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No discretion to extend time to appeal registration of foreign judgments

29 January 2015. Published by Dan Wyatt, Partner

In Taylor-Carr -v- Howkins & Harrison LLP[1], it was held that the English courts have no power to extend the time for appealing against the registration of a foreign judgment under Council Regulation 44/2001, which permits judgments in one member state to be enforced in another.

The underlying dispute related to fees allegedly owed by Mrs Taylor-Carr and her husband (the Appellants) to estate agents Howkins & Harrison LLP following the sale of various properties in England.

The estate agents brought proceedings in the French courts because the Appellants moved to France. In September 2011, the estate agents obtained a judgment for EUR 10,495.55 plus costs from the Court of Appeal in Pau and they obtained a Registration Order in England to enforce that judgment the Appellants had moved back to England by that time.  The Registration Order was served personally on the Defendants in June 2013 and on 17 March 2014 the Appellants appealed against the Registration Order.  

The Judge dismissed the appeal holding that the time periods in Article 43.5 of the Regulation were mandatory and she had no discretion to grant an extension of time to appeal the Registration Order.  Slade J added that, even if she had determined that she held such a discretion, she would not have exercised it in this case.  The reasons for the Appellants' delay were not sufficiently exceptional, and the appeal was out of time by a very large margin.

The regime for registration of judgments has recently changed under Council Regulation (EU) 1215/2012 (the "Recast Regulation"), which came into force on or after 10 January 2015. Under the Recast Regulation, provided the creditor has obtained a certificate from the court of origin, the foreign judgment will be enforceable in England as if it were an English judgment without further procedural steps.  However, the debtor will still be entitled to apply for enforcement to be refused on certain limited grounds, which are much the same as the defences to enforcement under the Regulation.  This may affect the court's view of the time limits given for appeals given that there would no longer be mandatory time periods but care would still be needed to bring an appeal timely especially if the reasons for delay are not exceptional.

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[1] [2014] EWHC 3479 (QB)