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The validity of the jurisdiction of two or more courts

1.Brief introduction of the case

As the charterer, A signed the voyage charter party with ship owner B, which agreed that B would transport 8000 tons of methanol for a from Tianjin to Ningbo at a freight rate of 100 yuan / ton. At the same time, the contract states that the place of signing is Shanghai, and Article 7 of the contract also stipulates: “any dispute arising from the execution of this contract shall be settled through friendly negotiation by both parties; if the negotiation fails, the dispute shall be submitted to the maritime court located in Shanghai or Ningbo for litigation.”

After the contract was signed, B performed the transportation obligations under the contract with the outsider ship it leased, but because A defaulted on the freight, B sued to the Shanghai maritime court to claim A to pay the fees.

A then raised the objection to jurisdiction: first, the dispute settlement agreed in the contract involved is “submit to the maritime court located in Shanghai or Ningbo for litigation settlement”. This Agreement does not explicitly stipulate the court, so it is an invalid clause; 2. According to Article 30 of the interpretation of the Supreme People’s Court on the application of the Civil Procedure Law of the people’s Republic of China, if the competent court can be determined at the time of prosecution according to the jurisdiction agreement, its agreement shall prevail; If it cannot be determined, the jurisdiction shall be determined in accordance with the relevant provisions of the civil procedure law. According to the provisions of Article 27 of the civil procedure law, a lawsuit brought on a dispute over railway, highway, water, air transportation and combined transportation shall be under the jurisdiction of the people’s court at the place of departure, destination or the place where the defendant has his domicile. Since the destination of the transportation involved in the case is Ningbo and the defendant’s domicile is Ningbo, this case should be under the jurisdiction of Ningbo Maritime Court.

 

2、 Court opinion

The Shanghai maritime court held that this case was voyage charter party dispute and should be under the special jurisdiction of the maritime court in accordance with the provisions of the Supreme People’s Court on the scope of cases accepted by the maritime court. Since the contract involved was signed in Shanghai, the dispute resolution provisions of the contract involved agreed that the jurisdiction of the maritime court in Shanghai or Ningbo was not in violation of the level jurisdiction and exclusive jurisdiction. At the same time, according to paragraph 2 of Article 30 of the interpretation on the application of the Civil Procedure Law of the people’s Republic of China, the plaintiff can bring a lawsuit to one of the people’s courts where the jurisdiction agreement stipulates that there are more than two places actually connected with the dispute. Therefore, it is not improper for the plaintiff to choose to bring a lawsuit to the maritime court located in Shanghai where the contract is signed, The Shanghai maritime court has jurisdiction over the case according to law due to the choice of the plaintiff. Accordingly, the Shanghai maritime court ruled to reject A’s objection to jurisdiction.

 

After that, A appealed and held that although Article 34 of the civil procedure law stipulates that contract disputes can be subject to the jurisdiction of the people’s Court of the place actually connected with the case through written agreement, the special procedure law of maritime procedure does not stipulate that the provisions of Article 34 of the Civil Procedure Law can be applied to maritime and maritime cases, Because the maritime special procedure law is a special law, according to the principle of “special law is superior to general law”, the provisions of the maritime special procedure law and its judicial interpretation should be applied to determine the jurisdiction of this case. Therefore, this case should be transferred to Ningbo Maritime Court for jurisdiction.

 

The Shanghai Higher People’s court held that this case was voyage charter party dispute. According to the provisions on the scope of cases accepted by the maritime court of the Supreme People’s court, this case should be under the special jurisdiction of the maritime court. Article 30 of the interpretation on the application of the Civil Procedure Law of the people’s Republic of China stipulates that the jurisdiction agreement stipulates that the people’s Court of more than two places that are actually related to the dispute shall have jurisdiction, and the plaintiff may bring a lawsuit to one of the people’s courts. The court of first instance has a legal basis for exercising jurisdiction over this case. Accordingly, the Shanghai Higher People’s court rejected A’s appeal and upheld the original ruling.

 

3. Comment and analysis

The interpretation of civil litigation highlights the principle of autonomy of will in civil litigation and more respects the agreed jurisdiction of the parties. The ruling of Shanghai Higher People’s Court on the case provides judicial precedents for the parties to choose the effectiveness of the jurisdiction clause under the jurisdiction of more than two courts as a reference, and plays a guiding role in similar disputes in the future.

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