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AXA Corporate Solutions Assurance SA v Weir Services Australia Pty Ltd

Date: 28/04/2016

The Commercial Court gave judgment in a jurisdictional dispute between AXA and its policyholder (Weir), an Australian subsidiary of a major engineering group.  Jonathan Hough QC acted for AXA, which established that England was clearly the proper forum for the dispute in the proceedings.  The judgment considers the significance of the governing law of a standard-form global policy in determining the proper forum.

The underlying dispute arose out of a claim made by a mining company against Weir concerning its refurbishment of a large item of equipment that subsequently failed.  Although that claim was successfully defended in an arbitration in Sydney, Weir remained liable to pay its own legal costs and a collar payment.  It sought to be indemnified by AXA under a global liability policy (written on the London market) and a local policy (written in Australia).  AXA declined the claim, including on the basis that the only damage had been to the product worked on by Weir.  AXA brought proceedings in England for negative declarations as to its liability under the global policy, while Weir brought proceedings in Australia in relation to both policies.  AXA applied for an anti-suit injunction and Weir sought to challenge the jurisdiction of the English Court.

In his judgment, Blair J accepted AXA’s arguments that the primary issues were questions of law and construction, and that England was the proper forum for the proceedings before the Court.  Reflecting upon a balanced debate, he approved statements in the leading practitioner texts about the weight to be given to governing law in a dispute over the construction of an insurance written on the London market.  He found that the additional test for an anti-suit injunction was not satisfied, and gave guidance as to the management of the proceedings.

Read the full judgment here.

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