Foreign Judgments at Common Law: Rethinking the Enforcement Rules
Dalhousie Law Journal, Vol. 28, p. 163, 2005
36 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2009 Last revised: 8 Oct 2009
Date Written: September 27, 2005
England and Canada have adopted divergent approaches to the enforcement of foreign civil and commercial judgments. An English court will only enforce a foreign judgment where the defendant submitted to the jurisdiction of the foreign court, or was present in the foreign jurisdiction when served with process. This position, while protecting domestic defendants, is outdated and does little to further the objectives underpinning judgment enforcement. Canadian courts, by contrast, have been far more liberal than their English counterparts, enforcing foreign judgments in cases where there is a “real and substantial connection” between the dispute and the judgment forum. While this approach fully advances the objectives of judgment enforcement, it leaves Canadian defendants exposed to the perils and uncertainties of international litigation. An alternative to either of these positions would be to adopt a variant of the ‘real and substantial connection’ test to govern the issue of foreign judgment recognition at common law. Under this framework, questions of how fair it is to require a domestic defendant to litigate in a foreign forum would be encapsulated within the jurisdictional inquiry itself. The judgment court would only be perceived as jurisdictionally competent (and its judgment therefore enforceable) when, considering the totality of the circumstances and the additional burdens imposed by international litigation, it is fair and reasonable to expect the defendant to litigate the claim in the foreign jurisdiction. This test underscores the fact that enforceability concerns are not the same domestically as they are internationally, and that a test which is to promote the freer movement of judgments must also encompass minimum fairness safeguards.
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