Court Confirms Jurisdiction Principles

Author:Mr Gearóid Carey
Profession:Matheson Ormsby Prentice

A recent High Court decision involved consideration of whether the court properly had jurisdiction to hear a case based on the principles of the EU Brussels I Regulation (44/2001). While the decision does not establish any novel principle, it is a useful restatement of a generally understood position.


In Coleman v Offley Insurance Services Limited(1) the defendant, an insurance broking firm registered in the United Kingdom, brought a motion seeking an order to set aside service of proceedings and/or to strike out the summons on the basis that the Irish court did not have jurisdiction to hear and determine the plaintiffs' claims under the Brussels I Regulation. In the summons, the plaintiffs sought damages for "breach of contract, negligence, breach of duty (including breach of statutory duty and breach of fiduciary duty)" and "a declaration that [they] are entitled to an indemnity from the defendant". Although no further details of the claim appeared in the summons, the summons did contain an endorsement to the effect that: "The Court has power under Council Regulation (EC) No. 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 to hear and determine the plaintiff's' claims and the Court shall assume jurisdiction to hear the said claim under the provisions of Article 5(1), Article 5(3) of the Regulation." The endorsement effectively tried to cover two bases, in that Article 51 provides for jurisdiction in matters relating to a contract in the courts for the place of performance of the obligation in question, while Article 5(3) provides for matters of tort that jurisdiction arises in the courts where the harmful event occurred.


The defendant had acted as an insurance broker for the plaintiffs in respect of various types of insurance since the 1990s. The first two plaintiffs purchased a house in County Dublin, but continued to reside in England and took out unoccupied buildings insurance which was placed through the defendant's brokerage. Subsequently, building works had to be carried out; despite initial difficulties, those works were covered through insurance obtained through the defendant from August 2 2001 and renewed until February 14 2003, when the building works were substantially completed. From February 2004 the plaintiffs organised their own insurance for the property. However, by January 2005 the adjoining owner to the property commenced proceedings arising out of the works, alleging damage to his property from the plaintiffs'...

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