In May 2006 the Vessel “Alexandros T” became a total loss. Following the loss, the owners of the vessel, Starlight Shipping Company, sued its insurers in the Commercial Court for an indemnity in respect of the loss. The case settled shortly before trial, with the insurers paying the full amount of the claim, and the proceedings were stayed pursuant to Tomlin orders. In April 2011, Starlight, along with their managers (OME), their co-assured under a fleet policy, and various connected individuals, commenced proceedings in Greece against the insurers (amongst others), in which they claimed substantial damages from the insurers arising out of the manner in which the insurers had defended the claims under the policies. In particular, it was said the insurers had spread malicious falsehoods in the market relating to the circumstances in which the vessel had been lost, which had caused Starlight and the other Greek claimants to suffer substantial losses.
The insurers responded to the Greek proceedings by issuing applications in the original Commercial Court proceedings (which remained stayed pursuant to the Tomlin orders) claiming various relief against Starlight and OME, including damages for breach of settlement agreement and damages for breach of jurisdiction clause. In addition, the insurers issued new proceedings against Starlight, OME and the co-assured claiming similar relief. Starlight, OME and the co-assured in turn applied for the English proceedings to be stayed in favour of the Greek proceedings under either Article 27 or Article 28 of the Brussels Regulation (44/2001), on the ground that the English proceedings involved the same cause of action and the same parties as the Greek proceedings, or were at least related to the Greek proceedings, and the Greek court was first seised.
The Court of Appeal, reversing the decision of Burton J (before whom no application had been made under Article 27 of the Regulation, and who had dismissed the application under Article 28 and granted summary judgment in favour of the insurers) held that the English proceedings involved the same cause of action and the same parties as the Greek proceedings, and that the Greek court had been seised first in relation to them. It followed that the English proceedings were stayed in favour of the Greek proceedings under Article 27 of the Regulation.