THE ENGLISH court had jurisdiction to decide whether a party not domiciled within the jurisdiction and not named as a party to proceedings pending in the English court had such a connection with the proceedings that he should pay the costs.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of Constantine Comninos against a decision that the court had jurisdiction over him in relation to a summons issued under section 51 of the Supreme Court Act 1981 that he should be personally liable for costs in an action pending in the English court.
The respondent insurance company had successfully appealed against a judgment in favour of the owners of a vessel which was a constructive total loss following grounding and a fire in 1985, and had been awarded its costs.
Some of the costs were recovered by reason of awards of security for costs made prior to trial, but the insurer claimed a balance including interest in the sum of pounds 2,680,215.87. It issued a summons seeking an order pursuant to section 51 of the 1981 Act that the appellant should be liable personally to pay those costs, on the grounds that it was he, as principal and later sole shareholder of the one ship company which owned the vessel, who had been involved in the direction of the action and who had instituted, controlled and financed the litigation.
The appellant challenged the jurisdiction of the English court, contending that the summons under section 51 had to be considered as distinct and separate from the main action, and that the Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters 1968 (the Brussels Convention) applied to that claim.
He submitted, inter alia, that section 51 proceedings against a non-party were a "civil or commercial matter" to which Article 1 of Title I to the Convention applied, and that accordingly the English court was not entitled to take jurisdiction because by Article 2, a person such as the appellant who was domiciled in a contracting state, i.e. Greece, was entitled to be sued only in Greece. …