Enforcing Award in Ship Dispute Is Premature

     (CN) – A company whose ship was improperly arrested in Spain should not have been allowed to enforce a Spanish court’s damages award, a New York appeals court ruled.
     Sea Trade Maritime Corp. had asked a Manhattan Supreme Court justice to enforce a $704,066 judgment against Stylianos Coutsodontis ordered by a Spanish court that found Coutsodontis had improperly commenced a proceeding to arrest Sea Trade’s ship in Spain.
     In an ensuing battle over Spanish law, Sea Trade’s expert said Coutsodontis had no assets in Spain, so the court’s judgment was immediately enforceable.
     Coutsodontis’ expert countered that Sea Trade needed to petition the Spanish court to convert the ruling into an enforceable judgment.
     The county court granted Sea Trade summary judgment, but the Appellate Division’s First Department reversed Tuesday.
     “It was error for the motion court, faced with a document entitled an ‘auto’ and a battle of the Spanish law experts on how to treat such a ruling, to find as a matter of law that the affidavit of plaintiff’s expert was more persuasive and credible than that of defendant’s expert without affording defendant the opportunity to test at a hearing or trial the expert’s credentials, experience, demeanor and interest or bias, if any, through cross-examination,” the unsigned opinion states.
     The case will continue, as the justices also directed Sea Trade to file a formal complaint, since it added documents from the Spanish court to its original motion.

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