Spiliada Maritime Corporation v Cansulex Ltd, The Spiliada: HL 1986

Forum Non Conveniens Restated

The House reviewed the authorities on the principle of forum non conveniens and restated how to apply the principle where the defendant seeks a stay of proceedings on the ground that there is another more appropriate forum.
Held: ‘In the result, it seems to me that the solution of disputes about the relative merits of trial in England and trial abroad is pre-eminently a matter for the trial judge . . An appeal should be rare and the appellate court should be slow to interfere.’
Lord Goff of Chieveley said that despite the use of the Latin adjective conveniens the real question in these cases was, which was the more appropriate forum: ‘[It] is not merely that the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff to persuade the court that England is the appropriate forum for the trial of the action, but that he has to show that this is clearly so.’ and a ‘defendant can apply to have service set aside on the ground that there is an alternative jurisdiction ‘in which the case may be tried more suitably for the interests of all the parties and for the ends of justice’
The burden is on the claimant to persuade the court that England is clearly the most appropriate forum for trial. ‘The key to the solution of this problem lies, in my judgment, in the underlying fundamental principle. We have to consider where the case may be tried ‘suitably for the interests of all the parties and for the ends of justice.’ Let me consider the application of that principle in relation to advantages which the plaintiff may derive from invoking the English jurisdiction. Typical examples are: damages awarded on a higher scale; a more complete procedure of discovery; a power to award interest; a more generous limitation period. Now, as a general rule, I do not think that the court should be deterred from granting a stay of proceedings . . simply because the plaintiff will be deprived of such an advantage, provided that the court is satisfied that substantial justice will be done in the available appropriate forum. Take, for example, discovery. We know that there is a spectrum of systems of discovery applicable in various jurisdictions . . No doubt each of these systems has its virtues and vices; but, generally speaking, I cannot see that, objectively, injustice can be said to have been done if a party is, in effect, compelled to accept one of these well-recognised systems applicable in the appropriate forum overseas . . Then take the scale on which damages are awarded. Suppose that two parties have been involved in a road accident in a foreign country, where both were resident, and where damages are awarded on a scale substantially lower than those awarded in this country. I do not think that an English court would, in ordinary circumstances, hesitate to stay proceedings brought by one of them against the other in this country merely because he would be deprived of a higher award of damages here. . . . But the underlying principle requires that regard must be had to the interests of all the parties and the ends of justice; and these considerations may lead to a different conclusion in other cases . . [T]ake the example of cases concerned with time bars . . Now, to take extreme examples, suppose that the plaintiff allowed the limitation period to elapse in the appropriate jurisdiction, and came here simply because he wanted to take advantage of a more generous time bar applicable in this country; or suppose that it was obvious that the plaintiff should have commenced proceedings in the appropriate jurisdiction, and yet he did not trouble to issue a protective writ there; in cases such as these, I cannot see that the court should hesitate to stay the proceedings in this country, even though the effect would be that the plaintiff’s claim would inevitably be defeated by a plea of the time bar in the appropriate jurisdiction. Indeed a strong theoretical argument can be advanced for the proposition that, if there is another clearly more appropriate forum for the trial of the action, a stay should generally be granted even though the plaintiff’s action would be time barred there. But, in my opinion, this is a case where practical justice should be done. And practical justice demands that, if the court considers that the plaintiff acted reasonably in commencing proceedings in this country, and that, although it appears that (putting on one side the time bar point) the appropriate forum for the trial of the action is elsewhere than England, the plaintiff did not act unreasonably in failing to commence proceedings . . in that jurisdiction within the limitation period applicable there, it would not, I think, be just to deprive the plaintiff of the benefit of having started proceedings within the limitation period applicable in this country . . ‘
Lord Templeman said: ‘I hope that in future the judge will be allowed to study the evidence and refresh his memory of the speech of my noble and learned friend Lord Goff of Chieveley in this case in the quiet of his room without expense to the parties; that he will not be referred to other decisions on other facts; and that submissions will be measured in hours and not days. An appeal should be rare and the appellate court should be slow to interfere’.


