Claims against Lebanese banks in the UK courts – can I bring a claim?
There have now been a number of successful claims against Lebanese banks in England, whereby depositors have succeeded in having their funds transferred abroad.
Joseph McCormick of Branch Austin McCormick brought the first claim to successfully establish jurisdiction against a Lebanese bank before the English courts, as well as other claims since, and has a wealth of experience advising clients in relation to the financial crisis in Lebanon. We are regularly asked if a claim can be brought in the UK and so, in this article, we touch on some key factors for depositors to consider.
In order to bring a claim in England, it is first necessary to check whether the English courts have jurisdiction to hear the claim. Contracts between depositors and Lebanese banks typically contain jurisdiction clauses which stipulate that claims must be brought in Lebanon. Such clauses in contracts are generally binding between the parties.
However, if you opened a personal bank account and are domiciled in the UK, you may be able to rely on a law intended to protect consumers, which provides that consumers may sue in their ‘home’ courts, effectively overriding the jurisdiction clause in the contract. A similar law applies in each Member State of the European Union.
In order to rely on the law, it is necessary to show that you were a consumer and that you entered into the banking contract outside of your trade or profession. Contracts associated with personal bank accounts are likely to be regarded as consumer contracts, unless there are particular factors.
To establish that you are domiciled in the UK, it is necessary to show that you have a residence in the UK (i.e., a place you can live) and that the nature and circumstances of that residence indicate a substantial connection with the jurisdiction. The factors which point to a substantial connection are non-exhaustive and may include the presence of family, employment, immigration status, tax status, time spent within the jurisdiction, and so on. It is possible for a consumer to have more than one domicile for the purposes of the test.
There are other relevant factors in addition to the above. However, if you are a consumer domiciled in the UK with funds stuck in Lebanon, we recommend you take advice from an English lawyer.
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