In Curtis and another v Lockheed Martin UK Holdings Ltd – Butterworths Law Direct 20.2.08 the Claimants sold shares in a company to the Defendant. The Claimant brought an action in England for the sum of £2m, being the final tranche of the sale price. In July 2006, prior to the commencement of the London action, proceedings had been started in the Turin Civil Court against the company and others by an individual. Other defendants also filed third party claims against the company. The arguments in the Turin action mirrored the Claimants' in the London action in relevant respects and the Defendant applied for a stay of those issues in the London proceedings. It contended that there was an issue common to both the London and Turin actions.
The Defendant relied on the potential injustice of inconsistent decisions in relation to the issue; it contended that the other issues could be heard (save perhaps for one) in the interim. The Claimants stated that they were not a party to the Turin action and that they would not accept any adverse decision by the Turin court. They further relied on the indication that the trial would be concluded within a year in London but not for two or three years in Turin, contending that the consequent delay would amount to prejudice.
The Commercial Court held that in circumstances where there was a risk of inconsistent decisions whether a stay was granted or not, albeit a reduced risk if a stay was granted, the prejudice of significant delay in the resolution of the Claimants’ claim was more than the interests of justice justified. Albeit that any late payment would be entitled to interest it was held that this would not compensate the Claimants sufficiently.