Lord Templeman, Lord Goff of Chieveley


[1987] 1 AC 460, [1986] 3 All ER 843, [1986] 3 WLR 972, [1986] UKHL 10




England and Wales


CitedSim v Robinow 1892
The task of the court in deciding jurisdiction is to identify the forum in which the case can be suitably tried for the interests of all the parties and for the ends of justice: . .

Cited by:

CitedStaines v Walsh, Howard ChD 14-Mar-2003
The claimant sought an account from the defendant share broker for the proceeds of share transactions. The defendant said the matter should be tried in Hong Kong.
Held: The claimant must show a good arguable case. Here there was evidence to . .
CitedMukta Gokaldas Hindocha (widow of C S Gheewala) and Others v Mahesh Shamjibhal Juthabhai Gheewala and Others PC 20-Nov-2003
PC (Jersey) The defendant sought a stay of the action, arguing it should be heard in another jurisdiction. He wanted the estate to be administered in Kenya, a jurisdiction which would apply Hindu laws of . .
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 . .
CitedTryg Baltic International (UK) Ltd v Boston Compania De Seguros Sa and others ComC 28-May-2004
Four defendants from Argentina sought to have set aside an order for them to be served, saying the appropriate jursidiction, if there was a triable issue, would be Argentina.
Held: The agreements were to be construed according to English Law. . .
CitedLewis and others v King CA 19-Oct-2004
The claimant sought damages for defamation for an article published on the Internet. The claimant Don King sued in London even though he lived in the US as did the defendants.
Held: A publication via the internet occurred when the material was . .
CitedDow Jones and Co Inc v Jameel CA 3-Feb-2005
Presumption of Damage in Defamation is rebuttable
The defendant complained that the presumption in English law that the victim of a libel had suffered damage was incompatible with his right to a fair trial. They said the statements complained of were repetitions of statements made by US . .
CitedPt Pan Indonesia Bank Ltd Tbk v Marconi Communications International Ltd CA 27-Apr-2005
The parties disputed the jurisdiction of the English courts over a letter of credit. It foresaw payment here and in sterling, made by the English bank as against the appropriate documents. Authority had been given for service out of the . .
CitedLimit (No 3) Ltd and others v PDV Insurance Company CA 11-Apr-2005
There had been substantial oil leaks in Venezuela, which had been insured and then re-insured in London. Permission had been given to serve the defendant out of the jurisdiction, but that permission had been set aside. The claimant now appealed.
CitedCrofts and others v Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd and others CA 19-May-2005
The claimants were airline pilots employed by the respondent company with headquarters in Hong Kong. The court was asked whether an English Tribunal had jurisdiction to hear their complaints of unfair dismissal.
Held: The pilots were employed . .
CitedSawyer v Atari Interactive Inc ChD 1-Nov-2005
The claimant owned the copyright in several successful computer games. He had granted licenses for the use of the software, which licences were assigned to the defendants. Disputes arose as to the calculation of royalty payments, and the claimant . .
CitedIslamic Republic of Pakistan v Zardari and others ComC 6-Oct-2006
The claimant alleged that the defendants had funded the purchase of various properties by secret and unlawful commissions taken by them whilst in power in Pakistan. They sought to recover the proceeds. They now sought permission to serve proceedings . .
CitedAshton Investments Ltd. and Another v OJSC Russian Aluminium (Rusal) and others ComC 18-Oct-2006
The claimants sought damages for breach of confidence saying that the defendants had hacked into their computer systems via the internet to seek privileged information in the course of litigation. The defendants denied this and said the courts had . .
CitedDellar v Zivy and others ChD 9-Oct-2007
Disappointed beneficiaries said they had been told that the deceased would leave certain shares to them. He did not do so, and they said the will had incorrectly interpreted his instructions. The defendants denied that the English court had . .
CitedCooley v Ramsey QBD 1-Feb-2008
The claimant sought damages after being severely injured in a road traffic accident in Australia caused by the defendant. The defendant denied that the court had jurisdiction to permit service out of the jurisdiction. The claimant said that the . .
