On February 11 2002 the Supreme Court (Case 2712/1996) ruled on a challenge to the jurisdiction of the Spanish courts, and considered when a contractual clause agreeing to submit disputes to the courts of another country will be enforceable in the Spanish courts.
In 1968 two German citizens entered into a contract for the lease of a hotel and other real estate located in Spain. One party was domiciled in Germany, and the other in Spain. The contract stated that Spanish law governed the relationship and that any disputes which arose from the contractual relationship were to be decided in the Munich courts.
In the early 1990s a dispute regarding certain payments of rent arose. The German-based party sought payment of the debt in a Spanish court.
The other party filed a defence which (among other arguments) challenged the jurisdiction of the Spanish courts, on the basis of the contractual clause agreeing that the Munich courts would have jurisdiction over the matter.
The Supreme Court found that:
- the conventions between Germany and Spain in place when the claim was filed did not contain any rule on jurisdiction, but only stated that German citizens will enjoy access to Spanish justice equally to Spanish citizens;
- Spanish jurisdictional law orders that disputes about leases of real estate located in Spain must be dealt with by the Spanish courts, to the exclusion of any other forum chosen by the parties; and
- the defendant could have challenged the jurisdiction of the Spanish courts by means of a separate motion on jurisdiction.
The jurisdictional provision in the contract was thus found to be unenforceable. Additionally, the defendant did not follow the appropriate means to challenge the jurisdiction.
For further information on this topic please contact Jorge Hernández by telephone (+34 9152 47100) or by fax (+34 9152 47153) or by email ([email protected]).