British Airways Board v Laker Airways Limited: HL 1985

The plaintiffs tried to restrain the defendant from pursuing an action in the US courts claiming that the plaintiffs had acted together in an unlawful conspiracy to undermine the defendant’s business.
Held: The action in the US were unlawful under the Sherman and Clayton acts, but were not unlawful in English law. The English courts were therefore not the forum conveniens, and the injuncion was refused. In order for the court to issue a restraining injunction, it was necessary that the conduct of the party being restrained should fit ‘the generic description of conduct that is ‘unconscionable’ in the eye of English law’. ‘The interpretation of treaties to which the United Kingdom is a party but the terms of which have not either expressly or by reference been incorporated in English domestic law by legislation is not a matter that falls within the interpretative jurisdiction of an English court of law.’
Lord Diplock set out two principles: ‘The second proposition, that of English law, was understood by your Lordships to have been common ground between the parties, at any rate throughout the lengthy hearing of the appeal; no argument casting any doubt upon it was advanced. The proposition is that, even if the allegations against B.A. and B.C. in the complaint in the American action can be proved, they disclose no cause of action on the part of Laker against B.A. or B.C. that is justiciable in an English court. The Clayton Act which creates the civil remedy with threefold damages for criminal offences under the Sherman Act is, under English rules of conflict of laws, purely territorial in its application, while because the predominant purpose of acts of B.A. and B.C. that are complained of was the defence of their own business interests as providers of scheduled airline services on routes on which Laker was seeking to attract customers from them by operating its Skytrain policy, any English cause of action for conspiracy would be ruled out under the now well-established principle of English (as well as Scots) law laid down in a series of cases in this House spanning 50 years of which it suffices to refer only to Mogul Steamship Co Ltd v McGregor, Gow and Co [1892] AC 25 and Crofter Hand Woven Harris Tweed Co Ltd v Veitch [1942] AC 435.’

Lord Diplock
[1985] AC 58, [1984] UKHL 7, [1984] 3 WLR 413, [1984] 3 All ER 39
England and Wales
At First instanceBritish Airways Board v Laker Airways Limited 1984
Laker began an action in the US seeking damages under the US Sherman and Clayton Acts against other airlines, including British Airways and British Caledonian Airways. They said that the other airlines had combined in a conspiracy to undermine . .
CitedCrofter Hand Woven Harris Tweed Company Limited v Veitch HL 15-Dec-1941
The plaintiffs sought an interdict against the respondents, a dockers’ union, who sought to impose an embargo on their tweeds as they passed through the port of Stornoway.
Held: A trade embargo was not tortious because the predominant purpose . .
Appeal fromBritish Airways Board v Laker Airways Limited CA 2-Jan-1984
The plaintiffs sought an injunction to restrain the defendant from pursuing an action in the US. That action alleged conspiracy by the plaintiffs to work together to put the defendant out of business on the North Atlantic route by anticompetitive . .

Cited by:
CitedTurner v Grovit and others HL 13-Dec-2001
The applicant was a solicitor employed by a company in Belgium. He later resigned claiming unfair dismissal, saying he had been pressed to become involved in unlawful activities. The defendants sought to challenge the jurisdiction of the English . .
CitedSouth Carolina Insurance Co v Assurantie Maatschappij de Zeven Provincien NV HL 1987
There can be little basis for the grant of relief to a landowner providing protection from an action in nuisance if the landowner will not himself remedy the public nuisance. The House considered whether the circumstances gave the court power to . .
CitedOccidental Exploration and Production Company vRepublic of Ecuador CA 9-Sep-2005
The parties had arbitrated their dispute in London under a bilateral investment treaty between the US and Ecuador. The republic sought to appeal the arbitration. The applicant now appealed an order that the English High Court had jurisdiction to . .
CitedSerco Ltd v Lawson; Botham v Ministry of Defence; Crofts and others v Veta Limited HL 26-Jan-2006
Mr Lawson was employed by Serco as a security supervisor at the British RAF base on Ascension Island, which is a dependency of the British Overseas Territory of St Helena. Mr Botham was employed as a youth worker at various Ministry of Defence . .
CitedRegina (on the application of Abassi and Another) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Another CA 6-Nov-2002
A British national had been captured in Afghanistan, and was being held without remedy by US forces. His family sought an order requiring the respondent to take greater steps to secure his release or provide other assistance.
Held: Such an . .
CitedFourie v Le Roux and others HL 24-Jan-2007
The appellant, liquidator of two South African companies, had made a successful without notice application for an asset freezing order. He believed that the defendants had stripped the companies of substantial assets. The order was set aside for . .
CitedNorris v United States of America and others HL 12-Mar-2008
The detainee appealed an order for extradition to the USA, saying that the offence (price-fixing) was not one known to English common law. The USA sought his extradition under the provisions of the Sherman Act.
Held: It was not, and it would . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice, Torts – Other, Jurisdiction

Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.195992