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English Court rules that Courts of Greece have priority under the Judgments Regulation


In his first judgment since being appointed to the Bench, Mr Justice Eder (sitting in the Commercial Court) has ruled on the appropriate jurisdictional forum for claims in tort and contribution under the Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978 and considered the Judgments Regulation in the context of a party's failure to serve particulars of claim.

Haitoglou Brothers SA supplied tahini paste in Greece to Katsouris Brothers Limited ("KBL"). KBL supplied the tahini paste to Katsouris Fresh Foods Limited ("KFF") in England. KFF used the tahini paste to make houmous. It then sold the houmous to supermarkets. The houmous was contaminated with salmonella. KBL alleges that it was the tahini paste which was the cause of the salmonella outbreak. The total losses are put at some £20 million.

There were four sets of proceedings (in chronological order):

(1)    KBL commenced proceedings in contract, tort and contribution against Haitoglou in England (the "Queen's Bench Action");

(2)    KFF commenced proceedings against KBL in the Commercial Court in England (the "KFF Action");

(3)    Haitoglou commenced proceedings against KBL in Greece for negative declaratory relief (the "Greek Proceedings");

(4)    KBL commenced Part 20 proceedings against Haitoglou in contribution in the KFF Action (the "Part 20 Claim").

In the Queen's Bench Action, KBL served the claim form on Haitoglou but deliberately failed to serve any particulars of claim, informing Haitoglou that the Queen's Bench Action had "lapsed".  After the KFF Action and the Greek Proceedings had been commenced, KBL sought to revive the lapsed Queen's Bench Action and also to join Haitoglou as a third party to the KFF Action, in each case seeking to make a claim for an indemnity/contribution in respect of any liability of KBL "up the chain" to KFF. Haitoglou opposed both such applications, contending that the Greek Court was the proper forum for such a claim and was first seised of the matter.

Mr Justice Eder heard detailed submissions on Articles 5(1), 5(3), 6(2), 27, 28 and 30 of the Judgments Regulation in the context of a chain of contracts for the supply of goods, which crossed jurisdictional borders. His tentative view was that for the purposes of Article 5(3), the harmful event both for KBL's claims in tort and contribution occurred in Greece. He held as follows:

(1)    Permission should not be given to extend time for service of the particulars of claim in the Queen's Bench Action, and therefore KBL's claim therein should be struck out.

(2)    The Part 20 claim involved the same causes of action as the Greek Proceedings and should be stayed pursuant to Article 27 until such time as the Greek Court determined its own jurisdiction.

The judgment is here.

Tim Lord QC and Richard Eschwege appeared for the successful applicant, Haitoglou.