period and that it was “plain and obvious” that the remaining claims would fail under Bangladeshi tort law.

Unlike some of the recent cases in this area, this was not a case about a Canadian parent corporation and the operations of its own foreign subsidiary.  It was a case about a contractual supply relationship.  Loblaws bought clothes (to sell in its Canadian retail stores) from corporations whose workers manufactured the clothes in Rana Plaza.

The key conflict of laws point was the choice of law issue.  The rule in Ontario is that tort claims are governed by the law of the place of the tort: Tolofson v Jensen, [1994] 3 SCR 1022.  The plaintiffs had argued that they were suing Loblaws for negligent conduct that exposed those working in Rana Plaza to harm.  They argued that Loblaws had, by adopting corporate social responsibility policies and hiring Bureau Veritas to conduct periodic “social audits” of the workplace, assumed a degree of responsibility for the safety of the workplace in Bangladesh (para 20).  They argued that the key steps and decisions by Loblaws took place in Ontario rather than in Bangladesh and therefore Ontario was the place of the tort (para 80).  The court rejected these arguments.  It held that the place where the alleged wrongful activity occurred was Bangladesh (para 85), that the alleged duty was owed to people in Bangladesh (para 87) and that the injury suffered in Bangladesh “crystallized the alleged wrong” (para 90).

The court also refused to apply Tolofson‘s narrow exception to the place of the tort rule.  One reason the plaintiffs raised for triggering the exception was the lack of punitive damages under the law of Bangladesh.  The court noted that the lower court’s decision had suggested such damages might actually be available under that law, but in any case “the absence of the availability of punitive damages is not the type of issue that offends Canadian fundamental values” (para 95).  The court raised no basis on which to disagree with this analysis.

Because the applicable law was that of Bangladesh, and because some of the claims were not statute-barred, the court was required to do a detailed analysis of Bangladeshi tort law on the duty of care issue in order to determine whether those claims were to be dismissed as not viable.  This aspect of the decision may be the most disquieting, since there was little if any on-point authority in the Bangladeshi jurisprudence (para 130).  The court had to rely on experts who were relying on a considerable volume of Indian and English cases and then debating the extent to which these would impact the issue if determined by a Bangladeshi court.  Ultimately the court concluded that under Bangladeshi law the claims could not succeed.

Double Counting the Place of the Tort?

In common law Canada there is a clear separation between the question of a court having jurisdiction (jurisdiction simpliciter) and the question of a court choosing whether to exercise or stay its jurisdiction.  One issue discussed in the Supreme Court of Canada’s recent decision in Haaretz.com v Goldhar (available here) is the extent of that separation.  Does this separation mean that a particular fact cannot be used in both the analysis of jurisdiction and of forum non conveniens?  On its face that seems wrong.  A fact could play a role in two separate analyses, being relevant to each in different ways.

Justice Cote, with whom Justices Brown and Rowe agreed, held that “applicable law, as determined by the lex loci delicti principle, should be accorded little weight in the forum non conveniens analysis in cases where jurisdiction is established on the basis of the situs of the tort” (para 90).  She indicated that this conclusion was mandated by the separation of jurisdiction and staying proceedings, which extends to each being “based on different factors”.  So if the place of the tort has been used as the basis for assuming jurisdiction, the same factor (the place of the tort) should not play a role in analyzing the most appropriate forum when considering a stay.  And since the applicable law is one of the factors considered in that analysis, if the applicable law is to be identified based on the connecting factor of the place of the tort, which is the rule in common law Canada, then the applicable law as a factor “should be accorded little weight”.

In separate concurring reasons, Justice Karakatsanis agreed that the applicable law “holds little weight here, where jurisdiction and applicable law are both established on the basis of where the tort was committed” (para 100).  In contrast, the three dissenting judges rejected this reason for reducing the weight of the applicable law (para 208).  The two other judges did not address this issue, so the tally was 4-3 for Justice Cote’s view.

As Vaughan Black has pointed out in discussions about the decision, the majority approach, taken to its logical conclusion, would mean that if jurisdiction is based on the defendant’s residence in the forum then the defendant’s residence is not a relevant factor in assessing which forum is more appropriate.  That contradicts a great many decisions on forum non conveniens.  Indeed, the court did not offer any supporting authorities in which the “double counting” of a fact was said to be inappropriate.

The majority approach has taken analytical separation too far.  There is no good reason for excluding or under-weighing a fact relevant to the forum non conveniens analysis simply because that same fact was relevant at the jurisdiction stage.  Admittedly the court in Club Resorts narrowed the range of facts that are relevant to jurisdiction in part to reduce overlap between the two questions.  But that narrowing was of jurisdiction.  Forum non conveniens remains a broad doctrine that should be based on a wide, open-end range of factors.  The applicable law, however identified, has to be one of them.