UK: High Court Finds England Proper Forum To Hear Claim Against Further Party Where Claimant Had No Real Choice Over Where To Sue Anchor Defendants

Last Updated: 31 July 2019
Article by Anna Pertoldi, Maura McIntosh and Jan O'Neill

The High Court has held that England was the proper forum to determine a dispute against an additional defendant, so as to avoid multiple proceedings and the risk of irreconcilable judgments. The defendant was a necessary or proper party to the claims made against the anchor defendants and the claimant had no real choice where to sue the anchor defendants as the claims against them came within English exclusive jurisdiction agreements: ED&F Man Capital Markets Ltd v Come Harvest Holdings Ltd and others [2019] EWHC 1661 (Comm).

The court rejected an argument, based on the Supreme Court decision in Lungowe v Vedanta plc [2019] UKSC 20, that the claimants could have sought to have all claims determined in Singapore, and therefore could not establish that the English court was the proper forum based on the risk of multiple proceedings and irreconcilable judgments. In Vedanta the court held that the risk of irreconcilable judgments was not a “trump card”, as the risk arose purely from the claimants’ choice to proceed against one defendant in England rather than, as was available to them, against both defendants in Zambia. This was particularly so in circumstances where the dispute was overwhelmingly Zambian in focus and nature.

The facts in ED&F differed substantially, as the claimant was bound to sue two of the defendants in England under exclusive jurisdiction clauses; there was no evidence to suggest that the anchor defendants would have been willing to give up those rights; and the concept of choice in Vedanta could not be stretched so as to require a party to act in breach of contractual promises as to jurisdiction and then seek to persuade the English court not to grant an anti-suit injunction restraining Singapore proceedings.

Overall, the High Court considered that the claims in this case required a single forum for their resolution and England was the only place where that could be achieved.

This case demonstrates that the risk of irreconcilable judgments, while not decisive post Vedanta, may still be a very important factor in determining the appropriate forum, particularly where the claimant has no real choice over where to sue the anchor defendant.

Background

The claimant, MCM, entered into Master Commodities Sale and Purchase Agreements with two Hong Kong companies, Come Harvest and Mega Wealth. The Master Agreements contained English exclusive jurisdiction agreements. Subsequent agreements were then entered into for the sale and purchase of nickel. The dispute between the parties turned on whether payments had been made by MCM to Come Harvest and Mega Wealth based on forged warehouse receipts. Those receipts had been issued by a warehouse operator, Access World, to the initial order, in most cases, of a Singaporean company, Straits.

In May 2017, MCM commenced pre-action disclosure proceedings in Singapore against Straits and in December 2017 it commenced English proceedings against Come Harvest and Mega Wealth. In September 2018 MCM sought to join Straits to the English proceedings and obtained an order granting permission to serve Straits out of the jurisdiction in Singapore. Straits challenged the jurisdiction of the English court.

Decision

The judge (Daniel Toledano QC sitting as a deputy High Court judge) dismissed the jurisdiction challenge.

He first had to deal with the consequences of MCM having wrongly used material disclosed pursuant to the pre-action disclosure proceedings in Singapore for the purposes of obtaining the order to serve Straits with the English proceedings out of the jurisdiction. He found that the use was the result of an inadvertent error and, if MCM was able to justify the order on the basis of the redacted materials now before the court, there would be no purpose in setting aside the previous order and granting a new one. The attack on the order as made therefore did not add anything to the jurisdiction challenge.

So far as the jurisdiction challenge was concerned, it was common ground that there was a serious issue to be tried on the merits and a good arguable case that the “necessary or proper party” gateway was met. The issue was whether England was clearly the proper forum.

Straits argued that England was not clearly the proper forum. MCM had exercised a choice to commence pre-action disclosure proceedings in Singapore and therefore intended that any substantive proceedings against Straits would be brought there too. MCM should be held to that choice. Straits also argued that MCM could have attempted to engineer a single composite forum for all claims against all parties in Singapore by requesting that Come Harvest and Mega Wealth did not insist on their rights under the English exclusive jurisdiction clauses. Alternatively it could have commenced Singapore proceedings in breach and then contended that strong reasons existed as to why the English court should not impose an anti-suit injunction against the continuation of those proceedings.

Straits sought to rely on the decision in Vedanta where the Supreme Court held that the risk of irreconcilable judgments was not a ‘trump card’ in circumstances where the risk arose purely from the claimants’ choice to proceed against one defendant in England rather than, as they could have done, against both defendants in Zambia. This meant that the claimants had failed in that case to demonstrate that England was the proper place for the trial of their claims against the second defendant, although ultimately the Supreme Court upheld the grant of permission to serve out of the jurisdiction on the basis that there was a real risk that substantial justice would not be obtainable in Zambia.

In the present case, the deputy judge rejected Straits’ arguments, finding there was a world of difference between the choice that the Supreme Court was considering in Vedanta and the choices Straits was complaining about in this case.

In Vedanta, leaving aside the substantial justice issue, the claimants had a straightforward choice between Zambia and England for all claims against all parties. The dispute was overwhelmingly Zambian in focus and nature, yet the claimants chose to pursue their claims in England. In the present case, MCM had never had a straightforward choice of this kind. It was bound by the exclusive jurisdiction agreements to sue Come Harvest and Mega Wealth in England. There was no evidence to suggest that those defendants would have been willing to give up their right to be sued here. The concept of choice could not be stretched so as to require a party to act in breach of contractual promises as to jurisdiction and then to fall on the mercy of the English court to avoid the grant of an anti-suit injunction. MCM was entitled to say that it had no choice but to sue Come Harvest and Mega Wealth in England. Having done so, there was real force in MCM’s submission that England was the proper place for all claims against all parties because it is the only jurisdiction where a single composite forum could be achieved.

It appeared to be the case that MCM initially intended to bring proceedings against Straits in Singapore, but had changed its mind due to the nature of the defence served by Come Harvest and Mega Wealth which appeared to point the finger at Straits. Whatever the reasons for the change of mind, however, the deputy judge could see no proper basis for saying MCM was stuck with its original choice.

Taken overall, the deputy judge considered that, in contrast to Vedanta, this was a case where the need to avoid multiplicity of proceedings and the risk of irreconcilable judgments should bear considerable weight in the evaluation of the proper forum. This was especially so where the nature of the claims made, in particular of a single overarching conspiracy, required a single forum for their resolution.

He then went on to consider other factors potentially relevant to forum, none of which had significant weight in his view. So far as governing law was concerned, this was unlikely to be a very significant factor as the dispute would likely turn on factual rather than legal issues. He considered however that English law in any event governed the claims for unlawful means conspiracy, knowing receipt as well as the equitable proprietary claims.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions