Non-contractual anti-suit relief: a high bar  

24 April, 2024

On Tuesday 23 April 2024, Mr Justice Trower handed down judgment in Bourlakova v Bourlakov [2024] EWHC 929 (Ch), on an application for an anti-suit injunction (ASI) made in the absence of a jurisdiction or arbitration agreement.

The object of the ASI application was a bankruptcy process commenced in the St Petersburg Arbitrazh Court on the basis of an alleged debt of around $1.5 billion. The applicants argued that the bankruptcy process was ‘vexatious and oppressive’, in circumstances where the same or similar issues arose in the English proceedings that had been ongoing since 2020.

That argument was rejected by Mr Justice Trower, who found:

  1. While it is certainly the case that the bankruptcy application is a parallel proceeding in the sense that it relies on an important issue of fact which is common to the English proceedings, that factor is of less significance in circumstances in which, objectively, the purpose of the proceedings is the quite separate one of obtaining a bankruptcy appointment: [111].
  2. The true nature of what is sought in Russia makes it analogous to a ‘single forum’ case (i.e. where the cause of action relied on in the foreign court cannot be advanced in England). The reasoning which underpins the need for caution in granting anti-suit relief in such cases is applicable in the present case: [61], [112].
  3. The ASI application was weakened by the fact that the decision of the Russian court would not give rise to an issue estoppel in the English proceedings on one of the key issues in dispute in England: [68]-[69], [113].
  4. The applicants have not established a case of subjective vexation, nor can the claim in Russia be stigmatised as hopeless: [114].

The ASI application was accordingly dismissed.

David Davies KC and Anton Dudnikov represented the respondents, instructed by Elizabeth Seborg and Nick Ractliff of PCB Byrne LLP.

Read the full judgment here.