BT v Seguros Catalana Occidente and EB.

IDENTIFIER
62020CJ0708 | ECLI:EU:C:2021:986
LANGUAGE
English
ORIGIN
GBR
COURT
Court of Justice of the European Union
ADVOCATE GENERAL
Ćapeta
AG OPINION
NO
REFERENCES MADE
12
REFERENCED
0
DOCUMENT TYPE
Judgment

Judgment



JUDGMENT OF THE COURT (Eighth Chamber)

  1. December 2021 ( *1) (i)

(Reference for a preliminary ruling - Cooperation in civil and commercial matters - Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 - Jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement in civil and commercial matters - Jurisdiction in insurance matters - Claim for compensation for damage suffered by an individual domiciled in a Member State following an accident in rented accommodation in another Member State - Action brought by the injured person against, first, the insurer and, secondly, against the insured owner of that accommodation - Applicability of Article 13(3) of that regulation)

In Case C-708/20,

REQUEST for a preliminary ruling under Article 267 TFEU from the County Court at Birkenhead (United Kingdom), made by decision of 30 December 2020, received at the Court on the same day, in the proceedings

BT

v

Seguros Catalana Occidente,

EB,

THE COURT (Eighth Chamber),

composed of N. Jaaskinen, President of the Chamber, M. Safjan (Rapporteur) and M. Gavalec, Judges,

Advocate General: T. Capeta,

Registrar: A. Calot Escobar,

having regard to the written procedure,

after considering the observations submitted on behalf of:

- EB, by herself,

- the German Government, by J. Méller, M. Hellmann and U. Bartle, acting as Agents,

- the Italian Government, by G. Palmieri, acting as Agent, and A. Peluso, avvocato dello Stato,

- the European Commission, by C. Ladenburger, X. Lewis and S. Noé, acting as Agents,

having decided, after hearing the Advocate General, to proceed to judgment without an Opinion,

gives the following

Judgment

  1. This request for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of Article 13(3) of Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (Q)_2012 L 351,p. 1)

  1. The request has been made in proceedings between BT, on the one hand, and Seguros Catalana Occidente and EB, on the other hand, concerning a claim by BT for compensation for loss suffered as a result of an accident at a property owned by EB.

The legal framework

  1. Recitals 16, 18 and 34 of Regulation No 1215/2012 are worded as follows:

“(16) In addition to the defendant's domicile, there should be alternative grounds of jurisdiction based on a close connection between the court and the action or in order to facilitate the sound administration of justice The existence of a close connection should ensure legal certainty and avoid the possibility of the defendant being sued in a court of a Member State which he could not reasonably have foreseen. This is important, particularly in disputes concerning non-contractual obligations arising out of violations of privacy and rights relating to personality, including defamation

(18) In relation to insurance, consumer and employment contracts, the weaker party should be protected by rules of jurisdiction more favourable to his interests than the general rules.

(34) Continuity between the ... Convention [of 27 September 1968 on jurisdiction and the enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (QJ1978 L 304, p. 36) (“the Brussels Convention")}, [Council] Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 [of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (QJ.2001 L 12,.p. 1)] and this Regulation should be ensured, and transitional provisions should be laid down to that end. The same need for continuity applies as regards the interpretation by the Court of Justice of the European Union of the [Brussels Convention] and of the Regulations replacing it.”

  1. Section 3 of Chapter II of Regulation No 1215/2012, which is entitled ‘Jurisdiction in matters relating to insurance’, includes Articles 10 to 16 thereof.

  1. Article 10 of that regulation provides:

“In matters relating to insurance, jurisdiction shall be determined by this Section, without prejudice to Article 6 and point 5 of Article 7.”

  1. Article 11 of that regulation is worded as follows:

‘1. An insurer domiciled ina Member State may be sued:

(a) in the courts of the Member State in which he is domiciled;

(b) in another Member State, in the case of actions brought by the policyholder, the insured or a beneficiary, in the courts for the place where the claimant is domiciled; or

() if he is a co-insurer, in the courts of a Member State in which proceedings are brought against the leading insurer.

2. An insurer who is not domiciled ina Member State but has a branch, agency or other establishment in one of the Member States shall, in disputes arising out of the operations of the branch, agency or establishment, be deemed to be domiciled in that Member State.”

