The billions of dollars of trade activity and investment between the UK and US is predicted to increase and with this will come an increase in cross-border disputes. Determining where a party tries to enforce a court judgment requires careful consideration.

Despite the close historic and commercial links with the UK and the US, there is no reciprocal agreement or treaty in place for enforcing judgments in either country.

US judgments can therefore only be enforced in the UK under the common law process. The judgment under this process is viewed as a simple contract debt between the two parties. A new claim for the debt is issued in the US court and will be enforced if it meets the following requirements:

  • The US court must have had international jurisdiction according to English conflict of laws rules in relation to the original US court order
  • The sum must be ascertainable and definite
  • The judgment must be final and conclusive as confirmed by the US judge. If there is an appeal it is likely that the UK court will postpone the enforcement process pending the appeal
  • A US judgment obtained by fraud will not be recognized by the UK court. This is an exception to the general rule that the UK court will not reconsider the issues relating to the alleged fraud.
  • A UK court will not enforce a judgment that is contrary to UK public policy
  • The proceedings must have been conducted fairly and lawfully, not breaking the principles of ‘natural justice’, such as not giving the defendant enough time to defend their position.