In a recent decision concerning the sale of a Gauguin painting, the Court of Appeal confirmed that if an agent sells a principal's property and fails to disclose to the principal that it received a higher offer for the property, it will not lose its commission unless it acted dishonestly or in bad faith. As such, agents should be careful to pass relevant information to their principal, particularly if they are under a contractual obligation to do so.
Hong Kong has a high incidence of litigants in person, which is largely explained by the cost of civil litigation generally, the absence of class actions, contingent fee arrangements and third-party funding of most civil claims, and the financial eligibility limits for civil legal aid. As recent decisions show, the rates at which litigants in person are awarded costs are far from generous and, to get more, they have to prove that they had to work on the case during their working hours or that they suffered actual pecuniary loss.
In a case which has attracted public, press and legal attention, the High Court recently found that the directors of a family-run business should have ensured that the company's interests took precedence over any personal and private loyalties felt towards their family members where those competing interests came into conflict. The court's findings offer a number of helpful reminders of crucial considerations for both businesspeople and legal professionals.
In a recent case, the High Court allowed the plaintiff's application for an order that the first defendant and a representative of the second defendant attend a court hearing to be cross-examined on affirmations made by them in the proceedings. The case is a timely reminder of the seriousness of making affidavits or affirmations and of the need to be mindful of the documents to which they refer.
The High Court has issued a reminder that the duty of full and frank disclosure applies to any application made without notice to the other party. Although this is most typically an issue in applications for injunctions, permission to serve a claim out of the jurisdiction was recently set aside on the grounds of the claimant's failure to disclose to the court a potential limitation defence to the claim.
The costs of pursuing related arbitration proceedings and fighting extradition proceedings could be costs incurred in the 'ordinary and proper course of business' according to a recent Court of Appeal decision. In terms of arbitration expenditure, the decision illustrates that where the proposed expenditure or transaction is complex, the court may not be in a position to make the factual findings necessary for it to authorise the expenditure in advance.
The Court of Appeal has ordered rectification resulting in one party being in breach of warranty and liable to pay damages. It is rare for the court to order rectification as it is often difficult to satisfy the test to do so. This case serves as a welcome reminder that the court is willing to order rectification to prevent one party from seeking to take advantage of a situation when a mistake is discovered.
The High Court recently reiterated the general principles which govern its power to order a non-party to pay the costs of another party to court proceedings. The court's power is statutory but the general principles that govern the exercise of its discretion arise out of case law. The case law demonstrates that the court's discretion to make an order for costs against a non-party is wide. The interests of justice are paramount.
The Court of Appeal recently upheld a High Court decision highlighting the risk that English and Italian courts may reach different decisions on the underlying factual background of related disputes even where the disputes could be said to fall under different agreements. The decision clarifies that the English courts put the certainty of industry standard documentation first when determining the applicable jurisdiction.
The High Court recently struck out a claim by the beneficial owner of certain notes that had sought a declaration that an event of default had occurred. The case illustrates how administrative decisions in a foreign state in relation to EU directives are recognised in the English courts and the reluctance of courts to make decisions based on the anticipated outcome of foreign proceedings.
A High Court judge recently dismissed a party's appeal against a refusal to grant permission to issue subpoenas directed at another party's legal representatives. At the same time, the judge reminded litigants and their legal representatives that subpoenas (directing a witness to attend court to give evidence, produce documents or do both) should be issued in a timely manner, and that late subpoenas which upset the court's case management of trial dates are likely to be frowned upon.
The Court of Appeal recently examined the circumstances in which a threat not to enter into a contract can amount to economic duress and found that, broadly speaking, it is when pressure is exerted in bad faith. The main thread running through the court's decision is the need for clarity and certainty in contract law, particularly in commercial dealings.
The Norwich Pharmacal order is an important tool for combating fraud. Given the prevalence of electronic and identity fraud, the ability of victims to recover lost money through the civil courts has assumed a high profile of late. For plaintiffs who fall prey to such fraudsters, the ability to obtain a court order prohibiting a defendant from disposing of (among other things) money in a bank account (ie, a Mareva injunction) and to obtain timely disclosure of details of alleged wrongdoing from a defendant's bank (eg, Norwich Pharmacal relief) is often crucial.
The chancellor of the High Court recently clarified to which cases the disclosure pilot scheme applies. He also provided useful guidance on the extent to which the court should exercise its discretion to inspect allegedly privileged documents under the new regime and emphasised the change in behaviour and culture envisaged under the pilot.
The accepted approach of diminution in the value of a target company was recently challenged in the High Court of Justice. The case concerned the purchase of shares in a bank that had a $14.5 million exposure to Lehman Brothers' bankruptcy. The purchaser sued the seller for damages in that sum, alleging that its failure to provide for the Lehman exposure in the accounts amounted to a breach of warranty.
The High Court recently handed down a practice note relating to the practice of making settlement offers or payments into court in cases involving claims on behalf of persons under a disability. The practice note confirms the previously understood position that the self-contained procedural regime for formal sanctioned offers and sanctioned payments in Order 22 of the court rules does not apply to claims for money arising out of proceedings on behalf of persons under a disability.
The High Court recently dismissed a jurisdiction challenge against a private individual making speculative currency transactions on the basis that she could be considered a consumer under the recast EU Brussels Regulation. This judgment demonstrates that the question of whether a private investor is a consumer for the purposes of regulation remains unclear and will often turn on the facts. With a lack of clarity in the case law, it also demonstrates the need for the issue to be considered at a higher level.
The Court of Appeal recently reiterated that, while evidence of pre-contractual negotiations can be adduced to demonstrate how a transaction came about or what its commercial aims were, it cannot be adduced to aid the interpretation of the contractual provisions themselves. The case also confirms that the English courts continue to take a doctrinal approach to contractual interpretation.
A recent Supreme Court decision concerned a mass tort claim and the potential liability of an English parent company for the actions of its foreign subsidiaries. The court found that a duty of care can exist between a parent company and third parties affected by the actions of its subsidiaries, but was reluctant to place limits on the types of case where a parent company might incur a duty of care.
A couple of recent first-instance decisions demonstrate the courts' wide discretion to award costs between parties based on a higher rate of recovery (referred to as an 'indemnity basis'). Such costs are not literally an indemnity – the receiving party does not recover all of their costs from the paying party. While indemnity costs are not the norm, many parties and their legal representatives often seek such costs without sufficient regard to whether this is actually justified.