The recent case of Klieve v TUI UK Limited (2009) has caused potential problems for claimant solicitors and a headache and certainly more work for the High Court for cases concerning personal injury claims arising out of accidents on ships.
In Klieve v TUI UK Limited, the judge agreed with the defendant that pursuant to the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) 61.2, the county court did not have jurisdiction to hear an Admiralty claim.
CPR 61.2 states that claims under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 or claims for 'any loss of life or personal injury sustained in consequence of a defect on a ship, or equipment, or in consequence of a wrongful act, neglect or default of (1) the owners, charterers or persons in possession or control of a ship; or (ii) the master of crew of a ship, or any other person for whose wrongful act, neglects or defaults, the owners, charterers or persons in control of a ship, in the loading, carriage or discharge of goods on, in or from the ship, or in the embarkation, carriage or disembarkation of persons on, in or from the ship' must be started in the Admiralty Division of the High Court.
Whilst the county court decided that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the claim, the judge refused the defendant's request that the action be struck out, preferring to transfer the case to the High Court for further directions.
We have recently dealt with a case in similar circumstances. However, the relevant county court in this case agreed with our submissions that under The County Courts Act 1984 - section 27 Admiralty jurisdiction subsection (6) – 'If, as regards any proceedings as to any such claim as is mentioned in subsection (1), the parties agree, by a memorandum signed by them or by their respective or agents, that a particular county court specified in the memorandum shall have jurisdiction in the proceedings, that court shall, notwithstanding anything in subsection (2) or in rules of court for prescribing the courts in which proceedings shall be brought, have jurisdiction to hear and determine the proceedings accordingly' and further to the courts case management powers and in particular CPR 3.10 in regard to procedural errors that they could assume jurisdiction to hear the claim with the consent of both parties.
However, there is no guarantee that every county court will adopt this approach so any claims involving personal injury arising from accidents onboard ships should be commenced in the Admiralty Division of the High Court. We are sure the High Court did not envisage dealing with these types of cases (although in reality it will simply transfer them to the appropriate county court) so this may call for a redrafting of the relevant Civil Procedure Rules.
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