Enforcing US Court Judgments in Ireland-The Common Law Principles

As there is no agreement in place between the United States and Ireland for the automatic recognition and enforcement of Judgments obtained from a court in the US in Ireland, it will be necessary to rely on common law rules.

us-court-judgments
Enforcing US judgments in Ireland can be problematic

This can pose major difficulties for holders of judgments against debtors from outside Ireland.

In fact, there is no bilateral treaty or multilateral international convention in force between the United States of America and any other country on a reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments.

The Irish common law rules/principles are quite restrictive and enforcing non-EU judgments in Ireland can be problematic as a consequence.

Common law principles

The common law principles that the Irish Courts will rely on are

  1. The US judgment must be for a liquidated sum, that is a definite monetary value
  2. The US judgment must be final and conclusive
  3. The US judgment must be granted in a Court of competent jurisdiction.

Number 1 above is obvious-you either have a judgment for a definite sum or not.

Likewise with number 2-the legal proceedings must have come to an end with no opportunity to appeal the judgment and the judgment must have been achieved following the correct procedures in the state in the US which granted the Judgment.

 Court of competent jurisdiction

Number 3 above can be the most problematic as a result of a case called Rainford v Newell Roberts [1962] IR 95 where a Judgment was obtained by Rainford in the UK and sought to enforce the judgment in Ireland. (This situation would not arise now as a result of both countries mutual recognition of judgments due to various EU law and international conventions but is illustrative of the common law principles involved in seeking to have the US judgment enforced here)

This problem centres primarily on the question of proper service of the proceedings on the Defendant, as accepted by Irish rules of private international law.

In Rainford v Newell-Roberts the defendant had not been in the UK when served with the legal proceedings and had therefore not submitted to the jurisdiction of the English Courts and as a consequence the Irish Courts did not allow enforcement of the Judgment.

Where the dispute or Judgment arises as a result of breach of contract and the contract provides that a foreign jurisdiction will have exclusive jurisdiction in the event of a dispute the Irish Courts would be very likely to stay any proceedings instituted in Ireland and recognise the exclusive jurisdiction clause in the contract.

Grounds on which Judgment will be refused

In addition to the above considerations and criteria the Irish Courts will refuse to grant Judgment in Ireland where

  1. The Judgment would violate Irish public policy
  2. The foreign judgment was obtained by fraud
  3. The foreign judgment is in breach of natural justice
  4. The foreign judgment cannot be reconciled with an earlier foreign judgment.

Flightlease (Irl) Ltd (In Vol Liq) & Cos Act [2012] IESC 12

This 2012 decision of the Supreme Court in Ireland is instructive and helpful.

In Flightlease (Irl) Ltd (In Vol Liq) & Cos Act [2012] IESC 12 the Supreme Court was invited to accept the appropriate basis upon which the common law in this jurisdiction should recognise an in personam order of a foreign court. Flightlease argued that the traditional test as set out in Dicey (and in particular Rule 36) represents the current law in this jurisdiction. Swissair contended that the courts in this jurisdiction should follow the lead of Canadian courts and adopt a ‘real and substantive connection’ test.

(Read the full decision in this case here)

According to Rule 36 of Dicey if a judgment debtor was, at the time the proceedings were instituted present in a foreign country or if the judgment debtor submitted to the jurisdiction of the courts of the foreign country the Irish courts would recognise and enforce a judgment of a court of that country. (Dicey, Morris & Collins on Conflicts of Laws 14th edition (“Dicey”))

“Rule 36. Subject to rules 37 to 39, a court of a foreign country outside the United Kingdom has jurisdiction to give a judgment in personam capable of enforcement or recognition in the following cases:

First case. If the judgment debtor was, at the time the proceedings were instituted, present in the foreign country.

Second case. If the judgment debtor was claimant, or counterclaimed in the proceedings in the foreign court.

Third case. If the judgment debtor, being a defendant in the foreign court, submitted to the jurisdiction of that court by voluntarily appearing in the proceedings.

Fourth case. If the judgment debtor being a defendant in the original court, had before the commencement of the proceedings agreed, in respect of the subject matter of the proceedings to submit to the jurisdiction of that court or of the courts of that country.”

The Supreme Court decided that to follow the lead of the Supreme Court in Canada would lead to the Supreme Court in Ireland exceeding it’s judicial function and that the correct position is as set out by Rule 36 in Dicey outlined above.
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