The Brussels Regulation has a general rule that a defendant should be sued in the Member State where it is domiciled. One of the exceptions, in Article 11(2), is for matters relating to insurance, where the consumer-friendly rule is that the insured can bring proceedings in the courts of its own domicile.
In Mapfre Mutualidad and Hoteles Pinero v Godfrey Keefe  EWCA Civ 598, Mr Keefe had brought proceedings against a Spanish hotel’s insurer, having suffered a severe personal injury whilst staying at the hotel. The insurer accepted the court’s jurisdiction, but indicated that it had a cap on its liability to compensate. Accordingly, Mr Keefe applied to join the hotel as the second defendant, claiming that its negligence caused the accident. The hotel challenged jurisdiction on the grounds that the claim concerned a tort rather than a matter relating to insurance.
The Court of Appeal held that the regulation had to be construed purposively with due regard to its aim of protecting the weaker party. Claims against insurers were not always policy disputes, but might involve questions about liability and quantum. The court should try to avoid the risk of separate proceedings in separate Member States and irreconcilable judgments, and so accepted jurisdiction.
Paul Howcroft, Partner, Fladgate LLP (email@example.com)