News 18 Jan. 2019

Curtis wins clarity for state defendants under the UK's State Immunity Act in new Commercial Court ruling

The Commercial Court in London today has handed down a significant decision for all state defendants in English court proceedings.

Today’s judgment relates to whether judges can dispense with service of court proceedings on a state, including proceedings enforcing arbitral awards.

The UK’s State Immunity Act states that where a document starting proceedings needs to be served then it must be served on the Foreign Ministry of the other state through diplomatic channels.

The judgment counters a series of recent court decisions, which had tried to get around the requirement for diplomatic service by saying that there was no document to serve in accordance with the State Immunity Act if the judge had allowed there to be no service at all.

In his judgment, Lord Justice Males has taken these earlier decisions to task, holding that the State Immunity Act’s service provision is mandatory and there is no power to circumvent the act by allowing service to be done away with.

This is an important re-statement of the law and re-asserts the protections which were fast being eroded for state defendants.

The claimant was given leave to appeal the judgment to the Court of Appeal.

Curtis’ UK litigation partner Mark Handley successfully acted for the State of Libya in the case.