Cummins Engine Co Ltd v Davis Freight Forwarding (Hull) Ltd: CA 1981

Cummins as consignor had contracted with Davis, another English company, for the carriage of engines from England to Amsterdam. Davis instructed Charterway to undertake the leg from Rotterdam to Amsterdam, and Charterway in turn asked Graaf, who asked Boers to do this. Charterway, Graaf and Boers were all Dutch firms and all successive carriers under CMR. Cummins issued a writ in England against all four, but served only Davis. Davis issued third party proceedings to join and seek recourse from Charterway, Graaf and Boers, who applied to have the third party proceedings set aside on the basis that under article 39.2 any recourse proceedings against them could only be in Holland.
Held: The application Succeeded.
Brandon LJ made the following general statement regarding jurisdiction in the main proceedings: ‘It is clear from the provisions of CMR contained in Chapters V and VI that it contemplates two kinds of legal proceedings arising out of a contract of carriage. The first kind of legal proceedings which it contemplates are actions brought by a sender or consignee of goods against one or more carriers. Where successive carriers are involved, the effect of article 31, paragraph 1, combined with article 34, is that the plaintiff can bring a single action against one, more than one, or all the carriers concerned. Article 31, paragraph 1, further requires him to bring his action in certain courts only. These courts are, first, any court of a contracting state which has been agreed between the parties; secondly, the courts of the country where any of the carriers sued is ordinarily resident, or has his principal place of business, or the branch or agency through which the contract of carriage was made; and, thirdly, the courts of the place where the goods were taken over for the carriage or the place where they were to be delivered.
It is on the basis of these provisions that, in the present case, Cummins issued a writ against four parties, Davis, Charterway, Graaf and Boers, although they have only served such writ on Davis.’
O’Connor LJ described the scheme of the CMR: ‘It will be seen that the scheme of the Convention, starting in article 31, is that normally, unless the parties otherwise agree, any legal proceedings are to be originated in the jurisdiction of ‘the defendant’ (article 31, paragraph 1(a)), and I am content, under the ordinary rules of interpretation, to read ‘defendant’ for ‘defendants’. The only alternative there given is the place where the goods were taken over or the place designated for delivery. The place where the goods were taken over by the carrier, in my judgment, refers to the place where the contract of carriage commenced (see article 1 of the Convention) and cannot be repeated down the line where successive carriers have participated in the carriage at various stages. That in the present case was Scotland and the place of delivery was Holland. Therefore, Cummins were limited to bringing the action, as far as the jurisdiction of the defendant was concerned, either in England (Davis) or in Holland the other three.’


Brandon, O’Connor LJJ


[1981] 1 WLR 1363


Convention on the Contract for the International Carriage of Goods by Road 31.1 56


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedBritish American Tobacco Denmark A/S v Kazemier Bv SC 28-Oct-2015
One container loaded with cigarettes was allegedly hi-jacked in Belgium en route between Switzerland and The Netherlands in September 2011, while another allegedly lost 756 of its original 1386 cartons while parked overnight contrary to express . .
CitedITT Schaub-Lorenz Vertriebsgesellschaft mbH v Birkart Johann lnternationale Spedition GmbH and Co KG CA 1988
Bingham LJ considered dicta in Cummins Engine, and said: ‘although it could not be regarded as ‘having more than persuasive authority . . I think (with respect) that it is plainly right’. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 09 May 2022; Ref: scu.592015