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Gray v Hurley [2019] EWHC 1636 (QB)

Judgment in Queen's Bench Division providing international family lawyers with a meticulous overview on establishing forum. A claim issued first elsewhere in the world, may not of itself be determinative. World-wide assets were brought under the overarching jurisdiction of the High Court. The sophisticated construct of trust claims engaged specific Articles.

Ms Gray in her 2015 divorce settlement  received US $120m. Mr Hurley, born in New Zealand, remained a citizen of NZ and was a neuromuscular therapist. A relationship started in the UK in 2013 and continued until 2019. Mr Hurley's marriage proposals were refused and the couple did not marry.  They enjoyed a world-wide lavish lifestyle paid for by Ms Gray, with more time in London than elsewhere, only half the time between 2013 and 2019 was in London.

An Italian property was purchased. The joint agreement gave exclusive jurisdiction of "any dispute..for termination" to  Rome. Ms Gray paid €9.5m, and €9m spent on renovations. The parties never lived there. Mount Albert Station was purchased in NZ for NZ$19.818m.

Amongst a number of companies, HK Brothers in Switzerland purchased multiple supercars: a Ferrari-458-Speciale CHF303,400, two Pagani-Huayras €1.404m & €1.74, a Pagani-Zonda-R €2.381m and €2.250m for a Ferrari-F1car. Other investments were made: US$2.43m & US$2.124 and a yacht £4.2m 
On 25 March 2019 Mr Hurley commenced proceedings in NZ.  NZ law provides relationship property will usually be divided equally. Ms Gray issued on 26 March 2019 in England (resulting  and undue influence leading to constructive trusts, with resitutionary claims); but no claims for change in legal ownership. An order was granted in Lugano preventing disposal of the cars on 20 April 2019.

Ms Gray needed to establish that she had a good arguable case under the Judgments Regulation Article 1(2)(a) or that her claim fell within CPR 3.1 Practice Direction 6B.

A good arguable case requires an evidential basis showing the claimant has the better argument. Historically, the law of the husband's domicile was the starting presumption, Lavender J held this was contrary to HRA nor was it applicable to non-matrimonial relationships.

Arguments concerned Judgment Regulation: Rights in rem Article 24(1). A Member State has exclusive jurisdiction where a property was situated. Ms Gray's claim was said not to be in rem as it was a declaration. A termination of co-ownership in immoveable property fell within Article 24(1). Action requiring the other to execute documents to vest the legal ownership in Ms Gray or that Mr Hurley holds his interest in trust, was not an action in rem.

Judgment Regulation Article 25(1): provides regardless of domicile, if parties agreed jurisdiction, that agreed court is seised. A person domiciled in a Member State, whatever their nationality, shall be sued there.  A test of substantial connection and residence.

Mr Hurley was found to have ceased residence by 26 March 2019. Mr Hurley did not return to NZ: he was not domiciled there.  Ms Gray was entitled to serve her claim out of the jurisdiction on the basis that England was his last domicile.  No other forum appeared to be suitable for determining the whole dispute.

Summary by Suzannah Cotterill, barrister, Field Court Chambers

You can read the full judgment of Gray v Hurley [2019] EWHC 1636 (QB) on BAILII