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Reach of English Justice Not Without Limits

In a case which underlined that the jurisdictional reach of the English courts is not without limits, the High Court has ruled in the context of a $67 million contract dispute that it has no power to issue attendance orders against foreign officers of overseas companies who are not physically present in England and Wales.

A judge had made orders against two Brazilian brothers who were officers of a Brazilian company, requiring them to personally attend a hearing in London and to disclose all documents in their possession relating to the company’s financial position and a proposed refinancing arrangement.

Both brothers were resident in Brazil and neither of them was present in England when the orders were applied for. One brother was also certainly not in this country when the order was issued and it had not been established that the other was present in the jurisdiction at that time.

Both brothers had been personally served with the orders when they were present in England and it was submitted that that conferred jurisdiction on the application of ordinary common law principles. However, in allowing the brothers’ appeal, the Court found that, as neither of them was within the jurisdiction at the relevant times, there was no power to make the orders against them.

One of the brothers was aged 74 and would have had difficulty flying to London unaccompanied. The Court noted that it would in any event have exercised its discretion to overturn the order in his case, on the basis that it was excessive and disproportionate.