Enforcing Foreign Judgments in the Isle of Man: A Quick Process

by Tara Cubbon

The Isle of Man’s Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) (Isle of Man) Act 1968 (the “Act”) provides a quick and simple process for the registration of judgments obtained in certain jurisdictions.

Where inter alia the following conditions are met, a judgment creditor can make use of the simple process and apply for registration under the Act:-

  • The judgment was made by a superior court of the United Kingdom, Guernsey, Jersey, Suriname, Israel, Italy or the Netherlands.
  • The judgment is a money judgment and is final and conclusive and not in respect of taxes, a fine or a penalty.

Assuming the Court is satisfied that the conditions apply, the Court will issue the registration order which the judgment creditor must then serve on the judgment debtor.

The judgment debtor will then have, usually, 14 days to apply to have the registration order set aside. Grounds for setting aside a registration order include but are not limited to:-

  • The original court did not have jurisdiction;
  • The judgment was obtained by fraud;
  • The judgment debtor did not receive sufficient notice of the foreign proceedings to enable him to defend them;
  • The judgment’s enforcement would be contrary to public policy; or
  • The person making the claim is not entitled to.

Assuming the judgment debtor does not apply to set aside the registration order within the time frame or is unsuccessful in doing so, action can then be taken by the judgment creditor to enforce the registration order against the debtor’s assets in the Isle of Man.

The common law

Where an application cannot be made under the Act, the judgment creditor must bring a claim for enforcement under the common law i.e. they must commence a debt action in the Isle of Man based on the foreign judgment.

Under the common law, a foreign judgment will be enforceable if:-

  • It is for a debt, or definite sum of money; not in respect of taxes, fines or penalties;
  • It is final and conclusive;
  • The foreign court had jurisdiction; and
  • The judgment is not impeachable on the grounds of fraud, breach of natural justice and/or breach of public policy.

The foreign court will have had jurisdiction if the judgment debtor was present in the foreign country where the proceedings were instituted; counterclaimed in the proceedings; submitted to the jurisdiction by voluntarily appearing; or agreed to the submit to the jurisdiction.

In circumstances where there are limited defences to enforcement at common law, it is usually possible for the judgment creditor to apply for summary judgment in respect of their claim on the basis that the judgment debtor’s defence has no real prospect of success thus avoiding the need for a full trial. Even if the judgment debtor seeks to argue that there has been fraud or a breach of natural justice or public policy, it can still be appropriate to apply for summary judgment if it can be shown on the basis of the documentary evidence already before the Court that the debtor’s defence has no prospect of success and that there is no requirement for the Court to proceed to a full trial on the matter.

In our experience, the Isle of Man Courts are alive to the possibility of judgment debtors making unsubstantiated allegations that the foreign judgment was obtained by fraud in the original jurisdiction in order to avoid it properly being registered in the Isle of Man and they have been willing to award indemnity costs against judgment debtors in appropriate cases.

Accordingly, even where the Act cannot be used by a judgment creditor, enforcement under the common law, can be a fairly smooth and simple process.

If you would like further information on this subject or on the steps that can be taken in the Isle of Man to enforce the judgment against the debtor’s assets once the foreign judgment has been recognised in the Isle of Man, please do not hesitate to contact Tara Cubbon or any other member of DQ’s Dispute Resolution Team.