Subject: anti-suit injunctions; negative declarations; jurisdiction.
In this case the Claimant claimed an anti-suit injunction, equitable damages and negative declaratory relief in relation to proceedings brought by the Defendant against the Claimant in Jordan under five bills of lading. The Claimant’s case was that the Jordanian proceedings were vexatious and oppressive because, as a matter of English law, it was not a party to the bills of lading and the claim was a hopeless one.
On the Defendant’s application challenging the jurisdiction of the Court to hear the Claimant’s claims, it was held by Andrew Smith J that the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the claims for an anti-suit injunction and equitable damages, and service of the claim form in respect of those claims should therefore be set aside, on the grounds that (1) the claims were not “in respect of” a contract governed by English law and there was therefore no “gateway” jurisdiction; and (2) the claims in any event had no reasonable prospect of success. However, Andrew Smith J granted permission to serve the claim for negative declaratory relief out of the jurisdiction, holding that England was the proper place to hear those claims, and that the negative declarations might serve a useful and legitimate purpose if granted. In this regard, it was held that the declarations would be useful if granted even though they would be ignored by the Jordanian court, because they might assist the Claimant in resisting enforcement of any judgment of the Jordanian court in other jurisdictions. The judge could also not rule out the possibility of the declarations providing a ground on which to claim ancillary injunctive relief in the future.