Azzam Khouj v. Acropolis Capital Partners Limited (2015) EWHC 224 (Comm)
On 4 February 2015, the Commercial Court (H.H. Judge Mackie Q.C.) dismissed an application by the Defendants (“Acropolis”) for summary judgment and/or strike-out of the Claimant’s claim against them for the inspection and copying of documents.
The claim concerns the affairs of a wealthy Saudi Arabian individual, His Excellency Amin Abdulrahmen Mansouri, a former Deputy Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, who had died in 2010. The Claimant is the Administrator of Mr Mansouri’s estate, and the Defendant companies are respectively an investment adviser and a property management company. In Commercial Court proceedings the Claimant alleges that Acropolis acted as Mr Mansouri’s agent over a period of many years in relation to a range of financial investments including a multi-million pound Mayfair property and a portfolio of private equity investments believed to have been worth in excess of US$20 million. The Claimant alleges that Acropolis owed fiduciary duties to Mr Mansouri which require Aropolis to allow the Claimant to inspect and take copies of documents in Acropolis’s control which relate to the business conducted on behalf of Mr Mansouri during his lifetime. Acropolis denied the existence of a relationship of agency and denied that it owed any fiduciary duties to Mr Mansouri.
In a detailed reserved judgment, the Commercial Court held that this was a case which must go to trial, there being substantial disputes of fact between the parties as to the nature of the relationship between Mr Mansouri and Acropolis which could not be determined summarily. The Judge held that: (i) the mere absence of a written retainer or any client file held by Acropolis in Mr Mansouri’s name could not defeat the claim; (ii) although the claim raised issues of law relating to the law of agency, the Claimant’s position was supported by authority, and the proper resolution of the principal legal issues would depend on the facts, which would not be found until trial; (iii) accordingly, Acropolis had not shown that the Claimant had no real prospects of success; and (iv) in addition, the Judge held that had he not been satisfied that the Claimant had a real prospect of success, he would also have dismissed the application on the basis that, under CPR rule 24.2(b), there was “some other compelling reason” for the case to go to trial, in this case a lack of “clarity, completeness and perhaps candour” in Acropolis’s evidence in support of the application. The Judge also dismissed Acropolis’s application for the Particulars of Claim to be struck-out, noting that if further particularisation was required then the appropriate time for that to occur would be following disclosure, but that there was no need for “running repairs” to the Particulars as the case progressed. The Judge also accepted the Claimant’s submission that it was not appropriate to strike-out a pleading for a failure to comply with the requirements of paragraph 7 of Practice Direction 16 (which prescribes the particulars to be given of an agreement) in a case where the Claimant does not seek to rely upon the terms of an agency agreement, but instead seeks to infer the existence of such a relationship from the dealings of the parties and the other circumstances of the case.
The judgment is here.
Jasbir Dhillon QC and Geoffrey Kuehne, instructed by Squire Patton Boggs (UK) LLP, represented the Claimant.