Today the Supreme Court has handed down its Judgment in this long running case, and in plain terms, Lady Brownlie has won the Appeal.
The full Judgment is 134 pages long, and can be read, along with the Court’s Press Release.
In 2010, Lady Brownlie and her husband, the distinguished international lawyer Sir Ian Brownlie QC, went to Egypt. Whilst staying at the Four Seasons Hotel in Cairo they went on a “Desert Safari Tour” which was organised by the hotel. They were accompanied by Sir Ian’s daughter Rebecca who lived in Egypt, and her two young children. The tour took the party over rough terrain, and their vehicle overturned. Tragically, both Sir Ian and Rebecca were killed, and Lady Brownlie sustained serious injuries.
Lady Brownlie returned to the UK, and shortly afterwards she instructed Kingsley Napley to commence legal proceedings. We expected it to be a relatively straightforward case. First, the Brownlies were passengers in the vehicle, so it could not possibly have been their fault. Second, the proposed Defendant, the Four Seasons Hotel chain, is a substantial international business with significant presence in the UK.
We sent a Letter of Claim to the Head Offices of the Defendant, which are in Canada. We expected there to be some discussion about jurisdiction, and the correct corporate entity within the Four Seasons Group to be named as Defendant, but we hoped that we might soon move to settlement negotiations with the Defendant’s insurance company. This was because there could be no defence on liability, and Sir Ian and Lady Brownlie were based in the UK. Thus the losses to his estate, and Lady Brownlie’s dependency all arose in this jurisdiction.
Unfortunately the Four Seasons Group chose a different path. They refused to co-operate with us in identifying the correct corporate entity, and they also challenged jurisdiction. Cutting a long story short, this resulted in the case going through the High Court twice, the Court of Appeal twice, and the Supreme Court twice – most latterly in January of this year.
It is in that Appeal that the Court today gives it’s Judgment, and Lady Brownlie has won with a resounding 4 – 1 majority.
This 10 year legal battle has not been about the substantive case. It has been concerned with a much narrower point of whether the case passes through the “jurisdictional gateways” that will allow the English Court to hear it.
On the Claimant’s side, our answer has been that the rules are clear and thus the English Court does have jurisdiction to hear the case. The Defence team disagreed, and therefore we have spent nearly 10 years locked in a protracted and increasingly complex legal debate.
The Supreme Court has taken the opportunity to review some of the previous decisions by the English Courts, and to affirm their authority. Therefore, not only is it a vindication for Lady Brownlie, it is also very helpful to other claimants who may find themselves in a similarly tragic situation.
The case will now go back to the High Court, and it is to be hoped that it will soon be resolved, as we would expect for a case that is at heart so difficult to defend.