The sun came up as usual the day after Brexit but, from a legal point of view, much has changed. The point was illustrated by a personal injury claim in respect of a skiing accident in France that was issued in England shortly after transitional arrangements leading up to the UK’s departure from the EU ended.
The case concerned a collision between French and British skiers in an Alpine resort in 2018. There was no dispute that it was solely the British skier’s fault. The French skier launched proceedings in England against him and his UK-based insurers, seeking about £200,000 in damages. Crucially, the claim was not issued until 14 January 2021.
If the claim had been issued whilst transitional arrangements were still in force, the EU Judgments Regulation 1215/2012 would have applied to the case. The French skier would have been entitled to sue either in France, where the accident occurred, or in the jurisdiction of England and Wales, where the defendants were domiciled.
However, the Judgments Regulation ceased to have effect on 31 December 2020. In those circumstances, the defendants urged the High Court to decline jurisdiction to entertain the French skier’s claim. They asserted that France was the more convenient and appropriate forum for her case to be heard.
Ruling on the matter, the Court noted that the proceedings had been properly issued and served in England. After weighing up all the countervailing factors, the Court found that the defendants had failed to show that it would be distinctly and clearly preferable for the case to be heard in France. An English court would be perfectly capable of resolving the dispute justly and at proportionate cost. The ruling meant that the French skier’s claim could proceed in England.