The High Court ruled, in Clinton David Jacobs v Motor Insurers' Bureau [2010] EWHC 231 (QB), that under European Union Regulation 864/2007 (Rome II), Spanish law applied in the case of a UK resident seeking compensation for serious injuries sustained in Spain, at the hands of an uninsured driver, then resident in Spain.

The claimant issued proceedings against the defendant, the Motor Insurers' Bureau, in its capacity as a compensatory body under the Motor Vehicles (Compulsory Insurance) (Information Centre and Compensation body) Regulations 2003 (the 2003 Regulations). The defendant is the body responsible for ensuring that UK residents injured by uninsured drivers in other EU member states, are not left without compensation. It compensates those injured abroad, and is in turn reimbursed by its equivalent body in the country of the accident.

By way of a preliminary issue, the parties sought a determination of the basis upon which the defendant was obliged to compensate the claimant, and in particular whether Spanish law, English law or a mixture of the two, should apply to the assessment of that compensation.

The defendant contended that Rome II applied to determine the applicable law and that under Art 4, the applicable law was that of Spain. The claimant argued that, under the 2003 Regulations, the law of England and Wales was applicable, or alternatively that if Rome II did apply then on the proper interpretation of Art 4 the applicable law was that of England and Wales.

Mr Justice Owen held that Rome II did apply to determine the applicable law. He stated that the purpose of this regulation was to establish a uniform approach to situations involving a conflict of laws in the context of non-contractual obligations in civil and commercial matters so that the same law applied irrespective of the jurisdiction in which an action was brought or of the state of residence of the injured party. It was clear that this case involved such a matter.

With respect to the applicable law, Owen J found that to be Spain. Article 4(1) of Rome II states that the applicable law would be that of "the country in which the damage occurs". Owen J found that 'damage' meant the injury and consequential loss and damage suffered at the hands of the uninsured driver and as such must mean Spain. In addition, this case did not fall within the exceptions contained in Arts 4(2) and (3).

This is believed to be the first decision in which the English court has applied Rome II since it came into effect in all EU member states (except Denmark) in January 2009.