Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly


Andrew Tetley * and Antoine Guillemot


235. Axa Corporate Solutions Assurance v Eukor Car Carriers 1

Bill of lading—jurisdiction clause—enforceability of a jurisdiction clause contained in a bill of lading against a consignee—special consent—readability of the clause
A car company, PSA, (“the shipper”) instructed Eukor (“the sea carrier”) to carry new cars (the “cargo”) from Belgium to South Korea for delivery to Hanbul Motors (“the consignee”). The sea carrier issued several bills of lading mentioning Hanbul Motors either as “consignee” or “notify party”.
At delivery, part of the cargo was found damaged. Axa (“the insurer”) paid compensation to the consignee for the damage caused to its cargo. The insurer, subrogated to the rights of the consignee, commenced a claim against the sea carrier before the Commercial Court of Paris seeking compensation for the damage done to the cargo. Under the Civil Code, Art.14, a French party enjoys exorbitant jurisdiction to bring foreign defendants before the French courts, unless it has agreed not to do so by a binding jurisdiction clause. The insurer accordingly sought to rely on Art.14 to establish jurisdiction of the Paris Court.
The sea carrier did not make an appearance before the Paris Court. However, it later lodged an appeal against the Court’s judgment. The sea carrier challenged the jurisdiction of the French courts on the basis of the jurisdiction clause contained in the bills of lading, granting jurisdiction to the Seoul Civil District Court in Korea. The clause provided as follows: “Any and all action concerning custody or carriage under this Bill of Lading whether based on breach of contract, tort or otherwise shall be brought before the Seoul Civil District Court in Korea.” The bills of lading also provided for Korean law to apply to the contracts of carriage evidenced by the bills of lading.
By judgment of 30 June 2020, the Court of Appeal of Paris found (i) that the jurisdiction clause was valid but (ii) that it could not be enforced against the consignee on the grounds that it was illegible and that it had not been accepted by the consignee. The Court of Appeal accordingly upheld the jurisdiction of the Commercial Court of Paris.
The sea carrier lodged an appeal before the Supreme Court. Its main argument on appeal was that the law governing the conditions for acceptance and enforceability of a jurisdiction clause contained in a bill of lading was the law applicable to the contract of carriage, ie Korean law, not the law of the forum. In support of its appeal, the sea carrier also argued, in the alternative, that, assuming the consignee’s consent to the clause was


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