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Colonial Cases

The Voroneji, 1913

[shipping, jurisdiction]

The Voroneji

High Court of Justice
10 November 1913
Source: The Times, 11 November 1913

 

LAW REPORT, NOV. 10.

HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE.

PROBATE, DIVORCE, AND ADMIRALTY DIVISION.

MOTION TO SET ASIDE A WRIT. - THE VORONEJI.

(Before the RIGHT HON. SIR SAMUEL EVANS.)

This was a motion by the owners of the Russian steamship Voroneji to set aside the writ or stay proceedings in an action of damage instituted against them by the owners of the Austrian steamship Szterenji.

Mr. BATTEN, K.C., with him Mr. J. B. Aspinall, who appeared in support of the motion, said that a collision took place between the two vessels at Constantinople, and the plaintiffs, with the assent of the Austro-Hungarian Consul, instituted a claim in the Russian Consular Court at Constantinople and began legal proceedings there against the Russian vessel.  The the Voroneji, which belonged to the Russian volunteer fleet, left for the Far East, but on touching at Singapore the defendants were informed by the plaintiffs' solicitors that unless the defendants would accept service of a writ in London in proceedings in the Admiralty Court the Voroneji would be arrested by proceedings in the Court at Singapore.

The defendant therefore appeared under protest to the writ in London and agreed, without prejudice, to put in bail, and the present motion was taken out.  Mr. Batten submitted that the institution of the second action was vexatious and oppressive and that the writ should be set aside or the proceedings stayed.  The defendants' vessel never came to this country and the witnesses would have to be brought from the Far East at great expense.  The defendants were perfectly willing to transfer the security to be given in the Admiralty Court to answer the claim in the Consular Court at Constantinople.  He read various affidavits as to the nature of the proceedings which had been taken.

Mr. LAING, K.C., and Mr. D. STEPHENS, for the plaintiffs, denied that the steps taken in Constantinople amounted to the institution if proceedings.  The affidavit showed that there was nothing but a decree of submission to the Court which was necessary before proceedings were taken, and no steps in the action were taken.  There was merely a survey.  In any event lis alibi pendens was not a ground for setting a writ aside - the plaintiffs could be out to their election, and as they submitted that the Russian Consular Court was an unsatisfactory tribunal, they would, of course, elect to come to the Admiralty Court.

JUDGMENT.

The Learned PRESIDENT said that he was loth to interfere with proceedings which might be taken in any other competent Court in cases where it might be convenient for the parties to leave the particular locality and come to trial in this country.  He had to decide whether proceedings in this Court should be set aside on the ground that there was a lis alibi pendens in the Russian Consular Court at Constantinople.  The plaintiffs wanted to sue here and had got a conditional undertaking for bail for £3,000.  The plaintiffs said that they had not started proceedings in Constantinople; they ought to know and it was for the other side to satisfy his Lordship that there was a lis alibi pendens. No doubt certain steps - perhaps the necessary preliminary steps before proceedings could be taken - had been taken, but on the affidavits and documents he was not satisfied that the plaintiffs had begun proceedings in Constantinople.  There was therefore no lis alibi pendens, and he accordingly made no order.  Costs in the case.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School