Spiliada Maritime Corp v Cansulex Ltd

Spiliada Maritime Corp v Cansulex Ltd

Spiliada Maritime Corp v Cansulex Ltd, [1986] 3 W.L.R. 972, 3 All E.R. 843, [1987] A.C. 460 is a leading decision of the House of Lords on the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

Background

Wet sulfur was loaded onto two ships docked in British Columbia causing damage to them. An action was brought in England by the Liberian owners of the "Spiliada" for the damage to the ship against the sulfur exporter. The owners of the second ship, the "Cambridgeshire" also brought an action in England. Both ships were insured by English insurers.

The plaintiffs applied for leave to serve the defendants ex juris. The trial judge granted leave. The defendant successfully appealed. The Court of Appeal held that the expenses alone and the existence of a B.C. limitation period was enough to allow the claim to come to England.

Ruling

Prior to the decision of the House of Lords in The Spiliada an application for a stay or dismissal of proceedings falling within the proper jurisdiction of the court could only be granted on very narrow grounds. As previously reiterated in Baroda v Wildenstein [1972] 2 All ER 689 , the court could only stay the proceedings on the grounds that the suit was "oppressive, vexatious or an abuse of process" and that "the stay would not cause an injustice to the plaintiff" (quoting St Pierre v South American Stores (Gath & Chaves) [1935] All ER Rep 408).

Lord Goff, writing for the House of Lords, granted the appeal.

Goff reviewed the area of law. A judge may decline to take a case where there is another jurisdiction that is more suitable for the parties. However, the burden is on the claimant to establish that the foreign forum is clearly or distinctly better. Many factors can be considered to determine the "natural forum" including the availability of witnesses, the applicable law of the matter, the parties' residence or place of business, and the possibility for the plaintiff to obtain justice in the foreign jurisdiction. If a party makes out a claim for a natural forum the opposing side may rebut the claim by showing that justice requires the matter to be heard in the domestic court, otherwise justice would not be done.

Aftermath

The doctrine as stated in Spiliada has since been adopted in numerous jurisdictions including Canada and New Zealand. The standard, however, has been rejected by Australia.

References

See also

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