Carlos Sevilleja Garcia v Marex Financial Ltd

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtSupreme Court
JudgeLord Sales,Lord Reed,Lady Hale,Lady Black,Lord Hodge,Lord Kitchin,Lord Lloyd-Jones
Judgment Date15 July 2020
Neutral Citation[2020] UKSC 31
Date15 July 2020

[2020] UKSC 31

Supreme Court

Trinity Term

On appeal from: [2018] EWCA Civ 1468

before

Lady Hale

Lord Reed

Lord Hodge

Lady Black

Lord Lloyd-Jones

Lord Kitchin

Lord Sales

Between:
Sevilleja
(Respondent)
and
Marex Financial Ltd
(Appellant)

Appellant

George Bompas QC

Sophie Weber

(Instructed by Memery Crystal LLP)

Respondent

David Lewis QC

Richard Greenberg

(Instructed by Mackrell Turner Garrett)

Intervener (All Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking)

Peter Knox QC

Simon Reevell

Richard Samuel

Amit Karia

Chloe Shuffrey

(Instructed by Trowers & Hamlins LLP (London))

Heard on 8 May 2019

Lord Reed

( with whom Lady Black and Lord Lloyd-Jones agree)

1

This appeal concerns the supposed principle that “reflective loss” cannot be recovered. Before describing the factual background, or entering into the details of the legal issues, it may be helpful to begin by considering some basic principles of our law.

Introduction
2

It is not uncommon for two persons, A and B, to suffer loss as a result of the conduct of a third person, C. If that conduct was in breach of an obligation owed by C to A, then A will in principle have a cause of action against C. If the conduct was also in breach of an obligation owed by C to B, then B will also have a cause of action against C. A and B are both at liberty to sue C whenever they please, subject to rules as to limitation and prescription, and C is normally liable to compensate them both for the loss which they have suffered. If A obtains and enforces a pecuniary award against C, and some time later B also seeks a similar award but C is unable to pay it, then in principle that is B's misfortune. However, where C is insolvent at the time when the first claim is made against him, the law of insolvency protects the position of both A and B by imposing a regime for the distribution of C's assets among his creditors which ensures that they are treated equally, after the claims of secured or preferred creditors have been met.

3

The position can become more complicated where A and B have concurrent claims in respect of losses which are inter-related in such a way that a payment by C to one of them will have the practical effect of remedying the loss suffered by the other. The general position in situations of that kind was described by Brandon J in The Halcyon Skies [1977] QB 14, 32:

“There is no reason, as a matter of law, why two different persons should not have concurrent rights of recovery, based on different causes of action, in respect of what is in substance the same debt. The court will not allow double recovery or, in a case of insolvency, double proof against the insolvent estate: The Liverpool (No 2) [1963] P 64. Subject to this, however, either of the two persons is entitled to enforce his right independently of the other.”

4

The principle that double recovery should be avoided does not prevent a claimant from bringing proceedings for the recovery of his loss. But the court will have to consider how to avoid double recovery in situations where the issue is properly before it. Procedurally, that may occur in a number of ways. For example, both claimants may bring proceedings concurrently, or the wrongdoer may raise the issue by way of defence to proceedings brought by one claimant, and join the other potential claimant as a defendant, or the court may itself direct the claimant to notify the other potential claimant so that he has an opportunity to intervene (as explained in In re Gerald Cooper Chemicals Ltd [1978] Ch 262, 268–269).

5

The principle that double recovery should be avoided does not deflect the law from compensating both claimants, but affects the remedial route by which the law achieves that objective. There are a number of ways in which the law can avoid double recovery, or double proof in insolvency, where concurrent rights of recovery might otherwise have that result. In some circumstances, priority is given to the cause of action held by one person, and the claim of the other person is excluded so far as may be necessary to avoid double recovery. The rationale in such cases is that, by directly achieving its remedial objective in respect of the person who is permitted to bring the prior claim, the law indirectly achieves that objective in respect of the person whose claim is excluded.

