The Court of Appeal has exercised its discretion to hear an appeal from a party who was in contempt of several earlier court orders, in Hin-Pro International Logistics Ltd v Compania Sud Americana De Vapores SA.
Several anti-suit injunctions had been made by lower courts prohibiting the appellant, Hin-Pro, from pursuing proceedings in China in breach of an exclusive jurisdiction clause in favour of the English courts. The interpretation of that clause was under dispute. Despite recognising that Hin-Pro had no intention of obeying the anti-suit injunctions even if their appeal failed, the Court of Appeal considered that the interests of justice and considerations of fairness would nevertheless be best served by hearing the appeal.
It took into account that the appeal was against one of the very orders which had put Hin-Pro in contempt in the first place. The appeal also raised matters of general importance to be determined. As leave to appeal had already been granted, it could only be set aside if there was a “compelling reason” to do so, implying a serious irregularity or an “egregious” example of the court having been misled. Neither of these applied.
The Court of Appeal was also satisfied that the appeal would not amount to an “abuse of process” despite Hin-Pro having failed to file an acknowledgement of service (as required by the Commercial Court). The case demonstrates the breadth of the court’s discretion to hear a party who is in contempt, notwithstanding the paramount importance attached to prompt and unquestioning compliance with court orders.
Hin-Pro International Logistics Ltd v Compania Sud Americana De Vapores SA  EWCA Civ 401