The Supreme Court recently decided to refer certain important questions regarding the Volkswagen emission manipulation scandal to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for a preliminary ruling under Article 267 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The Supreme Court's assessment of the case and its decision to refer it to the ECJ have revealed other aspects of the scandal and opened the door for a decision by the ECJ which could alter the course of similar pending cases before national courts in Europe.
The Vienna Regional Court for Civil Matters recently closed the oral hearing in the data protection case brought against Facebook by European privacy group None of Your Business. During the hearing, Facebook's European privacy director faced questions centring on matters of data control regarding the social media platform. The pending decision of the court foreshadows further disputes on Europe's role in setting new standards by which internet activity is to be regulated.
Earlier in 2019, the Supreme Court held that in light of a bilateral treaty, the Austrian courts must apply Iranian law in inheritance matters concerning Iranian nationals. However, provisions of Iranian law that differentiate between heirs on the basis of gender must be treated as violations of the fundamental values of Austrian law and should thus be exempt from application.
There have been a number of recent legislative developments in Austria, including amendments to the Austrian Enforcement Act, which have granted certain parties access to data about pending enforcement proceedings. Further, the Supreme Court has confirmed that the res judicata effect of a foreign judgment applies at all stages of proceedings conducted in Austria.
COVID-19 has forced society to embrace all things technological and forced individuals to adapt to working remotely. As it stands, court operations before the Magistrates Court and the Supreme Court are restricted to essential services until the first working day after the expiry of the Emergency Powers (COVID-19) (No 2) Order 2020, which may be extended by amendments. This article sets out what is permitted according to the judiciary's latest Mitigation Protocols concerning civil and commercial matters.
The Supreme Court recently clarified its jurisdictional limits to assist in trust-related arbitrations, ruling that it has no such jurisdiction to allow service outside an action's jurisdiction. Given this ruling, parties to trust arbitration agreements must be cognisant that, notwithstanding whether their trust deeds provide for the seat of any arbitration to be The Bahamas, the court can provide only limited assistance where the arbitration is not held and the parties or assets are not in The Bahamas.
Traditionally, in order for persons involved in litigation in the Supreme Court to participate in such proceedings – whether as a claimant, a defendant or even a witness – they had to be present in the court. At times, this strict requirement of personal presence served as a barrier to the ultimate goal of resolving disputes through litigation where persons involved therein were unable to attend the trial in person. Notably, the Civil Procedure Rules introduced the option to give evidence through a video link.
The Declaration of Economic Freedom was recently instituted by Presidential Provisional Measure 881/2019. Designed to curtail the state's undue interference in economic activities performed by individuals and companies, the law (which is subject to confirmation by Congress) is also expected to affect new and existing litigation, including the Civil Code. On its face, the Civil Code modification seems positive. However, it is unclear how the courts will react to these novelties.
Serving companies and individuals in Brazil in connection with suits abroad has just become easier, as Brazil has formally adhered to the 1965 Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters. The convention should expedite both the summons of Brazilian parties involved in foreign proceedings and the service of parties abroad in connection with Brazilian litigation.
In addition to contractual fees, winning attorneys are entitled to court-awarded attorneys' fees, which are determined using objective criteria. However, despite being relatively straightforward to calculate, some courts struggle to award attorneys' fees, particularly in disputes involving significant amounts. A recent Superior Court of Justice decision provides clarity in this regard and is likely to set the tone for future disputes regarding court-awarded attorneys' fees.
The relatively new Civil Procedure Code specifically authorises parties to a contract to select a foreign jurisdiction to decide their disputes. Although the language of the code is straightforward, the lower courts are still debating whether the choice of a foreign jurisdiction would set aside the jurisdiction of the Brazilian courts. Until the Superior Court of Justice sheds some light in this regard, it will remain unclear whether Brazilian courts' jurisdiction can be set aside in favour of foreign courts.
The Commercial Court recently confirmed that the BVI courts have jurisdiction to grant charging orders. Charging orders are a critically important tool, particularly when enforcing foreign judgments, as they allow creditors to take a proprietary interest over assets owned by a debtor and can ultimately facilitate the sale of such assets to allow the creditor to realise their debt.
A BVI court recently considered a contempt application seeking further disclosure by way of an 'unless' order and whether cross-examination of the respondents should be ordered to determine the issue of contempt. The decision highlights the exceptional nature of cross-examination orders and the high standard of proof required for contempt orders.