You May Want to be Careful Where Your Case is Heard

The English courts are enduringly popular with litigants, who often go to great lengths to have their cases heard in this country. The reason for this is that English law is well developed and usually achieves a high degree of fairness in its rulings. However, many contracts specify the country where disputes should be resolved and such terms are usually decisive, as is illustrated by a recent case involving a claim for financial losses.

An investor had launched proceedings against a bank which was based in Monaco. She claimed to have suffered losses as a result of the bank placing unauthorised foreign currency trades or failing to follow her instructions. Her contract with the bank was governed by Monegasque law and included a clause which conferred exclusive jurisdiction on the principality's courts in respect of any disputes arising.

The investor had also launched proceedings against two English companies that were part of the same group as the bank. That litigation would take place in England and her lawyers submitted that, if her claim against the bank were heard in Monaco, there would be a danger of inconsistent judgments. There were also said to be other factors in favour of the entirety of the litigation taking place in England.

In ruling that the jurisdiction clause held sway, however, a judge found that it was clearly and distinctly appropriate that her claim against the bank should be heard in Monaco. She had accepted that jurisdiction when she signed the contract and her desire to have her case heard by an English judge could be given little weight.

In dismissing her appeal against that ruling, the Court of Appeal found that, although the issue was a fine one, the judge had carried out a careful balancing exercise. He had not treated the jurisdiction clause as trumping all other factors and had reached a conclusion that was open to him.

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