The Court held that Article 152(1) of the Directive, read in conjunction with Article 151 of the same text and Recital 8 of the Service Regulation (pursuant to which the Regulation ‘should not apply to service of a document on the party’s authorised representative in the Member State where the proceedings are taking place regardless of the place of residence of that party’), must be interpreted as meaning that the appointment by a non-life insurance undertaking of a representative in the host Member State also includes the authorisation for that representative to receive a document initiating court proceedings for damages in respect of a road traffic accident.
Stefano Dominelli provided an account of the ruling in Conflictoflaws. By this post, I would like to add some comments on the issues discussed by the Court.
The ‘novelty’ of the judgment
In general terms, Corporis brings owls to Athens. The Court had already made its point in 2013, in the ruling concerning the Spedition Welter case. It stated then that Article 21(5) of the Motor Insurance Directive must be interpreted as meaning that the claims representative’s sufficient powers must include authority validly to accept service of judicial documents necessary for proceedings for settlement of a claim to be brought before the court having jurisdiction.
The difference between the two cases lies in the content of the preliminary request: unlike the German court in the former case, the Polish court that made the request in the latter case additionally brought the Service Regulation into the picture.
The Court’s findings however remain basically the same. This is somehow evidenced by the fact that the Court considered it could proceed to judgment without the Advocate General’s opinion.
Actually, some domestic courts have already issued judgments going in the same direction. See in particular the ruling of the Portuguese Supremo Tribunal de Justiça of 4 July 2019, and the ruling of the Tribunal da Relação de Guimarães of 17 November 2016 ( which are available through this database), and the ruling of the Landgericht Saarbrücken of 11 May 2015, reproduced in IPRax, 2015, 567. I’m sure there are more, but for the time being I managed to trace the above. Any feedback from other jurisdictions is more than welcome.
The notion of the ‘authorized representative’
Hence, in Corporis the Court reiterates its original views. It does not shed light to the overall question, i.e. what constitutes an authorized representative: first, because it had not been asked to do so, and second, because this seems to be an issue for the national courts to decide.
At least this is the common understanding among courts and scholars.
The fact is, however, that this situation comes, potentially, at a cost for the proper application of the Service Regulation. Burkhard Hess warned about the pitfalls nearly 20 years ago (Die Zustellung von Schriftstücken im europäischen Justizraum, NJW, 2001, 22).
Neither the predecessor of the current Service Regulation (Regulation No 1348/2000) nor the Service Convention drawn up by the Council of the European Union in 1997 (and never entered into force) referred to ‘authorized representatives’. The notion was also missing in the original 2005 Commission’s proposal to amend Regulation No 1348/2000.
The term only appeared in 2006, in the Commission’s proposal that replaced the latter proposal, without any further information. Thomas Rauscher indicates that it was added to solve a problem which appeared in the Dutch legal order. I understand that the introduction came as one of the 35 proposed amendments by the Rapporteur of the European Parliament. To sum up, there’s no clear indication of the rationale which led to the inclusion of the notion into the preamble.
What is noteworthy however, is that the term nay not be treated as equivalent to that of a representative ad litem, as referred to in Article 40(2) of Regulation No 44/2001 (Brussels I). The language employed to in the Service Regulation and in the Brussels I Regulation are not the same: the German version of the two texts refers, respectively, to ‘Bevollmächtigter’ and ‘Zustellungsbevollmächtigter’; the Spanish version refers to ‘representante autorizado’ and ‘mandatario ad litem’; the French version employs ‘représentant mandaté’ and ‘mandataire ad litem’, etc.
The issue under the forthcoming amended Service Regulation
On 31 May 2018, the Commission presented a proposal for a Regulation amending the Service Regulation, which is currently under discussion.
In this framework, the Commission suggested, inter alia, to move the text that is currently included in Recital 8 to Article 1. This change reflects the importance given to the matter, in light of the Alder case, where the CJEU held that the Service Regulation precludes Member States form providing in their legislation that judicial documents addressed to a party whose place of residence is in another Member State are placed in the case file, and deemed to have been effectively served, if that party has failed to appoint a representative who is authorised to accept service and is resident in the State where the judicial proceedings are taking place.
Although the proposal was accepted by the Council, the European Parliament refused to abide. Hence, the second exception to the application of the Regulation will most probably remain ‘hiding in the bushes’…
Extending the boundaries of the judgment
Notwithstanding the above, the judgment of the CJEU in Corporis paves the path to an extensive protection of other parties.
In paragraphs 41-44, the Court accentuates the difficulties faced by the victims of road traffic accidents. For those (insured) persons, the Brussels I Regulation has granted a forum actoris. Now the Court provides them with yet another benefit, i.e. the possibility to serve proceedings within the forum, and without attaching a costly translation.
De lege ferenda, the same level of protection could be granted to other recognized categories of weak(er) parties, such as consumers and employees, in their capacity as claimants against sellers, service providers, or employers.
Beyond insurance companies, one could think of foreign pharmaceutical companies, air carriers, car industries, social network giants, and the like. The fact that the above enterprises did not grant explicit powers to their representatives to receive judicial documents on their behalf shouldn’t be an impediment anymore. This is at least the implication of the CJEU in the Corporis case.