6

That was the approach adopted, for example, in the decision cited by Brandon J, The Liverpool (No 2) [1963] P 64. In that case, a port authority sought to prove against an insolvent fund, established to meet the liabilities of the owners of one vessel, the Liverpool, for the cost of clearing the wreck of another, the Ousel, which had been damaged in a collision for which the Liverpool was responsible. The authority also made a statutory claim for the same cost against the owners of the Ousel, and they in turn sought to prove for that amount against the fund. The Court of Appeal held that the claim of the authority against the fund should be given priority over that of the owners of the Ousel, since the authority was actually out of pocket, while the claim of the owners of the Ousel against the fund should be disallowed. It also observed that it would be consonant with justice and good sense that, in the event that the authority sought to recover also from the owners of the Ousel (for any balance remaining after it had received a dividend out of the fund), it would have to give credit for the amount that it had already recovered. In that way, the owners of the Ousel benefited from the authority's recovery from the fund to the same extent as they would have done if their claim against the fund had been allowed. A similar approach, in the context of concurrent claims arising out of the breach of a construction contract, can be seen in Alfred McAlpine Construction Ltd v Panatown Ltd [2001] 1 AC 518, 595.

7

There are also circumstances in which the law finds other means of avoiding double recovery, such as subrogation (as discussed, for example, in Gould v Vaggelas [1984] HCA 68; (1984) 157 CLR 215), or the imposition on one claimant of an obligation to account to the other out of the damages which the former has received (as, for example, in O'Sullivan v Williams [1992] 3 All ER 385). The most suitable approach to adopt in a particular case will depend upon its circumstances.

8

This appeal is concerned with a particular type of situation in which two persons, A and B, suffer loss as a result of the conduct of a third person, C. The situation in question is one in which A is a company, B is a creditor of that company, and B's loss is consequential upon the loss suffered by A, because C's conduct has rendered A insolvent and unable to pay its debt to B.

9

The fact that a claim lies at the instance of a company rather than a natural person, or some other kind of legal entity, does not in itself affect the claimant's entitlement to be compensated for wrongs done to it. Nor does it usually affect the rights of other persons, legal or natural, with concurrent claims. There is, however, one highly specific exception to that general rule. It was decided in the case of Prudential Assurance Co Ltd v Newman Industries Ltd (No 2) [1982] Ch 204 that a shareholder cannot bring a claim in respect of a diminution in the value of his shareholding, or a reduction in the distributions which he receives by virtue of his shareholding, which is merely the result of a loss suffered by the company in consequence of a wrong done to it by the defendant, even if the defendant's conduct also involved the commission of a wrong against the shareholder, and even if no proceedings have been brought by the company. As appears from that summary, the decision in Prudential established a rule of company law, applying specifically to companies and their shareholders in the particular circumstances described, and having no wider ambit.

10

The rule in Prudential, as I shall refer to it, is distinct from the general principle of the law of damages that double recovery should be avoided. In particular, one consequence of the rule is that, where it applies, the shareholder's claim against the wrongdoer is excluded even if the company does not pursue its own right of action, and there is accordingly no risk of double recovery. That aspect of the rule is understandable on the basis of the reasoning in Prudential, since its rationale is that, where it applies, the shareholder does not suffer a loss which is recognised in law as having an existence distinct from the company's loss. On that basis, a claim by the shareholder is barred by the principle of company law known as the rule in Foss v Harbottle (1843) 2 Hare 461: a rule which (put shortly) states that the only person who can seek relief for an injury done to a company, where the company has a cause of action, is the company itself.

11

Putting matters broadly at this stage, in Johnson v Gore Wood & Co [2002] 2 AC 1 the House of Lords purported to follow Prudential, but the reasoning of some members of the Appellate Committee was not clearly confined to circumstances of the kind with which Prudential was concerned. In particular, the reasoning of Lord Millett, which proved particularly influential in subsequent cases, advanced a number of other justifications for the exclusion of the shareholder's claim whenever the company had a concurrent claim available to it, of wider scope than the approach adopted in Prudential.

12

The decision in Johnson has been interpreted in later cases as establishing a principle, generally referred to as the “reflective loss” principle, whose legal basis and scope are controversial. This supposed principle has been applied to claims brought by a claimant in the capacity of a creditor of a company, where he also held shares in it, and the company had a concurrent claim. In the present case, the Court of Appeal...

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20 cases
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8 firm's commentaries
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    • United Kingdom
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