Enforcement of U.S. Judgments in England and Wales
Despite the closeness of the commercial relationships between the UK and the US, there is no international convention or treaty providing for enforcement, reciprocal or otherwise. At Hallmark Solicitors, our litigation team have significant expertise in enforcing U.S. judgments in the England & Wales.
As a US judgment cannot be enforced directly in the UK, and instead, the judgment will be viewed as a simple contract debt between the parties.
It is this debt which can be enforced through the English courts. Practically, this can be done by way of issuing new court proceedings.
In these proceedings, the English court will generally not re-examine the merits of the dispute, but there are however certain key features that the court will examine in order to hand down an enforceable judgment.
In order to begin enforcement proceedings in England, the decision and judgment handed down by the US court must be final and conclusive. In situations where the US proceedings are (or even might be) subject to an appeal to a higher court, then the most likely outcome would be that the English court would stay any enforcement proceedings pending the appeal. Likewise, if a US court has granted a stay of execution pending an appeal, then enforcement proceedings cannot be commenced in England. Judgments that are contrary to UK public policy are not enforceable (for example judgments in respect of punitive damages) and any judgment obtained by fraud is also not enforceable.
Any US judgment handed down must be for a definite and ascertainable sum in order for it to be enforceable in England, so, a declaratory judgment, for example, would not be enforceable. Costs orders can be enforced, but are only enforceable when a final figure has been arrived at and handed down by the US court. When these actions are defended, one of the more common defences raised is that the judgment debtor was not given proper or sufficient notice of the US proceedings and consequently did not have adequate opportunity to defend itself in the US proceedings.
Practically, the English court will consider each case on its individual merits, but if the proceedings have been conducted in compliance with the laws of the US court, then the English court will be reluctant to interfere. In any event, should an alleged lack of notice be raise, the burden of proof will be on the judgment debtor in any event.
The English court will require that the US court has international jurisdiction. This essentially means that the English court will have to be satisfied that the judgment debtor was present in the US when the US proceedings were commenced, made an appearance in the US proceedings or expressly submitted to the jurisdiction of the US court.
It should be noted that commencing a case to enforce a foreign judgment can also be an important defensive tool. For example, if a claimant is unsuccessful in foreign litigation, it is precluded from commencing fresh litigation against a defendant in England for further, alternative or other relief. Further, if a claimant was successful in the foreign litigation and receives a damages award, a defendant can defend any fresh litigation on the basis that the sum of damages has been determined by the foreign court, and the claimant is not entitled to re-litigate the issues in England to attempt to obtain a higher award of damages;
The basic procedure for enforcement will be as follows:-
- Issue court proceedings in the High Court of Justice for the recognition of the foreign judgment in England;
- Effect service of the proceedings upon the Defendant
- Rebut any defences available to the Defendant;
- Ask the Court for Summary Judgment, on the basis that a foreign judgment has already been granted.
- Enforce the English judgment obtained against the Defendant in the UK or Europe.
Hallmark Solicitors offer a free no-obligation consultation for U.S. lawyers seeking to enforce a judgment in England & Wales. We can be contacted on (01482) 616 616.