High Court Rules in favour of Claimants in preliminary attack in the Copper Tubing Cartel Case

19 Oct 2011

The High Court today handed down judgment In an important decision for those considering the English High Court as a forum for damages claims in international competition law cases.

A group of Toshiba companies claimed damages against companies alleged to have taken part in an international cartel in the supply of industrial copper tubing.

The European Commission had made an infringement decision against parent companies in three corporate groups.  The UK claim included allegations of liability against UK subsidiaries of those companies, as well as the parents.

The Defendants argued that there was no valid claim against the UK subsidiaries, which did not form part of the same undertakings as their parents.  They also argued that the Court was in a position to give summary judgment against the Claimants based on witness evidence from officials in the UK companies who said that their companies had not been involved in any cartel behaviour.

These allegations were decisively rejected by the Chancellor of the High Court.  He found that the claims against the UK subsidiaries were properly constituted, and that the attempts by the Defendants to obtain summary judgment were misguided.  This meant that there was also jurisdiction to sue the foreign domiciled parent companies in the English Court, under Article 6 of the Brussels Regulation.

The judgment built on the two leading precedents of Provimi and Cooper Tire, and emphasised that in a secret cartel case the strength of the claimants’ case cannot be assessed, let alone particularised, until after disclosure of documents.

Jon Turner QC acted for the Claimants.

Daniel Beard QC acted for the 1st to 4th Defendants and Kassie Smith acted for the 9th Defendant”