Abstract The seed from which the problem sprouted in the TNT-AXA case is the fact that the CMR, an international road carriage convention, refers to national law in Article 29 CMR. This Article determines that if the CMR carrier has caused damage to the cargo ‘by such default on his part as, in accordance with the law of the court or tribunal seised of the case, is considered as equivalent to wilful misconduct’, he is no longer entitled to exclude or limit his liability under the CMR. As a result, it is more likely for a German court of law to consider that a CMR carrier has caused damage by such default than for a Dutch court. Since this type of default denies the carrier the option to limit his liability to approximately Euro 11½ per kilogram as per Article 23 CMR, it is in the carrier’s best interest to avoid the German legal system. Initially carriers thereto sped to Dutch courts in order to gain declaratory judgments of non-liability, or at least limited liability when damage occurred. As soon as the case became pending, it was thought that the lis pendens rule of Article 31(2) CMR would bar the cargo interest’s access to any other forum, including the German one. However, when the German Bundesgerichtshof (the BGH) determined that such an action for a negative declaration did not concern the same subject as an action for a substantive claim, parallel proceedings before a German court became an option. At that point it was no longer sufficient for the carrier to be the first to address a court. It became necessary to be the first to gain a final decision in order to bar the recognition and enforcement of any German decisions on the subject in the Netherlands. Unfortunately for TNT, the Dutch court of first instance that was addressed in the web of the TNT-AXA proceedings failed to decide in a manner that was favourable to the carrier. TNT was therefore forced to appeal, with the result that there was no final decision on the matter when the cargo interest’s insurer, AXA, attempted to have the judgment it had sought in Germany recognised and enforced in the Netherlands. To prevent this, TNT asserted that, according to Article 71 Brussels I Regulation, it is not the Brussels I Regulation but the CMR that determines whether this is possible, because it was of the opinion that the CMR would prevent the recognition and enforcement of the German judgment on the grounds that the German court had no jurisdiction, due to the CMR’s lis pendens rule. Conversely, the Brussels I Regulation only offers the option to refuse recognition because the court whose decision is to be recognised lacked jurisdiction in a very limited set of situations. None of which occurred in the TNT-AXA case. All in all, it took six legal procedures and seven years for the parties to reach the ECJ, the European Court of Justice. When asked whether the recognition and enforcement was in this case governed by the CMR or by the Brussels I Regulation, and whether some light could be shed on the meaning of Article 31 CMR, the ECJ determined that it was indeed the CMR that regulated the matter as it, in principle, is granted precedence by Article 71 Brussels I Regulation, and that it did not have the authority to interpret the meaning of the provisions of the CMR as this is not an EU instrument. However, since Article 71 Brussels I Regulation cannot be interpreted as leading to a result that is irreconcilable with one of the basic principles of the Brussels I Regulation, the favor executionis principle in this case, the rules of the CMR can only apply in the EU Member States insofar as they lead to a result that is in accordance with this principle. The precedence of the CMR can therefore not result in the recognition and enforcement of the German decision being rejected. Thus, it is only in theory that the rules of the CMR govern the matter, not in actual practice.

Nederlands Internationaal Privaatrecht
Erasmus School of Law

Hoeks, M. (2011). CMR of EEX? Van samenloop, litispendentie en het vrij verkeer van beslissingen in Europa.
Hof van Justitie EU 4 mei 2010, zaak C-533/08 (TNT Express/AXA). Nederlands Internationaal Privaatrecht, 2011(3), 468–472. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/31847