A recent High Court case is an interesting example of the extent to which entities complicit in the breach of EU sanctions are still able to bring legal proceedings relating to matters arising out of those breaches. However, it is difficult to draw any broad principles from this case given its specific factual circumstances. Of particular interest is the judge's analysis that it was considered material that the relevant activity breaching the sanctions at the time was no longer prohibited.
In a recent case before the High Court, a novel issue arose as to whether a party's deployment of privileged documents for the purposes of the trial of a preliminary issue concerning limitation would result in privilege in the documents being waived (lost) for the purposes of the main trial, in the event that the court held that the claim was not time barred. The case is a useful reminder of the potential danger of trying to deploy privileged material for the purposes of only part of court proceedings.
The Court of Appeal recently held that a seller paying a fee to an acquisition agent without the buyer's knowledge does not render the contract for sale void or voidable. This judgment sets the bar high for parties to prove that a sufficient relationship of trust and confidence exists in order to engage the law on bribery and secret commissions. Notably, an agency relationship will not necessarily be enough to evidence the requisite degree of fiduciary duty.
The Supreme Court recently showed that it is reluctant to find an agreement too vague or uncertain to be enforced where the parties intended to be contractually bound and acted on their agreement. In these proceedings, three courts came to differing conclusions, which highlights the difficulties inherent in assessing contract formation and implied terms, especially where there is no agreement in writing.
In a recent judgment of the Court of Appeal, an issue arose as to whether certain technical survey reports appended to one of the party's expert reports required the court's permission to be adduced as evidence for trial. Taken together, the decisions of the lower court and the appeal court are an interesting summary of what constitutes expert opinion. They are also a good example of the courts' increased scrutiny of the use of expert reports at trial in civil proceedings.
A recent Court of Appeal decision has confirmed that the test for deciding whether a claimant has a good arguable case is relative. Where a court lacks the evidence to decide which party has the better argument, a more flexible approach should be adopted. In circumstances where the evidence is thin, it is not all relative and claimants are required only to demonstrate a plausible evidential basis that the gateway exists.
Section 14A of the Limitation Act sets out the position on latent damage in negligence claims. Litigation around the application of Section 14A has predominantly centred on when the claimant has the requisite knowledge to bring a claim and if a claim could, and should, have been brought earlier. This has been brought into sharp focus in a recent case relating to a claim brought against the Bank of Scotland.
A recent judgment concerning a rather bold request for judicial assistance by the Chapter 11 trustee of a company within the China Fisheries Group provides a useful reminder of the common law criteria to be applied for recognition of foreign office holders. However, a more interesting point, perhaps, is that the Hong Kong courts will not be afraid to defend the integrity of their orders if and when attempts are made to circumvent them.
A recent Court of Appeal decision examined a dispute concerning entitlements under an earn-out provision in a share purchase agreement. The claimant argued that, under the agreement, he was entitled to provide consultancy services for a further period to be agreed by the parties. However, the court found that there is no obligation on parties to negotiate in good faith about matters which remain to be agreed and that the defendant was free to negotiate in accordance with its own commercial interests.
The Arrangement on Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters by the Courts of the Mainland and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) was recently signed by the Supreme People's Court and the HKSAR government. This is the sixth arrangement with the mainland on mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters and the third arrangement providing for recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters.
The High Court recently confirmed on appeal from a master's decision that although an entire agreement clause concerning the sale of Nottingham Forest Football Club purported to extinguish all previous representations, it did not in fact exclude liability for misrepresentation. That there were contractual indemnities covering effectively the same subject matter did not, without clear language, mean that liability had been excluded.
A recent High Court of Justice case reinforced the courts' desire to remain the guardians of honest behaviour in relation to financial market practices; the objective standards of dishonesty are to be set by the courts rather than the market. Parties must therefore rely on contemporaneous documents when trying to prove claims for dishonest assistance, as the court will not permit them to adduce expert evidence of wider market practice.
The recent decision in Barclays Bank plc v Price extends the established test that a demand made under a guarantee for an excessive amount may nevertheless be effective as a demand for what is due in circumstances where the amount that has been demanded exceeds an express liability cap. This judgment will surely be a welcome extension of the authorities relating to the operation of guarantees (and the demands made thereunder) for the creditors that benefit from such arrangements.
In a series of recent judgments, the first-instance courts in Hong Kong have demonstrated an increasing flexibility in assisting victims of internet and email fraud, including granting declaratory relief without trial. The courts' increasing willingness to grant declaratory relief without trial in these circumstances is a significant step in the right direction, as it has simplified the civil action to be taken by those affected by email fraud and similar scams.
The Court of Appeal recently found that communications discussing a commercial proposal to settle an existing dispute are not privileged and are therefore subject to scrutiny by the court. Those engaged in litigation should take care not to commit to writing their commercial discussions on settlement and to frame their settlement discussions in terms of the legal advice that they have received on the litigation risks.
The High Court recently considered the general legal principles for the grant of injunctive relief to protect an employer's confidential information alleged to have been taken by one or more former employees for the benefit of their new company. The outcome in the case (to date) illustrates the balance that the courts must often strike between recognising the legitimate interests of an employer and a former employee's entitlement to use their own skills and knowledge without obtaining an unfair advantage.
The recent decision of the High Court in Ninotre Investment Ltd v L & A International Holdings Ltd is a further example of the court's statutory power to grant a qualifying shareholder access to and inspection of company records. Section 740 of the Companies Ordinance (Cap 622) has become an established mechanism for aggrieved shareholders, with legitimate complaints in their capacity as shareholders, to obtain access to and inspection of company records.
The High Court recently considered applications for retrospective permission to make collateral use of documents disclosed under a pre-action disclosure order where there had been a breach of the implied undertaking as to the use of disclosed documents. Although retrospective permission may be given, an application for permission should not be used to circumvent the usual procedure for obtaining consent to collateral use of documents.
The Court of Appeal has dismissed an application to strike out a claim for abuse of process on the basis of Summers v Fairclough in circumstances where final judgment had already been handed down. There are already established methods of challenging judgments allegedly obtained by fraud, and these should be utilised instead.
The Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) has been using Section 213 of the Securities and Futures Ordinance (Cap 571) to good effect to secure (among other things) compensation on behalf of counterparty investors to impugned transactions. As a result of a recent landmark judgment of the Court of Final Appeal, the SFC's remit under Section 213 extends not only to (for example) insider dealing involving locally listed securities and regulated trades, but also to contraventions of Section 300.