In General Motors Corporation v (1) Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Plc (2) Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance Group Plc – Lawtel 2.10.07 the applicant insurers applied for an anti-suit injunction to restrain the respondent Delaware corporation from pursuing proceedings in Delaware. A large number of claims for alleged asbestos related injury and environmental liability had been made against the respondent in the United States. The respondent commenced proceedings in Michigan, where its principal place of business was, against the insurer and the applicant. The Michigan proceedings were then split with the coverage issues to be decided first. The respondent also commenced English proceedings against the applicant which were stayed pursuant to a consent order pending the outcome of the coverage claims in Michigan. The applicant submitted that the consent order properly construed reflected the parties' intention to confer exclusive jurisdiction on the English courts to determine the claims against it.
The Commercial Court held that, in construing the consent order, the background was very important. In the circumstances the consent order reflected a package whereby the parties intended to settle on proceedings in England as regards the claims against the applicant in due course but to await the outcome of the Michigan proceedings and to be bound thereby. There was no apparent purpose in agreeing to be bound by the outcome of the Michigan proceedings in respect of coverage, together with withdrawal of the claims against the applicant, save on the basis that the English courts should have exclusive jurisdiction. In the circumstances the consent order had the effect of constituting an exclusive jurisdiction agreement.