The Court of Appeal’s decision in Turner v Grovit has been hailed as having major implications for individuals working abroad. But the decision also affects any case where European proceedings are started as an attempt to harass a party to UK litigation.
Turner brought Employment Tribunal proceedings in the UK. After these had started, his employer began proceedings in Spain. Instead of challenging the Spanish court’s jurisdiction, Turner applied to the UK courts for an injunction to restrain the Spanish proceedings. The judge refused an injunction, but the Court of Appeal granted an order to restrain the Spanish action.
In the light of the Brussels Convention, the decision is remarkable. In the face of hostility from the Continent and academic lawyers, the UK courts are willing to grant injunctions to restrain proceedings brought in another convention territory in breach of an exclusive jurisdiction clause.
The courts have justified this on the basis that the foreign proceedings were brought in breach of contract and that the only adequate remedy is an injunction.
An injunction is an effective remedy if the defendant has a presence or assets in the UK. A defendant who continues the foreign proceedings in those circumstances risks their assets being sequestrated. But in the absence of any presence, enforcing the injunction is likely to prove very problematic. The German courts in particular have refused to enforce UK anti-suit injunctions.
In Turner v Grovit, the Court of Appeal went one step further. It held that where the Spanish proceedings had been brought for no purpose other than to harass and oppress a party who was already a litigant in the UK, those proceedings amounted to an abuse of process and the UK court could restrain them by injunction.
The view from the Continent is likely to be that if the Spanish proceedings are an abuse, they are an abuse of the Spanish, not the UK, court, and it must be for the Spanish court to decide whe-ther or not it has jurisdiction.
Daniel Thornton is a senior assistant solicitor in Linklaters’ litigation department.