  1. Under Article 13 of that regulation:

‘1. In respect of liability insurance, the insurer may also, if the law of the court permits it, be joined in proceedings which the injured party has brought against the insured

2. Articles 10, 11 and 12 shall apply to actions brought by the injured party directly against the insurer, where such direct actions are permitted

3. If the law governing such direct actions provides that the policyholder or the insured may be joined as a party to the action, the same court shall have jurisdiction over them.”

The dispute in the main proceedings and the questions referred for a preliminary ruling

  1. BT, domiciled in the United Kingdom, had an accident while on holiday in Spain in 2018. The accident occurred at a property owned by EB, who is domiciled in the Republic of Ireland.

  1. Seguros Catalana Occidente is the civil liability insurer of EB in respect of that property and has its registered office in Spain.

  1. BT alleges that, pursuant to a contract entered into on her behalf by a member of her family, EB agreed to provide accommodation for her and her family in that property from 31 March 2018

qt On 3 April 2018, BT was injured following an accidental fall on a patio which is part of that property.

  1. BT decided to bring an action against EB and Seguros Catalana Occidente for the damages and losses suffered as a result of that fall. She argued that EB owed her a duty in contract and tort, consisting of a duty to exercise reasonable care and skill to ensure that the property could be used in a reasonably safe manner and that she had breached that duty. According to BT, EB should have installed a handrail or warning sign in the immediate vicinity of the step or marked it in some way.

  1. The proceedings were commenced at the County Court Money Claims Centre (England & Wales) (United Kingdom) on 14 April 2019. It was then served on the defendants Seguros Catalana Occidente and EB and transferred to the County Court at Birkenhead (United Kingdom).

  1. BT claims that the courts of England and Wales have international jurisdiction over Seguros Catalana Occidente by virtue of Article 11(1)(b) and Article 13(2) of Regulation No 1215/2012.

  1. BT argues, in relation to EB, that a claimant may bring an action against an insurer domiciled abroad under Article 13(3) of that regulation. In her view, the existence of a ‘dispute’ between the insurer and the insured regarding the validity or effect of the insurance policy is not necessary in that regard. The only requirement under Article 13(3) is that such an action against the insured is provided for by the law governing direct actions against the insurer, in this case Spanish law.

  1. Seguros Catalana Occidente did not contest the jurisdiction of the referring court and presented its defence.

  1. On 29 January 2020, EB challenged the jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to hear the claims brought against her by BT on the basis of Article 13(3) of Regulation No 1215/2012.

  1. In EB's view, that provision applies only to insurance claims. According to EB BT's claim is a claim for compensation for consequential loss and damage arising from alleged negligence in the provision of holiday accommodation. It is not an insurance claim and cannot become one merely because it was brought in the same action as the direct action against the insurer.

  1. Before EB’s application challenging the jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales couldbe heard, Seguros Catalana Occidente clarified its position on the merits and argued that the limitations and restrictions in the insurance policy meant that the policy did not extend to EB’s use of the property for the purpose of accommodating third parties on holiday against payment. Seguros Catalana Occidente therefore disputed that it was liable to compensate EB in relation to the accident at issue and, subsequently, sought the dismissal of BT's claim against it. The referring court stayed the proceedings on Seguros Catalana Occidente's application to dismiss BT’s claim until the present reference for a preliminary ruling is resolved

  1. That court considers that it must first examine EB’s challenge to its international jurisdiction. It points out that Seguros Catalana Occidente is not a party to the proceedings as regards the latter aspect.

  1. In those circumstances the County Court at Birkenhead decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:

“) Is it a requirement of Article 13(3) of [Regulation No 1215/2012] that the cause of the action on which the injured person relies in asserting a claim against the policyholder/insured involves a matter relating to insurance?

(2) If the answer to [question 1] is in the affirmative, is the fact that the claim which the injured person seeks to bring against the policyholder/insured arises out of the same facts as, and is being brought in the same action as the direct claim brought against the insurer sufficient to justify a conclusion that the injured person's claim is a matter relating to insurance even though the cause of action between the injured person and the policyholder/insured is unrelated to insurance?

(3) Further and alternatively, if the answer to [question 1] is in the affirmative, is the fact that there is a dispute between the insurer and injured person concerning the validity or effect of the insurance policy sufficient to justify a conclusion that the injured person's claim is a matter relating to insurance?

