We know from cases like PJSC Bank “Finance And Credit” & Anor v Valentynovich & Ors [2021] EWHC 2522 (Ch) at [67] and Tsareva v Ananyev [2019] EWHC 2414 (Comm) at [60] that defendants have been allowed to issue conjoined applications disputing the court’s jurisdiction while simultaneously applying for strike-out or summary judgment without this necessarily being considered a submission to the English court’s jurisdiction.

But what if the defendant only makes the application for strike-out explicitly to avoid the time and expense of a (more complex) simultaneous jurisdiction challenge?

This was the issue in Zumax Nigeria Ltd v First City Monument Bank Plc (Rev1) [2022] EWHC 604 (Ch).

The Defendant applied for an order striking out the claim as an abuse of process. But it also applied for a declaration confirming that the strike out application did not amount to a submission to the jurisdiction.

Nicholas Thompsell (sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge) said that the declaration was a necessary part of the application. Otherwise “the Defendant would need to make its case regarding jurisdiction either as a preliminary matter or alongside its striking out application.”

He also accepted that there were good case management reasons for letting the Defendant take this course of action:

In her view (which I also accept), resolving the jurisdictional point would involve a great deal more time and expense than would be involved in dealing with the striking out action. If the striking out application should prove successful, this cost and expense would be saved. If it should not prove successful, then nothing would be lost by dealing with this as a preliminary matter before going on to deal with the jurisdictional issues and (if the Defendant then also loses also on the jurisdictional issues) dealing with the substantive issues in the case.

The judge referred to the House of Lords decision in Williams & Glyn’s Bank Plc v Astro Dinamico Compania Naviera S.A. [1984] 1 WLR 438, where the court had determined that a party could apply for a stay of proceedings without this necessarily amounting to a submission to the jurisdiction.

He cross-applied the reasoning in this context:

Similarly, I cannot see that an application for striking out provides any necessary implication that the Defendant has accepted the jurisdiction of the court in relation to the 2019 Claim.

The judge was ultimately persuaded that this was the appropriate course by case management considerations:

There is no doubt that the Defendant has made it clear at every stage that it does not accept the jurisdiction of the English courts in relation to these matters. I accept the reasoning that determining the question whether the Defendant is correct in this stance may most conveniently be deferred until the question of the strike out application has been considered. I therefore accept the Defendant’s submission on this matter.

A decision perhaps to be filed away under “apparently possible but risky”. The defendant must certainly always be totally clear at all times that its challenge to the jurisdiction is being maintained.

James Beeton

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