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Adams V. Cape Industries Plc Notes

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ADAMS V. CAPE INDUSTRIES

PLC

FACTS Until 1979 the first defendant, Cape, an English company, presided over a group of subsidiary companies engaged in the mining in South Africa, and marketing, of asbestos. The marketing subsidiary in the United States of America was a wholly owned subsidiary, N.A.A.C., incorporated in Illinois in 1953. The marketing subsidiary worldwide was the second defendant, Capasco, a wholly owned English company. Asbestos from the South African mines was sold for use in an asbestos factory at Owentown, Texas. In 1974, some 462 plaintiffs, mainly employees or ex-employees at the Owentown factory, brought actions in the United States Federal District Court at Tyler, Texas, for damages for personal injuries allegedly suffered as a result of exposure to asbestos dust ("the Tyler 1 actions"). The defendants included Cape, Capasco, N.A.A.C., the South African mining subsidiary and other parties including the United States Government. Those actions were settled in September 1977 for U.S.$20m. of which Cape and its subsidiaries were to bear over
$5m. Cape and Capasco had entered motions protesting the jurisdiction of the Tyler court and had filed defences as to the merits which, inter alia, repeated the jurisdiction protests. The settlement of the Tyler 1 actions was recorded by a consent order made on 5 May 1978. Between April 1978 and November 1979, a further 206 plaintiffs instituted actions in the Tyler court against the same defendants ("the Tyler 2 actions"). Cape and Capasco took no part in the Tyler 2 actions maintaining that that court lacked jurisdiction over them. They were prepared to let default judgments be entered against them but to resist their enforcement in England. Cape decided to put N.A.A.C. into liquidation and, as from 31 January 1978, N.A.A.C. ceased to carry on business. Cape promoted the incorporation of a new Illinois corporation, C.P.C., and a Liechtenstein entity, A.M.C. The shares in C.P.C. were held by M., the chief executive of N.A.A.C., and those in A.M.C. were held by a nominee on trust for a Cape subsidiary, C.I.O.L. Arrangements were made for C.P.C. to carry out much the same marketing function for the sale of Cape asbestos in the United States as had previously been carried out by A.M.C. Those arrangements continued until 1979 when Cape sold its asbestos mining and marketing subsidiaries. In 1983, 133 plaintiffs in the Tyler 2 actions settled their actions against the main United States defendants, including N.A.A.C. but excluding the United States Government. Later all the 206 plaintiffs in the Tyler 2 actions agreed to settle their actions against the United States Government on terms that they would obtain default judgments against Cape and Capasco and that the United States Government would finance the steps to be taken to enforce those judgments against Cape and Capasco in England.

ISSUES The plaintiffs cannot enforce the default judgment by action in this country unless, by the standards of English law, the Tyler court was entitled to take jurisdiction over Cape and Capasco. The plaintiffs rely on three alternative grounds. First, the plaintiffs contend that Cape and Capasco voluntarily appeared in the proceedings in the Tyler court. This contention requires some explanation since it is common ground that Cape and Capasco took no part at all in the Tyler 2 actions. The plaintiffs rely, however, on the steps taken by Cape and Capasco in the Tyler 1 actions and on the relationship between the Tyler 1 actions and the Tyler 2 actions. The first step in the argument is that Cape and 455 Capasco voluntarily appeared in the Tyler 1 actions. Cape and Capasco deny this. They contend that each step they took in the actions was taken subject to the protest to the jurisdiction they had made at the outset and that, notwithstanding the interlocutory dismissal of their motions, jurisdiction remained a live issue for the trial. In the circumstances they contend that nothing was done in the Tyler 1 actions that could constitute a voluntary appearance or submission to the jurisdiction. The plaintiffs' second step in the argument is their assertion that the Tyler 1 actions and Tyler 2 actions represent "one litigation unit" so that a voluntary appearance or submission to the jurisdiction in any of the actions was sufficient to give the Tyler court jurisdiction over Cape and Capasco in all the actions. Second, the plaintiffs contend that even if they are wrong on their first point, nonetheless Cape and Capasco must be taken to have agreed to submit to the jurisdiction of the Tyler court in the Tyler 2 actions. The plaintiffs rely on the inferences which it is contended must be drawn from the various steps taken by Cape and Capasco in the Tyler 1 actions. Third, the plaintiffs contend that the Tyler court was entitled to take jurisdiction over Cape and Capasco by reason of their presence in Illinois either in January 1974, when the Tyler 1 actions commenced or in April 1978 to November 1979, the period over which the Tyler 2 actions were commenced. This contention raises issues both of law and fact. For the fact of presence, the plaintiffs rely on N.A.A.C.'s Illinois presence up to its dissolution in 1978 and on C.P.C.'s Illinois presence from 31 January 1978 up to the sale to Transvaal Consolidated in June

1979. It is contended that the relationship between each of these companies and Cape and Capasco justifies treating their presence in Illinois as, for jurisdiction purposes, the presence of Cape and Capasco. This contention is in issue. It is also in issue whether, under English law, presence in Illinois is sufficient to give

jurisdiction to a federal district court sitting in Texas on a tort claim governed by the law of Texas. SUMMARY

OF ISSUES

(1) Did Cape and Capasco voluntarily appear or submit to the jurisdiction in the Tyler 1 actions?
(2) If so, did they thereby submit to the jurisdiction in the Tyler 2 actions?
(3) Alternatively, did they thereby agree to submit to the jurisdiction in the Tyler 2 actions?
(4) Did the presence of N.A.A.C. in Illinois represent the presence of Cape and Capasco in Illinois for jurisdiction purposes?
(5) Did the presence of C.P.C. in Illinois represent the presence of Cape and Capasco in Illinois for jurisdiction purposes?
(6) Did the presence in Illinois of Cape and Capasco entitle the Tyler court to take jurisdiction over Cape and Capasco in the Tyler 2 actions?
(7) Is the default judgment impeachable on any of the fraud, natural justice and public policy grounds pleaded by Cape and Capasco?

HOLDING Law applicable in determining "submission" and "presence" is English law I will take these issues in turn, but it is worth first emphasising that each falls to be decided in accordance with English law. Questions as to whether certain acts represent a submission to the jurisdiction of the Tyler court must be decided by reference to English law. It may be that English law will answer certain questions by applying the law of Texas or United States federal law, as the case may be, but that will be because English law requires that approach. My task is to try and identify the rule of English law that applies to each question and then to apply that rule. Grounds of "international" jurisdiction Consent:

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