(4) If the answer to [question 1] is in the negative, is it sufficient that the joining of the policyholder/insured to the direct action against the insurer is permitted by the law governing the direct action against the insurer?”

Consideration of the questions referred

The first three questions

  1. By its first three questions, which should be considered together, the referring court asks, in essence, whether Article 13(3) of Regulation No 1215/2012 is to be interpreted as meaning that, in the event of a direct action brought by the injured person against an insurer, in accordance with Article 13(3) thereof, the court of the Member State in which that person is domiciled may also assume jurisdiction, on the basis of that Article 13(3), to rule on the claim for compensation brought at the same time by that person against the policyholder or the insured who is domiciled in another Member State and who has not been challenged by the insurer.

  1. Asa preliminary point, it should be recalled that, in so far as, in accordance with recital 34 of Regulation No 1215/2012, that regulation repeals and replaces Regulation No 44/2001, which in turn replaced the Brussels Convention, the interpretation given by the Court with regard to the provisions of the latter legal instruments also applies to Regulation No 1215/2012 where those provisions can be described as ‘equivalent’ (judgment of 9 July 2020, Verein fiir Konsumenteninformation, C-343/19, EU:C:2020:534, paragraph 22 and the case-law cited). That is the case with Article 10(3) of the Brussels Convention and Article 11(3) of Regulation No 44/2001, on the one hand, and Article 13(3) of Regulation No 1215/2012, on the other.

  1. For the purposes of an interpretation of a provision of EU law, the Court must, according to its settled case-law, take account not only of the terms of thereof, but also of its context and the objectives pursued by the legislation of which it forms part (judgment of 24 March 2021, MCP, C-603/20 PPU, EU:C:2021:231, paragraph 37 and the case-law cited).

  1. As regards, in the first place, the wording of Article 13(3) of Regulation No 1215/2012, read in conjunction with paragraph 2 of that article, it should be recalled that that provision provides that, if the law relating to the direct action brought by the injured person against the insurer provides for the policyholder or the insured to be joined as a party to the proceedings, the same court will also have jurisdiction over them. It should be noted that that wording does not in itself provide an answer to the first three questions raised in the present case

  1. As regards, in the second place, the general scheme of Regulation No 1215/2012, it should be noted that Article 13(3) of that regulation belongs to Section 3 of Chapter II thereof. That section, which, according to its title and Article 10 of that regulation, determines jurisdiction ‘in matters relating to insurance’, establishes an autonomous system for the allocation of jurisdiction in insurance matters (see, to that effect, judgment of 20 July 2017, MMA IARD, C-340/16, EU:C:2017:576, paragraph 27)

  1. In that regard, it should be noted that it is apparent from the Court's case-law concerning the scope of the concept of ‘matters relating to insurance’ that the nature of the injured person’s direct action against the insurer under national law is irrelevant for the purposes of the application of the provisions of Section 3 of Chapter II of Regulation No 1215/2012 (see, to that effect, judgment of 13 December 2007, FBTO Schadeverzekeringen, C-463/06, EU:C:2007:792, paragraph 30)

  1. In that context, EB, the German Government and the European Commission argue, in their written observations, that an action for compensation brought by an injured person against an insured cannot fall within the scope of Article 13(3) of that regulation, since it does not arise from an ‘insurance relationship’, but is essentially a matter of tort or delict,

  1. As is apparent from Article 10 of Regulation No 1215/2012, the autonomous concept of ‘matters relating to insurance’ makes it possible to distinguish between the jurisdiction established by Section 3 of Chapter II of that regulation in that area from the special jurisdiction established by Section 2 of that chapter in relation to matters of contract or tort (see, to that effect, judgment of 13 December 2007, FBTO Schadeverzekeringen, C-463/06, EU:C:2007:792, paragraph 30).

  1. It must therefore be considered that, in order to justify the application of the special rules of jurisdiction laid down in Section 3 of that regulation, the action before the court must necessarily raise a question relating to rights and obligations arising out of an insurance relationship between the parties to that action.

  1. That interpretation of the concept of ‘matters relating to insurance’ implies that a claim brought by the injured person against the policyholder or the insured cannot be considered to be an insurance claim merely because that claim and the claim made directly against the insurer have their origin in the same facts or there is a dispute between the insurer and the injured person relating to the validity or effect of the insurance policy.

