The Hong Kong government recently issued a consultation paper, and sought views from members of the public and interested stakeholders, on a proposed arrangement between Hong Kong and the mainland for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters. The proposed arrangement seeks to provide a mechanism which widens the existing and limited scope for the enforcement of mainland court civil judgments in Hong Kong and vice versa.
The Court of Appeal recently held that a director who had made continuing fraudulent misrepresentations was liable for damages calculated at the point of sale and not at the point of entering into the contract. This judgment is a reminder that, in the right case, deceit may be used to pierce the corporate veil. It also highlights the considerations when assessing damages regarding continuing representations, particularly when there is time between the representation being made and the performance of the contract.
To render a force majeure clause watertight, time should be taken to consider all of the potential risks that may prevent parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract and spell these out in the clause. Also, where an event has occurred, parties must be able to demonstrate that the force majeure event was the sole cause of any failure to fulfil their contractual obligations. This was recently upheld by the High Court.
The High Court recently considered the proper basis for the distribution of money in the client account of a closed law firm. The money is held by the relevant regulator on trust for the persons beneficially entitled to it – namely, the former clients. Where there is a shortfall between the verified claims of former clients and the balance in the client account, the court may need to direct how the money should be distributed.
It is understandable that directors might be reluctant to seek legal advice – be it due to concern about time or cost or a potential conflict of interest if seeking advice internally. However, as a recent case demonstrates, this is a small price to pay to avoid the time and financial cost of a claim, especially when a company's subsequent precarious financial position shines a light on an officer's behaviour and competence.
In certain circumstances the courts in Hong Kong can extend Mareva relief against a defendant to third parties under the so-called 'Chabra' jurisdiction. In a recent case, the assets which the trustees sought to locate were not directly held by the bankrupt, but appear to have been indirectly held through a family trust and related companies. As before, the court demonstrated its willingness to extend Mareva relief under the Chabra jurisdiction in deserving cases.
The Commercial Court recently discharged an injunction restraining the enforcement of a US court order made under Section 1782 of Title 28 of the US Code (Assistance to foreign and international tribunals and to litigants before such tribunals). Section 1782 applications can be a useful weapon in an English litigator's armoury as a means of obtaining evidence under the control of a US-based entity through US-style discovery, including by the use of depositions and documentary evidence.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that a bank providing a reference relating to its customer owed a tortious duty of care only to the addressee. The decision reflects the wider judicial trend of restricting the circumstances in which duties of care for negligent misstatement are found to exist on the basis of an assumption of responsibility by the party making the statement.
A recent decision of the Court of First Instance confirms the conventional thinking that a relationship between a bank and a customer does not of itself give rise to a duty of care to advise on the part of the bank. The court dismissed the claimant investor's mis-selling claim against the bank on the basis that neither the terms of the relevant contracts entered into with the bank nor the circumstances of the case suggested that there had been an assumption of a duty to advise by the bank.
The Court of Appeal recently confirmed that an English jurisdiction clause in the underlying International Swaps and Derivatives Association Master Agreement under which certain swaps were made should be applied to disputes relating to the swap transactions, rather than an Italian jurisdiction clause in a competitor agreement governing the parties' generic relationship.
A recent case serves as a lesson that context is key to a watertight entire agreement clause. The purchasers of Nottingham Forest Football Club brought a negligent misrepresentation claim against the club's sellers. The sellers denied the claim and argued that the share purchase agreement provided a contractual procedure for dealing with any misrepresentations of the club's liabilities, and that the relevant entire agreement clause should therefore be read in that context.
A master's decision to allow a non-party to proceedings to access a wide range of documents in the proceedings was recently reviewed by the Court of Appeal. As well as providing useful guidance on how the court should deal with applications by non-parties for access to documents, this case is a reminder to parties to proceedings that they should be aware of the potential loss of confidentiality.
There are no statutory provisions empowering the Hong Kong courts to provide assistance and recognition to foreign insolvency office holders. The courts therefore rely on their inherent power (where appropriate) under the common law principle of modified universalism to provide such assistance. Although the application of this principle is not without its problems, the courts in recent years have shown some willingness to assist the effective implementation of cross-border insolvency and restructuring regimes.
A recent case reiterates the significance that the courts will ascribe to the use of industry-standard documentation when considering 'competing' jurisdiction clauses in related contracts. The case also provides an important reminder of the necessity of seeking the court's direction before engaging expert evidence, particularly in the interim stages of litigation.
The Court of Appeal's judgment in Shenzhen Futaihong Precision Industry Co Ltd v BYD Co Ltd is another recent example of the courts in Hong Kong trying to narrow the issues in respect of which parties seek permission to adduce expert evidence. In this case, the court refused to interfere with a lower court's case management decision that had granted the defendants permission to adduce expert evidence with respect to only one issue out of 10 contested issues that the defendants sought to raise.
A recent case considered the interaction between a warranty in a receivables financing contract which specified that one of the parties was not prohibited from disposing of the receivable and a clause expressly prohibiting assignment without the other party's consent in an underlying sale and purchase agreement. The case raises important issues relating to the effect and interpretation of non-assignment clauses and suggests that this is an area ripe for further consideration by the Supreme Court.
The Court of Appeal recently held that agreements for the transfer and purchase of shares give rise to dependent obligations and that one party does not therefore become a debtor to the counterparty immediately as a result of their failure to pay. This judgment has implications for the forms of redress available to the wronged party in analogous situations and makes clear the commercial approach to contractual disputes encouraged by the courts.
Significant increases to the jurisdictional limits for civil claims in the District Court have been proposed. The upper limit of the monetary jurisdiction for the Small Claims Tribunal is also set to increase. The Legislative Council of Hong Kong recently passed resolutions which increase these jurisdictional limits by way of amendments to the District Court Ordinance and the Small Claims Tribunal Ordinance.
The Court of Appeal has held that a remarkably broad exclusion clause was not unreasonable within the framework of the Unfair Contract Terms Act 1977. The judgment includes a discussion of various factors which the court will take into account when deciding such cases.
Defendants should welcome the recent judgment in Fiscalink International Ltd v Yiu Yu Sum Alex, in which the court struck out the plaintiffs' claims against a majority of the defendants on the basis that the lack of progress over many years was an abuse of process such that the entire action against those defendants should be dismissed. The court's judgment is another example at first instance of a pragmatic application of the relevant principles concerning dismissal for abuse of process.