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CJEU Rules that Judgments on Awards Circumventing Brussels Regulation Cannot Form Basis for Non-recognition of Irreconcilable Judgments

This article has been co-authored by Nicholas Lawn (Partner at Van Bael & Bellis) and Helin Laufer (Associate at Van Bael & Bellis)

In a recent judgment in the case of London Steam-Ship Owners’ Mutual Insurance Association Limited v. Kingdom of Spain (Case C‑700/20, Judgment of 20 June 2022) (the Judgment), the Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU) issued a preliminary ruling holding that arbitration proceedings initiated in the United Kingdom and the resulting award could not block the recognition of a Spanish judgment requiring an insurer to compensate Spain for the environmental damage caused by the Prestige oil tanker (Prestige) off the coast of Spain.

The CJEU held that the proper interpretation of EU Regulation No 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (the Brussels Regulation) entails that, although a judgment entered by a court of a Member State in the terms of an arbitral award may, in principle, form the basis for the refusal to recognise a subsequent irreconcilable judgment of the courts of another Member State, a judgment should not be recognised where it would result in an outcome that the court of a Member State could not have reached without infringing the provisions and fundamental objectives of the Brussels Regulation. In short, the English courts were required to recognise the Spanish court’s judgment and the insurer was liable to Spain for EUR 1 billion.READ MORE

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CJEU Confirms CILFIT Criteria and Clarifies Case Law on Preliminary References

On 6 October 2021, the Grand Chamber of the Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU) delivered a judgment clarifying the obligation of national courts to refer questions on the interpretation of EU law to the CJEU (Case C-561/19, Consorzio Italian Management and Catania Multiservizi SpA v. Rete Ferroviaria Italiana SpA).READ MORE

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Brussels Court Issues Judgment against Belgian Government in Climate Change Litigation

On 17 June 2021, the French-speaking Brussels Court of First Instance (the Court) handed down its judgment in the so-called “Klimaatzaak” case, in which it found that the federal government as well as the governments of the three Belgian regional entities (i.e., Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels-Region) breached Article 1382 of the Belgian Civil Code on tort liability and Articles 2 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the ECHR) by failing to take the necessary measures to limit the adverse effects of climate change on the country’s population.

On 27 April 2015, the environmental non-profit association “Klimaatzaak” representing 58,000 Belgian citizens (the claimants) filed a lawsuit against the Belgian federal government as well as against the governments of the three regional entities, alleging that these authorities breached their general duty of care and the citizen’s human rights by failing to implement their commitments in terms of fighting climate change.

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Belgian Data Protection Authority Prohibits Use in Arbitration Proceedings of Personal Data Received in Breach of GDPR

This article has been co-authored by Thibaut D’hulst (Counsel at Van Bael & Bellis) and Justine Van den Bon and Margot Vogels (Associates at Van Bael & Bellis)

By a decision of 29 January 2021, the Litigation Chamber of the Belgian Data Protection Authority (the DPA) prohibited a controller from passing on personal data obtained in breach of data protection rules to its legal counsel. The Litigation Chamber did not issue a fine, but the decision serves as a clear message that further processing of such unlawfully obtained personal data, even in the context of legal proceedings, is prohibited.

The dispute before the DPA involved an individual practising as a notary (the Plaintiff), her accountant (the First Defendant) and her former business partner also practising as a notary (the Second Defendant). The case at hand takes place in the broader context of arbitration proceedings relating to the winding-up of a notary practice due to financial issues and the refusal to submit certain accounting documents and other information.

The First Defendant mistakenly forwarded an e-mail with 32 annexes, which contained personal data relating to the Plaintiff, to the Second Defendant. This resulted in the disclosure of data relating to the Plaintiff’s personal activities, finances, and other personal data to the Second Defendant, without the Plaintiff’s consent. In turn, the Second Defendant forwarded the e-mail and its annexes to his legal counsel, who then used the e-mail and its annexes as an exhibit within the context of the pending arbitration proceedings between the Second Defendant and the Plaintiff.READ MORE

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European Commission Launches Public Consultation on Modernising Cross-border Judicial Cooperation

On 16 February 2021, the European Commission (the Commission) launched a public consultation to gather the views of stakeholders on its initiative to propose a new legislation to digitalise all data exchanges and communications taking place in the context of judicial cooperation between EU Member States. The Commission’s proposal for a new legislation is expected to be published by the end of 2021.READ MORE

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European Parliament Adopts Collective Redress Directive For Consumers

On 24 November 2020, the European Parliament (the EP) adopted a Directive on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers (the Collective Redress Directive or CRD).

The proposed CRD was initially published by the European Commission (the Commission) in April 2018. The proposal was then examined by the EP and by the Council of the European Union (the Council), which entered into interinstitutional negotiations in January 2020. The EP and the Council reached a political agreement on the final text of the Directive on 22 June 2020. On 4 November 2020, the Council adopted its position at first reading, which has now been formally approved by the EP and has since also been published in the Official Journal (Directive (EU) 2020/1828 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2020 on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers and repealing Directive 2009/22/EC, O.J. (2020) L 409/1).

The CRD establishes an EU-wide “class action” or “representative action”. It covers infringements of EU law which are harmful to the collective interests of natural persons in their capacity as consumers, regardless of whether those consumers are referred to in the relevant instruments as “consumers”, “travellers”, “users”, “customers”, “retail investors”, “data subjects” or otherwise. Accordingly, representative actions may be brought not only for infringements of general EU consumer law, but also of EU rules pertaining to the protection of personal data, geo-blocking, financial services, energy and telecommunications.READ MORE

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Political Agreement to Make Cross-Border European Justice Faster and More Accessible in Civil and Commercial Matters

On 30 June 2020, the European Parliament (the EP) and the Council of the European Union (the Council) reached an agreement to amend Council Regulation (EC) No 1206/2001 on cooperation between the courts of the Member States in the taking of evidence in civil or commercial matters (the Taking of Evidence Regulation) and Regulation (EC) No 1393/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the service in the Member States of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters (the Service of Documents Regulation) (together the Regulations).

The amendments to those Regulations aim to make cross-border European justice more accessible, faster, cheaper and more straightforward, in particular by increasing legal certainty and decreasing judicial delays and undue costs for citizens.READ MORE

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