Buttes Oil and Gas Co v Hammer (No 3): HL 1982

The House considered a dispute between two Us oil companies about the right to exploit an oil field in the Gulf. Each claimed to have a concession granted by the ruler of a Gulf state. Each state claimed that the oil field was within its territorial waters. Both the UK and Iran had become involved in the dispute. There was extensive litigation between the two companies both in England and in the United States. In the English proceedings one of the oil companies (Occidental) alleged that there had been a fraudulent conspiracy between the other company (Buttes) and the Ruler of Sharjah (one of the Gulf states concerned) to deprive Occidental of its rights to exploit the oil field. Buttes applied to strike out the conspiracy claim.
Held: A court should not, as a matter of judicial restraint, adjudicate on the transactions of foreign States and, therefore, upon claims that might give rise to the possibility of embarrassment in the conduct of foreign relations or in respect of which there are no judicial or manageable standards by which the validity of such transactions can be judged. Lord Wilberforce said that the principle was ‘inherent in the very nature of the judicial process’, rather than an example of the exercise of judicial discretion, and ‘Leaving aside all possibility of embarrassment in our foreign relations . . there are . . no judicial or manageable standards by which to judge these issues, or to adopt another phrase . .the court will be in a judicial no-mans land . .’

Lord Wilberforce
[1982] AC 888, [1981] 3 All ER 616, [1981] 3 WLR 787
England and Wales
Appeal fromButtes Oil and Gas Co v Hammer CA 1981
Reports made by employees to their employers or by agents to their principals are not privileged unless they satisfy, and are privileged if they are reports made for the purpose of being laid before the party’s legal adviser for the purpose of . .

Cited by:
CitedJeyaretnam v Mahmood 21-May-1992
For the purpose of an application to discharge an order for service on a defendant outside the jurisdiction, the court declined to evaluate allegations of lack of independence or impartiality in the defendant’s home country of Singapore on the . .
CitedAl-Koronky and Another v Time-Life Entertainment Group Ltd and Another CA 28-Jul-2006
The claimants sought damages after publication of articles alleging severe mistreatment of a servant. One defendant had settled and apologised, but the defendant publisher and author had persisted with the allegation. The claimants who lived in . .
CitedSkrine and Co (a Firm) and others v Euromoney Publications plc and others QBD 10-Nov-2000
The court was asked to strike out parts of a defemation pleading alleging that (i) the Malaysian Prime Minister had acted in a manner intended and/or calculated to interfere with the independent judiciary; (ii) Malaysian judges applied the law of . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Litigation Practice, International

Leading Case

Updated: 11 November 2021; Ref: scu.244090