Phillips and Another v Symes and others: HL 23 Jan 2008

Various parties had sought relief in the English courts and in Switzerland after an alleged fraud. There had been a mistake in service of the proceedings in England. The high court had dispensed with service an backdated the effect of the order to pre-date the Swiss proceedings. The court of appeal set aside the backdating of the order. The House was asked whether in the light of the Swiss proceedings, the English court should decline jurisdiction.
Held: The appeal succeeded. The court at first instance had not been backdating service but validating a defective service, and ‘the rule surely is that the English court is seised of proceedings at the date of effective service, whatever that date may eventually be declared to have been.’


Lord Bingham of Cornhill, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, Lord Mance


[2008] UKHL 1, [2008] 2 All ER 537, [2008] 1 All ER (Comm) 918, [2008] 1 WLR 180, [2008] 1 CLC 29, [2008] 1 Lloyd’s Rep 344




Lugano Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters 1988 21, Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982


England and Wales


CitedSiegfried Zelger v Sebastiano Salinitri ECJ 7-Jun-1984
Article 21 of the Convention of 28 September 1968 must be interpreted as meaning that the court ‘first seised’ is the one before which the requirements for proceedings to become definitively pending are first fulfilled, such requirements to be . .
CitedDresser UK v Falcongate Freight Management Ltd; The Duke of Yare CA 1992
In England the court was first seised of a matter at the point when the proceedings were served, not when they were issued. Article 21 was metaphorically described as a ‘tie-break rule’ which operates on the basis of strict chronological . .
CitedNeste Chemicals SA and Others v DK Line Sa and Another (‘The Sargasso’) CA 4-Apr-1994
An English Court becomes seised of a case on the service of the writ. Steyn LJ: ‘the general thrust of the Dresser UK Ltd case is not only binding on us but . . . is correct’. There were no ‘exceptions to the rule that date of service marks the time . .
At first instancePhillips, Harland (Suing As Administrators of the Estate of Christo Michailidis) v Symes (A Bankrupt), Nussberger, Galerie Nefer Ag, Geoff Rowley ChD 19-Aug-2005
The court allowed the appellant’s application to dispense with service of a claim form under the rule. The High Court became seised of the matter as at 19 January 2005. Further directions were given. . .
Appeal fromNussberger and Another v Phillips and Another (No 4) CA 19-May-2006
A claim was issued in London in December 2004, and then served in part in Switzerland in January 2005. One copy was removed from the bundle by a Swiss official, seeing that it had been marked ‘Nor for service out of the jurisdiction.’ That marking . .
CitedGolden Ocean Assurance Ltd v Martin (‘The Goldean Mariner’) CA 1990
Various defendants were served out of the jurisdiction but with the wrong copies of the writs, receiving a copy addressed to another defendant. One defendant received no writ at all, but only a form of acknowledgment of service.
Held: The . .
CitedKnauf UK GmbH v British Gypsum Ltd and Another CA 24-Oct-2001
Permission was sought to use alternative service to serve proceedings on a company. There was no exceptional difficulty in ordinary service, but the claimant wanted to ensure that a claim was heard within the UK jurisdiction, and expected that he . .
See AlsoPhillips and Another v Robin James Symes and Robin Symes Ltd ChD 9-Jul-2001
English proceedings were issued to claim against a partnership. Simultaneously proceedings were issued in Greece, but the Greek proceedings were served on the London parties first. The plaintiffs in Greece asked the English court to issue a stay of . .
See AlsoPhillips v Symes CA 2003
Courts should be reluctant to exclude altogether evidence merely because it is written. If the purpose of the order sought was to trace assets it would be wrong to permit cross-examination which was designed to show that there had been a contempt of . .
See AlsoPhillips, Harland (Administrators of the Estate of Michailidis), Papadimitriou; Symes (A Bankrupt), Robin Symes Limited (In Administrative Receivership), Domercq etc ChD 30-Jul-2004
Under the Ciivil Procedure Rules, experts have acquired greater responsibilities to the court. Those responsibilities transcend their perceived obligations to the parties whom they give evidence. . .
CitedPhillips, Harland (Suing As Administrators of the Estate of Christo Michailidis), Papadimitriou v Symes (A Bankrupt) Robin Symes Limited (In Administrative Receivership) Jean-Louis Domercq ChD 20-Oct-2004
Dr Z had given expert evidence in the principal proceedings. It was now said that that evidence had not been given in the proper way, and a remedy was now sought in costs.
Peter Smith J had held that: ‘It seems to me that in the administration . .
See AlsoPhillips, Harland (Suing As Administrators of the Estate of Christo Michailidis), Papadimitriou v Symes (A Bankrupt) Robin Symes Limited (In Administrative Receivership) Jean-Louis Domercq etc ChD 20-Oct-2004
. .
See AlsoSymes v Phillips and others CA 6-May-2005
. .
See AlsoSymes v Phillips and others CA 19-May-2005
The applicant was in contempt of court. He successfully appealed a sentence of two years imprisonment, with the sentence being reduced to one year. Legally aided, he sought his costs from the claimant. The claimant replied that their part was only . .
See AlsoPhillips and Another v Symes and Others (No 6) CA 19-May-2006
Proceedings were issued in England for service on the defendant in Switzerland, but because of an error by the Swiss Court were not properly served. Proceedings were then issued in Sitzerland, and seisin was claimed for the Swiss Court. The claimant . .
See AlsoPhillips and others v Symes and others ChD 12-Jul-2006
. .
See AlsoPhillips and others v Symes and others ChD 16-Oct-2006
. .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 12 July 2022; Ref: scu.263818