Almost 20 years after the oil tanker Prestigious sank off the Galician coast, the compensation demanded by Spain was recovered through courts and arbitration tribunals. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) this Monday gave Spanish theses a boost so that it can finally collect the 1,000 million dollars (around 900 million euros) that the Galician courts have imposed on the ship insurer London P&I Club. as compensation. The money, on the other hand, does not arrive because the British company has brought a legal dispute before English arbitration courts, which also have a legal process behind them. This judgment is an important step for Spain to finally achieve this compensation. However, the answer of the European Court must now be interpreted and enforced by the British courts, which, despite Brexit, must continue to observe the overarching hierarchy of the ECJ in this case.
After the sinking of Prestigious In November 2002, Spain sued the court for damages, which ended in a judgment that ordered the London P&I Club to pay up to $1,000 million for the damage caused after the contract was signed between the shipping company and the insurer. Following this judgment, the London P&I Club brought arbitration proceedings in London, which ended with a finding that Spain should have pursued its claims in this body and not in the local courts.
Spain appealed the arbitration award to the UK courts and the UK judiciary raised a question in the Court of Justice of the European Union, which concluded with this judgment: “A judgment given by a court of a Member State by way of an arbitration award may the not prevent recognition in that Member State of a judgment given by a court of another Member State”. In other words, the decision of the Spanish judges takes precedence.
The Luxembourg judges make it clear that with this judgment they ensure that it is not possible “by arbitration followed by court proceedings” to circumvent the previous decisions and obligations of the courts.
This Monday’s ruling adds that “the regulation [europeo] excludes arbitration from its scope”. And he goes even further, pointing out that “a judgment rendered as an arbitral award is therefore embedded in the exclusion of arbitration and cannot enjoy mutual recognition between Member States”.
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