Enforcement of US Judgments in the UK

You might think that for all our shared history and cultural ties, there would be a treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom to allow for the enforcement of court judgments in each country’s respective jurisdiction. Alas, there is not. In these times of Brexit, the Brits have missed the opportunity to forge links with their closest ally on this particular issue.

But help is at hand. Shergroup takes judgments from both sides of the pond and enforces them in either jurisdiction. Despite the lack of a treaty the legal process is not that daunting.

So to enforce a US judgment, from any State out of the Union of 50, the process is controlled by the age-old principles of English common law.

Here are the key points to note should you find yourself in this situation

The US judgment is treated as a simple contract debt between the plaintiff (US speak for claimant) and the defendant (the same term in both jurisdictions).

A claim will have to be prepared using the US judgment as the Particulars of Claim – it is unlikely the English or Welsh court will re-try the issues or merits of the case. The English or Welsh Court will require certain criteria around the judgment to be met including |

  1. 1. The US court must have had international jurisdiction according to English conflict of laws rules in relation to the original US court order;

  2. 2. The sum must be for an ascertainable and definite sum;

  3. 3. The US judge must have ordered that the sum be final and conclusive;

  4. 4. If there is an appeal, it is likely that the UK court will stay the enforcement process pending the appeal;

  5. 5. A US judgment obtained by fraud will not be recognized by the UK court. This is an exception to the general rule that the UK court will not reconsider the issues relating to the alleged fraud;

  6. 6. A UK court will not enforce a judgment that is contrary to UK public policy; and

  7. 7. A UK court will not enforce a US judgment obtained contrary to its principles of natural justice- e.g. where sufficient notice of the proceedings were not given to the Defendant to properly defend the action. Each case will of course be considered on the merits.

However, if the proceedings have been conducted fairly and in accordance with the laws of the relevant US court, then the UK court is not likely to refuse to enforce the order. The judgment debtor has to discharge the burden of proof in accordance with the criteria.

The strategy is to get to judgment as quickly as possible – and this is done by seeking summary judgment. This application requires that there is no Defense to the claim and of course this is difficult to prove when judgment has already been given by the US Court.

Once judgment is obtained, then it will be a judgment or the English & Welsh courts which means that the usual enforcement procedures contained in the Civil Procedure Rules can be used.

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