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The Komninos Notes

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THE KOMNINOS FACTS This appeal concerns a cargo of steel coils which belonged to the plaintiffs in the action ("the cargo-owners"). It was shipped aboard the defendant shipowners' vessel Komninos S at Thessaloniki in March, 1987 and carried to Ravenna under contracts of carriage contained in or evidenced by two bills of lading. The vessel reached Ravenna on Mar. 18 and discharge was completed on the 23rd. After discharge the cargo was found to have been seriously damaged by water. The parties were unable to settle their differences and on June 16, 1988, just before expiry of the three-month extension, the cargoowners' solicitors issued a writ in the High Court, claiming damages in breach of contract and duty, bailment and negligence. Application was in due course made and granted to serve the writ on the shipowners in Cyprus, where the shipowners are incorporated, on the grounds that the cargo-owners were claiming damages for breach of a contract which contained a term to the effect that the High Court should have jurisdiction to hear and determine any action in respect of the contract. Ship-owner's Claim: they pleaded that the proper law of the contracts of carriage was Greek and that under Greek law the exemption clauses on which the shipowners relied were void. Alternatively, the cargo-owners pleaded that the proper law of the contracts of carriage was English, and so included the Hague-Visby Rules, art. III, r. 8 of which rendered void the exemption clauses on which the shipowners relied. The main legal issues before the Judge and before us concerned determination of the proper law of the contracts of carriage and the consequences of that determination. Clause 24 of the Bill of Lading: In case any controversies arise with respect to the construction of the foregoing terms the English text alone to be conclusive. All dispute[s] to be referred to British Courts. HOLDING Reference to "British courts" - English courts?
Whatever the constitutional niceties, it seems to me altogether farfetched, in truth a lawyer's point, to suppose that the parties can have meant or intended to embrace the Courts of British dependencies overseas. I intend no disrespect at all to the highly distinguished Judges who sit in Scotland and Northern Ireland

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