International Litigation Poses Challenges That Make Legal Advice Essential

Modern litigation spans the globe and issues concerning cross-border service of documents and jurisdiction often raise difficulties that make specialist legal advice essential. That was certainly so in a High Court privacy case with a strong international flavour.

A doctor launched a claim for damages, alleging misuse of private information and harassment against a man who he feared was intent on publishing private details about him on a website. He obtained an emergency pre-trial injunction that forbade such publication. However, the man subsequently argued that he had not been properly served with the proceedings and that the matter in any event fell outside the proper jurisdiction of the English courts.

When served with the proceedings by email, the man was in Switzerland. However, in ruling on the matter, the Court noted that the UK and Switzerland are signatories to the Convention on Jurisdiction and the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters 2007 (the Lugano Convention).

Although the doctor had lived and worked in South-East Asia for some years, he was a British national and the Court was satisfied that he had a good arguable case that his centre of interests remained in the UK, where he had spent most of his career and adult life. It was also strongly arguable that online publication of the relevant private information would amount to a substantial wrong in the UK. The requirements of the Lugano Convention having been met, the Court had jurisdiction.

Service of the proceedings by email on the man when he was in Switzerland did not achieve compliance with the Hague Service Convention, nor had the Court's permission been sought for service by that method. However, the Court took the unusual step of regularising the position by retrospectively authorising service by email. The doctor's lawyers had believed that the man was in England when the email was sent and it was clear that it had brought the proceedings very effectively to his attention. In the circumstances, the man's application to set aside service and discharge the interim injunction was dismissed.

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