Does the doctrine of forum non conveniens apply in civil and commercial cases where the competing jurisdictions are countries within the UK? Put another way: does the English court have the power to stay or strike out a claim on the ground that the natural and more appropriate forum is Scotland or Northern Ireland?
To this short but significant question no authority provided any direct answer until the recent decision of the Court of Appeal in Cook v McNeil  EWCA Civ 1287.
The Claimants (who were domiciled in Scotland) sued the Defendants (domiciled in England) in England for damages for personal injuries they alleged they sustained in accidents in Scotland as a result of the Defendants’ negligence and/or breach of statutory duty. While neither of the Defendants made a CPR Pt. 11 application challenging the jurisdiction (though both asserted in their defences that Scotland was the correct place to hear the claims), the Court of its own motion stayed proceedings in favour of Scotland. The Claimants appealed that ruling.
By the time the matter was before the Court of Appeal it was common ground that Scotland was the most appropriate forum to determine the dispute, however the Claimants denied that the Court could decline jurisdiction on forum non conveniens grounds. That was because (the Claimants submitted) the English Court was exercising jurisdiction either by virtue of Art 2 or 24 Brussels I Regulation (and therefore applying Owusu v Jackson (Case C-281/02)  QB 801 the Court could not decline jurisdiction on forum conveniens grounds), or alternatively the rules in Sch.4 Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982 (“the 1982 Act”) which the Claimants contended was a regime parallel (and save where expressly provided otherwise, identical) to the Regulation and which therefore also precluded a stay on FNC grounds. The Defendants responded that the Regulation applied to civil and commercial cases where there is an international element, but not to cases which are solely internal to a member state, and that the Claimants’ interpretation of the 1982 Act was wrong.
The Court of Appeal held that the Defendants were correct:
The Court of Appeal’s decision provides helpful clarity upon an area which lacked previous authority and both rightly sets the limits of the application of the Brussels I Regulation and reinforces the Court’s power to case manage proceedings.