Accidents abroad, pre-Brexit: just sue the insurer here and join the policyholder? CJEU says no, unwinding English decision in Keefe

It’s been four years since conflict lawyers were left with the ‘Keefe question’ echoing in their ears. But now comes the time to launch those seashells back into the ocean because today, thank you to the CJEU’s ruling, we finally have an answer!

For those of you who are not familiar with the ‘Keefe question’ perhaps you were washed away by the incoming tide and missed the excitement. But here is a quick summary… The case of Keefe arose out of a claim brought by a Claimant domiciled in England. He suffered severe personal injuries while staying at a hotel in Spain.  A direct action was brought against the hotel’s liability insurer, with jurisdiction established under the special rules relating to insurance under Council Regulation (EC) 44/2001 (Brussels I, latterly amended to the Brussels I recast regulations).  However, it was later discovered that there was a limit of indemnity under the insurance policy which was significantly less than the estimated £5 million of damages claimed.  In order to recover any uninsured amount, the Claimant joined the hotel as a second defendant, citing art.11(3) (which is now art.13(3) in the recast regulations) in respect of jurisdiction.  The Court of Appeal held that the joinder was allowed and jurisdiction of the English court over the claim against the hotel was established.

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Jurisdiction in European claims: latest CJEU decision on ‘weaker party’ suing in home state

The recent decision in of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in CNP v Gefion C-913/19 examines questions of jurisdiction under the Brussels 1 (Recast) Regulation following an assignment of the underlying claim, which arose from a motor accident, to a commercial entity. The case also touches on the provisions of the Regulation dealing with a defendant company having a branch in another Member State.

Despite Brexit, the approach adopted in this case will remain binding in relation to cross border cases connected to the UK in which proceedings were issued before the end of the transition period, i.e. by 31 December 2020.

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Brexit: la reine le veult (?)

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill concluded its passage through Parliament on Wednesday and received Royal Assent yesterday. It is now an Act which sets out the terms on which the UK will leave the EU next week, on 31 January. It might be thought ironic in the circumstances that French language – albeit from the Norman era and meaning ‘the Queen wills it’ – is still used to signify this final legislative formality. An important provision of the Act concerns the interaction of the key dates of “exit day” and “implementation period completion day”.

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