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Societe Eram Shipping Co V. Internationale Navigation Notes

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SOCIETE ERAM SHIPPING CO. V. INTERNATIONALE NAVIGATION FACTS The appellant is the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corpn Ltd, a company incorporated in Hong Kong and carrying on a banking business there and elsewhere. It has a branch in London and is registered in England under section 691 of the Companies Act

1985. The appellant would formerly have been called "the garnishee" but is now to be called "the third party", by which term I shall describe it. Societe Eram Shipping Co Ltd is a Romanian shipping company. I shall refer to it as "the judgment creditor". Societe Oceanlink Ltd and Mr Yoon Sei Wha are a company and an individual resident in Hong Kong. I shall refer to them as "the judgment debtors". The judgment creditor claimed demurrage against the judgment debtors and obtained judgment against them in the Brest Commercial Court for some US$101,000 and 5,000 French francs. The judgment debtors did not satisfy the judgment and the judgment creditor registered it in the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court under the provisions of the Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act 1982. The judgment creditor could have obtained a third party debt (or garnishee) order in Hong Kong against the third party in respect of the debt due from the third party to the judgment debtors. The judgment creditor did not adopt those procedures. Instead, it applied to the High Court in England for an interim third party debt order (then called a garnishee order nisi) in respect of the debt owed by the third party to the judgment debtors in Hong Kong. HOLDING LORD BINGHAM The House was referred to no reported case in which the English court has made a final third party debt order or garnishee order absolute in relation to a foreign debt, although (with one exception) the refusal has been put on discretionary grounds; and discretion has been exercised against the making of an order even where the debt to be attached is situated in this country where it has appeared that the third party, despite the discharge of its debt to the judgment debtor as a matter of English law, may be at risk elsewhere of compulsion to pay a second time. Nature of a garnishee order To resolve the issues arising between the judgment creditor and the third party in this appeal it is in my opinion necessary to return to very basic first principles. A garnishee or third party debt order

is a proprietary remedy which operates by way of attachment against the property of the judgment debtor. The property of the judgment debtor so attached is the chose in action represented by the debt of the third party or garnishee to the judgment debtor. When a final or absolute order is made the third party or garnishee is obliged (subject to any specified monetary limit) to make payment to the judgment creditor and not to the judgment debtor, but the debt of the third party to the judgment debtor is discharged pro tanto. Danger of garnishee being forced to pay twice It is not in my opinion open to the court to make an order in a case, such as the present, where it is clear or appears that the making of the order will not discharge the debt of the third party or garnishee to the judgment debtor according to the law which governs that debt. In practical terms it does not matter very much whether the House rules that the court has no jurisdiction to make an order in such a case or that the court has a discretion which should always be exercised against the making of an order in such a case. But the former seems to me the preferable analysis, since I would not accept that the court has power to make an order which, if made, would lack what has been legislatively stipulated to be a necessary consequence of such an order. I find myself in close agreement with the opinion of Hill J in Richardson v Richardson [1927] P 228, subject only to the qualification (of little or no practical importance) that an order may be made relating to a chose in action sited abroad if it appears that by the law applicable in that situs the English order would be recognised as discharging pro tanto the liability of the third party to the judgment debtor. If (contrary to my opinion) the English court had jurisdiction to make an order in a case such as the present, the objections to its exercising a discretion to do so would be very strong on grounds of principle, comity and convenience: it is contrary in principle to compel a bank to pay out money owed by a customer if its liability to its customer is not reduced to the same extent; it is inconsistent with the comity owed to the Hong Kong court to purport to interfere with assets subject to its local jurisdiction; and the judgment creditor has a straightforward and readily available means of enforcing its judgment against the assets of the judgment debtors in Hong Kong. Conclusion I would allow the third party's appeal with costs in the Court of Appeal and before the House, set aside the order of the Court of Appeal and restore the order of the judge in so far as it set aside the garnishee order nisi, ordered that there be no absolute order and awarded costs to the third party, summarily assessed, against the judgment creditor.

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