  1. As regards, in the third place, the teleological interpretation, it should be recalled, first, that, according to the case-law of the Court, it is apparent from recital 18 of Regulation No 1215/2012 that actions in insurance matters are characterised by a certain imbalance between the parties, which the provisions of Section 3 of Chapter II of that regulation are intended to correct by giving the weaker party the benefit of rules of jurisdiction more favourable to his or her interests than the general rules (see, to that effect, judgments of 20 July 2017, MMA IARD, C-340/16, EU:C:2017:576, paragraph 28, and of 27 February 2020, Balta, C-803/18, EU:C:2020:123, paragraphs 27 and 44)

  1. That imbalance is generally absent where an action does not concern the insurer, in relation to whom both the insured and the injured person are considered to be weaker (see, to that effect, judgments of 26 May 2005, GIE Réunion européenne and Others, C-77/04, EU:C:2005:327, paragraph 17 and the case-law cited, and of 17 September 2009, Vorarlberger Gebietskrankenkasse, C-347/08, EU:C:2009:561, paragraph 44).

  1. Furthermore, it should be noted that, as is apparent from page 32 of the report on the Brussels Convention, prepared by Mr P. Jenard (QJ_1979 C59, p. 1), Article 13(3) of Regulation No 1215/2012 is intended to grant the insurer the right to challenge the insured, as a third party in the proceedings between it and the injured person, in order to provide him or her with a weapon against fraud and to prevent different courts from handing down irreconcilable judgments. It follows that when an action for damages has been brought by the injured person directly against an insurer and the latter has not brought such an action against the insured concerned, the court seised cannot rely on that provision to take jurisdiction over the latter.

  1. Secondly, it is indeed true that, in accordance with recital 16 of Regulation No 1215/2012, the provisions thereof must be interpreted in the light of the objective of facilitating the proper administration of justice, and that the involvement, by the injured person, of the insured, as a third party to the proceedings before the court seised, would make it possible to avoid the risk of the coexistence of two parallel sets of proceedings.

  1. Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that allowing the injured person to bring an action against the insured on the basis of Article 13(3) of Regulation No 1215/2012 would amount to circumventing the rules of that regulation concerning jurisdiction in matters of tort or delict, as defined in Section 2 of Chapter II thereof. Each injured person could then bring an action against the insurer on the basis of Article 13(2) thereof in order to benefit from the more favourable provisions of Articles 10 to 12 of that regulation in order, subsequently, to bring an action against the insured, as a third party to those proceedings, on the basis of Article 13(3) thereof.

  1. In any event, the objective of the proper administration of justice is, as a general rule, sufficiently achieved where, as provided for in Article 13(1) of that regulation, the insured may bring an action against the insurer before the same court as the one before which the injured person brings an action against the insured, in so far as the law of the Member State of that court permits.

  1. In the light of the foregoing, the answer to the first three questions is that Article 13(3) of Regulation No 1215/2012 must be interpreted as meaning that, in the event of a direct action brought by the injured person against an insurer in accordance with Article 13(2) thereof, the court of the Member State in which that person is domiciled cannot also assume jurisdiction, on the basis of Article 13(3) thereof, to rule on a claim for compensation brought at the same time by that person against the policyholder or the insured who is domiciled in another Member State and who has not been challenged by the insurer.

The fourth question

  1. In view of the answer given in the preceding paragraph of the present judgment, there is no need to answer the fourth question.

Costs

  1. Since these proceedings are, for the parties to the main proceedings, a step in the action pending before the national court, the decision on costs is a matter for that court. Costs incurred in submitting observations to the Court, other than the costs of those parties, are not recoverable.

On those grounds, the Court (Eighth Chamber) hereby orders:

Article 13(3) of Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters must be interpreted as meaning that, in the event of a direct action brought by the injured person against an insurer in accordance with Article 13(2) thereof, the court of the Member State in which that person is domiciled cannot also assume jurisdiction, on the basis of Article 13(3) thereof, to rule on a claim for compensation brought at the same time by that person against the policyholder or the insured who is domiciled in another Member State and who has not been challenged by the insurer.

Jaaskinen

Safjan

Gavalec

Delivered in open court in Luxembourg on 9 December 2021.

A. Calot Escobar

Registrar

N. Jaaskinen

President of the Eighth Chamber

(#1) Language of the case: English

(i) With regard to the third sentence of paragraph 12, the present text has been linguistically modified after it was first put online.


Citations

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