On appeal from: [2012] EWCA Civ 1714.

This matter concerned a challenge to the validity of the Court of Appeal’s decision to stay proceedings in different jurisdictions relating to insurance and damages claims in the aftermath of the sinking of the Alexandros T. It was held that proceedings in England should be stayed under Council Reg No 44/2001 art 27, and that it was therefore unnecessary to reach a conclusion of the position under art 28.

The Supreme Court unanimously allowed the insurers’ appeal, subject to the possibility of a reference to the CJEU on some limited questions.

The purpose of art 27 is to prevent the courts of two Member States from giving inconsistent judgments. It was necessary to consider whether the claims in England and Greece were mirror images of each other. Regarding the damages claims, it was held that the Greek proceedings were tort claims and the English proceedings were claims in contract, and that the factual bases and object for the two claims were entirely different. Regarding the insurance claims, the Court held that unless the insurers abandoned their claims for declarations, the relevant question should be referred to the CJEU.

The principle behind art 28 is to prevent parallel proceedings and conflicting decisions, and so in cases of doubt it would be appropriate to grant a stay. However in the present case the appropriate court to consider the issues is the High Court as the contractual questions raised are governed by English law.

For judgment, please download: [2013] UKSC 70
For Court’s press summary, please download: Court’s Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII