Ashurst Morris Crisp has won the first English test of whether consent judgments in European courts can be enforced over here.
Ashursts' client, luxury car leasing company Landhurst, won its case in the Belgian courts against a company which had leased three Ferraris and two Aston Martins from it without paying for them. The company, Marcq, was ordered to pay Landhurst £475,000.
Marcq's business and residential address is in the UK. Ashursts sought to register the Belgian judgment in England so that it could issue a petition order for bankruptcy against Marcq to try to recover the money.
The Brussels Convention (incorporated into British law in 1982) allows judgments made in one European country to be recognised in another by registering the judgment in the other country.
Marcq instructed Stuart Nicholson, of Ayreshire firm Nicholson & Co, to overturn the registration. He claimed that since he had given his consent to the original Belgian judgment without trying to defend himself, the judges had never considered the arguments.
But his claim was disallowed, first by a judge in the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court and then before the Court of Appeal in December.
Marcq was ordered to pay over £700,000 the amount of the original award plus interest. Ashursts senior assistant Fiona McWilliams said the Court of Appeal had 'confirmed the basic principle of co-operation in relation to the enforcement of judgments between different European states'.
The court had also confirmed that, if capable of registration, European judgments should not be examined by the English Court. And it indicated for the first time that consent judgments may be registered under the Brussels Convention.
Marcq's counsel was David Lord, while Ashursts instructed Adam Goodison.