If international contracts are concluded online, they sometimes lack an unambiguous nexus to a specific jurisdiction. Sometimes, this makes it difficult to determinate the competent court. In a recent case involving a German customer, Air France and flights from the United States to France and then on to the UK, the lower German courts found that they had no jurisdiction. It was for the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) to provide clarity: It found that the Frankfurt District Court (Landgericht) had jurisdiction after all. Continue reading
In my opinion, obtaining a freezing order (Arrest) against the debtor pending final judgment tends to be rather difficult in this jurisdiction. Often, the courts set the bar for showing that “the enforcement of the judgment would be frustrated or be significantly more difficult”, as Section 917 German Code of Civil Procedure (ZPO) puts it, frustratingly high. It is somewhat easier if the debtor is situated abroad: Section 917 para. 2 ZPO stipulates that it is sufficient grounds for a freezing order if the judgment would have to be enforced abroad and there is no reciprocity with the foreign jurisdiction (Arrestgrund der Auslandsvollstreckung). As there is reciprocity across all member states of the European Union, this does not work, however, with respect to a debtor situated in the United Kingdom – at least for now.
In a recent case in the Frankfurt Court of Appeals (Oberlandesgericht), the applicant was seeking a freezing order against a German national who had moved to the United Kingdom. The applicant argued that given the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union and given that a final judgment would not be in place prior to the current Brexit deadline of 31 October 2019, the reciprocity exemption should not apply to the United Kingdom. Accordingly the freezing order should be granted pursuant to Section 917 para. 2 ZPO.
On September 25, 2012, the European Parliament published its amendments to the Commission’s report on the proposed “recast” of the Brussels I Regulation. “Brussels” I is shorthand for the “Regulation on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters”, the European Union’s central piece of legislation on the subject. Some of the Parliament’s amendments deal with the interplay of arbitration and the Brussels I Regulation. Claims for the resitution of works of art are now also addressed as a seperate item.”
On arbitration, the original Commission proposal had simply stated in the recitals:
“”(11) This Regulation does not apply to arbitration, save in the limited case provided for therein. In particular, it does not apply to the form, existence, validity or effects of arbitration agreements, the powers of the arbitrators, the procedure before arbitral tribunals, and the validity, annulment, and recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards.”
As a result of the ECJ’s ruling in West Tankers (see the Online Symposium on the topic at Conflictoflaws.net for details), the Commission had proposed a mechanism to deal with the lis pendens issue between state courts on the one hand, and arbitral tribunals on the other. The European Parliament now expands on the subject as follows:
“”(11) This Regulation should not apply to arbitration. Nothing in this Regulation should prevent the courts of a Member State, when seised of an action in a matter in respect of which the parties have entered into an arbitration agreement, from referring the parties to arbitration or from staying or dismissing the proceedings and from examining whether the arbitration agreement is null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed, in accordance with their national law.
(11a) A ruling given by a court of a Member State as to whether or not an arbitration agreement is null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed should not be subject to the rules of recognition and enforcement laid down in this Regulation, regardless of whether the court decided on this as a principal issue or as an incidental question.
(11b) On the other hand, where a court, exercising jurisdiction under this Regulation or under national law, has determined that an arbitration agreement is null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed, this should not preclude that court’s judgment on the substance of the matter from being recognised and, as the case may be, enforced in accordance with this Regulation. This should be without prejudice to the competence of the courts of the Member States to decide on the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards in accordance with the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, done at New York on 10 June 1958, which takes precedence over this Regulation.
(11c) This Regulation should not apply to any action or ancillary proceedings relating to, in particular, the establishment of the arbitral tribunal, the powers of the arbitrators, the conduct of the arbitration procedure or any other aspects of such a procedure, nor to any action or judgment concerning the annulment, review, appeal, recognition or enforcement of an arbitral award.”
On art restitution claims, the Eurpean Parliament has added the following objective:
“(13a) The owner of cultural objects as defined in Article 1(1) of Council Directive 93/7/EEC of 15 March 1993 on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a Member State should be able under this Regulation to initiate civil proceedings for the recovery, based on ownership, of a cultural object in the courts for the place where the cultural object is situated at the time the court is seised. Such proceedings should be without prejudice to proceedings initiated under Directive 93/7/EEC.”