Syndicate 980 v. Sinco S.A.  EWHC 1842 (Comm), concerned a jurisdiction dispute for claims made in England and in Greece. The Syndicates and Sinco were party to contracts which contained an exclusive jurisdiction clause in favour of the English courts. The Syndicates had commenced proceedings in England which concerned breaches of contract. Sinco had later commenced proceedings in Greece concerning claims in tort and breaches of Greek statute. The Syndicates subsequently amended their original claim form in the English proceedings by adding a claim for damages in respect of Sinco's alleged breach of the exclusive jurisdiction clause (i.e. by commencing proceedings in Greece). Sinco applied to the English Commercial Court for an order that the Syndicates' "jurisdiction clause claim" be stayed pending the Greek court's decision as to whether it had jurisdiction to hear Sinco's claim in Greece.
In issue were articles 27 and 30 of the EC Regulation on jurisdiction which essentially set out rules for related legal actions brought in different Member States. There were two principal matters for the Commercial Court to consider: (1) whether the English court was seised of the jurisdiction clause claim; (2) whether the jurisdiction clause claim should be stayed because the "cause" and "object" (under article 27) of the jurisdiction clause claim brought by the Syndicates was the same as that of the claims made by Sinco in Greece.
The Commercial Court held that:
(1) Whether or not the English court was first seised of the jurisdiction clause claim could not determine whether Sinco's application for a stay of the jurisdiction clause claim should be granted. The key issue was whether the jurisdiction clause claim should be stayed because the "cause" and "object" of the jurisdiction clause claim brought by the Syndicates was the same as that of the claims made by Sinco in Greece.
(2) Notwithstanding that jurisdiction was an issue in both the English and Greek proceedings, this was not enough to regard their cause and object as being the same. The proper approach was to consider each of the proceedings as a whole. This meant considering the jurisdiction clause claim in light of the entire English proceedings. On this basis the Greek proceedings, as a whole, differed from the English proceedings as a whole. The Greek proceedings were based on claims in tort and breaches of Greek statute. The English proceedings were based on breaches of contract. Accordingly, the jurisdiction clause claim, forming part of the English proceedings, could not be said to have the same cause and object as the Greek proceedings and therefore the jurisdiction clause claim should not be stayed. Sinco's application was therefore dismissed.
This case raises some interesting and significant issues in relation to jurisdiction for parties in Member States subject to the EC Regulation. In particular, it shows the jurisdictional difficulties involved where there are related yet substantially different claims and where additional claims are subsequently added to proceedings.