Do British courts have jurisdiction?
In Aereo Senior Taxi v Agusta Westland,(1) The Court of Appeal provides clarity on the rules that apply to defendants domiciled in countries that are part of the EU Recast Brussels Regulation (1215/2012). Following the decision, the court has jurisdiction to hear lawsuits against non-English defendants under Article 8 (1) of the regulation only if the claim against the anchor defendant based in the UK is sustainable.
Senior Taxi Aereo (STA) bought a helicopter from one of the defendants, an Italian manufacturer. The helicopter was involved in a fatal accident and STA claimed from the defendants the compensation payment they had made; the defendants included a British company in the same group as the Italian manufacturer. The British company is the main claimant. STA believes that the court has jurisdiction over Italian manufacturers based on Article 8 (1) of the EU Recast Brussels Regulation. Article 8 (1) states that a claim can be filed in the UK against entities that are domiciled in other EU member countries where:
- claims closely related to claims against defendants domiciled in the United Kingdom; and
- need to listen to joint claims in the UK to avoid the risk of an irreconcilable assessment.
Do British courts have jurisdiction?
The STA believes that a British court must assert jurisdiction over the Italian helicopter manufacturer under Article 8 (1), but this is rejected; the prosecutors were asked to show that their claim against the anchor of the defendant based in England was sustainable, but they failed to do this.
Before Senior Taxi, the sustainability of claims against non-English defendants is irrelevant in determining whether the court has jurisdiction under Article 8 (1). However, it is an open question whether the prosecution must show that the claim against the British defendant’s anchors is ongoing.
The parties accept that if the STA submits a lawsuit against pure British defendants to bring Italian manufacturers into jurisdiction, or know that claims against them are hopeless, they cannot rely on Article 8 (1). In addition, the court ruled that it was possible to rely on Article 8 (1) only if the claim against the British defendant was ongoing.
If a claim against a British defendant cannot be maintained, there is no risk that a decision will be obtained against him in a British court, which can be inconsistent with the verdict against an Italian defendant elsewhere. As such, there is no risk of valuation that cannot be reconciled and Article 8 (1) is not involved. The court left open the possibility that if the claim against the anchor of the defendant was prohibited by procedural rules, which contradicted the untenability of its merits, Article 8 (1) might still be valid.
While the EU Recast Brussels Regulation will cease to apply when Britain leaves the European Union, the European Union Senior Taxi The test will likely continue to apply where jurisdiction is sought for defendants domiciled in the EU. The United Kingdom intends to approve the Lugano Convention which contains provisions similar to Article 8 (1) of the EU Recast Brussels Regulation and is likely to be interpreted consistently with the EU EU Recast Regulation.
Senior Taxi has also created a degree of consistency in the approach to claims against non-anchor defendants in other jurisdictions. Claims can be brought against joint defendants in countries that are not parties to the EU Brussels Reconstruction Regulation only if, inter alia, claims against the anchor of the accused of England have a real prospect of success,(2) which is similar to Senior Taxi test.
Now that the court has reached a decision regarding the requirements of Article 8 (1), in which the court is used as a basis for joining defendants domiciled in the EU to continue the trial, the parties must carefully consider the benefits of claims against the accused British anchor.
For more information on this topic, please contact Emma West or Simon Hart on RPC via telephone (+44 20 3060 6000) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]). The RPC website can be accessed at www.rpc.co.uk.
(1)  EWHC 1348.
(2) Practice Direction 6B Paragraph 3.1 (3).
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