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Cartier Loses Jurisdiction Duel, EU Court Says

(CN) - A French court hearing one of two dueling lawsuits over stolen Cartier cosmetics must excuse itself for lack of jurisdiction, the EU high court said Thursday.

In 2007, Cartier hired Ziegler France to transport a load of cosmetics to the United Kingdom. En route, a subcontracted driver woke up at a rest stop and discovered thieves had taken nearly $200,000 in makeup from the truck.

But a week before Cartier and its insurance company sued Ziegler and the subcontractors in a French court, Ziegler filed its own action in a British court for a determination of its liability to Cartier. The French court then dismissed Cartier's action due to Ziegler's pending U.K. action, a decision Cartier appealed all the way to France's court of final appeal.

That court, confronted with it called "diverging academic opinion in France" as to which country had jurisdiction under EU law, then asked the Court of Justice of the European Union to weigh in.

The Luxembourg-based high court said in a preliminary ruling that EU law clearly gives jurisdiction to the court where a dispute is first lodged, provided that court does not decline to hear the case and there are no objections from the involved parties before proceedings begin. Cartier made appearances in the U.K. court to litigate the case and never questioned that court's jurisdiction, the high court noted.

"One of the aims of that regulation is to minimize the possibility of concurrent proceedings and to ensure that irreconcilable judgments will not be given where a number of courts have jurisdiction to hear the same dispute," the court wrote. "It is for that purpose that the European Union legislature intended to put in place a mechanism which is clear and effective in order to resolve situations of lis pendens. It follows that, in order to achieve those aims, the law must be interpreted broadly."

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