MFB wins ECJ date to solve jurisdiction conundrum

Maritime law firm MFB Solicitors has won a referral to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on a key question regarding arbitration governance.

The point at issue is whether a court of a member state can grant an anti-suit injunction to restrain a party from bringing proceedings in a court of another member state where the parties have previously agreed to arbitrate their disputes.

The matter, which arose in insurance case West Tankers Inc v RAS Riunione Adriatica di Sicurta SpA & Ors last month, comes as two recent decisions of the ECJ – Gasser v MISAT (2003) and Turner v Grovit (2004) – found that injunctions restraining proceedings brought either in another EU state in breach of an exclusive jurisdiction clause or in bad faith are unlawful, but it is unclear whether the same rules apply to arbitration clauses.

The House of Lords’ five-judge appellate committee ruled that it is an issue that the ECJ must address as the answer could have a serious and substantial effect on arbitrations in the UK and the rest of the EU.

Lords Hoffman, Mance and Steyn, however, stated that in their own personal opinion a breach of an arbitration clause in this way ought to be allowed.

The respondent West Tankers instructed shipping partner Ian Chetwood from Ince & Co, who instructed Timothy Brenton QC and David Bailey QC, both of 7 King’s Bench Walk.

The appellant RAS Riunione was represented by shipping partner Edward Gray from MFB, who instructed Stephen Males QC of 20 Essex Street.