CitedBerezovsky v Forbes Inc and Michaels; Glouchkov v Same HL 16-May-2000
Plaintiffs who lived in Russia sought damages for defamation against an American magazine with a small distribution in England. Both plaintiffs had real connections with and reputations in England. A judgment in Russia would do nothing to repair the . .
Cited889457 Alberta Inc v Katanga Mining Ltd and others ComC 5-Nov-2008
The parties had set out on a joint venture with deeds providing for control of the shareholdings in each other. The claimant asserted a breach of the deed and sought a remedy. The first defendant company, incorporated in Bermuda argued that the . .
CitedPacific International Sports Clubs Ltd v Soccer Marketing International Ltd and Others ChD 24-Jul-2009
The parties disputed ownership of shares in the football club Dynamo Kiev. Claims were to be made under Ukrainian company law and in equity. The claimant (a company registered in Mauritius) sought to proceed here. The defendants (largely companies . .
CitedAgbaje v Akinnoye-Agbaje SC 10-Mar-2010
The parties had divorced in Nigeria, but the former wife now sought relief in the UK under section 10 of the 194 Act. The wife said that she lived here, but the order made in Nigeria was severely detrimental requiring her either to live here in . .
CitedLubbe (Suing As Administrator Of The Estate Of Rachel Jacoba Lubbe) and 4 Others v Cape plc and Related Appeals HL 22-Jun-2000
South African asbestosis victims suing in England submitted that to stay their proceedings in favour of the South African forum would violate their article 6 rights. A stay was refused on the non-Convention ground that, because of the lack of . .
CitedAshby and Others v Birmingham City Council QBD 3-Mar-2011
The claimants appealed against the strike out of their claims for damages for breach of contract on imposing changes in employment contract and conditions. The County Court had accepted the Council’s arguments on the construction and application of . .
CitedBirmingham City Council v Abdulla and Others CA 29-Nov-2011
The Council appealed against an order dismissing its application for the claimants’ claims under equal pay legislation to be struck out for want of jurisdiction. The claims had been brought in the High Court rather than te hEmployment Tribunal, thus . .
CitedBirmingham City Council v Abdulla and Others SC 24-Oct-2012
Former employees wished to argue that they had been discriminated against whilst employed by the Council. Being out of time for Employment Tribunal Proceedings, they sought to bring their cases in the ordinary courts. The Council now appealed . .
CitedVTB Capital Plc v Nutritek International Corp and Others SC 6-Feb-2013
The claimant bank said that it had been induced to create very substantial lending facilities by fraudulent misrepresentation by the defendants. They now appealed against findings that England was not clearly or distinctly the appropriate forum for . .
CitedNovus Aviation Ltd v Onur Air Tasimacilik As CA 27-Feb-2009
The defendant appealed against a refusal to set aside the grant of leave to serve outside the jurisdiction granted to the claimant. Neither party conducted and business in England, and the contract was made in Switzerland, but was expressed to be . .
CitedVidal-Hall and Others v Google Inc QBD 16-Jan-2014
The claimants alleged misuse of their private information in collecting information about their internet useage when using Google products. Google now applied for an order setting aside consent for service out of the jurisdiction.
Held: The . .
CitedAhuja v Politika Novine I Magazini Doo and Others QBD 23-Nov-2015
Action for misuse of private information and libel. Application to have set aside leave to serve out of the jurisdiction. The defendant published a newspaper in Serbian, in print in Serbia and online. Though in Serbian, the claimant said that online . .
CitedVedanta Resources Plc and Another v Lungowe and Others SC 10-Apr-2019
The claimants alleged negligence causing them personal injury and other losses arising from pollution from mining operations of the defendants in Zambia. The company denied jurisdiction. In the Court of Appeal the defendants’ appeals were dismissed. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Jurisdiction, Torts – Other

Leading Case

Updated: 30 January 2022; Ref: scu.192613