Total Lubricants Hong Kong Ltd And Others v Christophe De La Cropte De Chanterac And Others

CourtCourt of Final Appeal (Hong Kong)
Judgment Date20 May 2014
Citation(2014) 17 HKCFAR 296
Judgement NumberFAMV41/2013
SubjectMiscellaneous Proceedings (Civil)
FAMV41/2013 TOTAL LUBRICANTS HONG KONG LTD AND OTHERS v. CHRISTOPHE DE LA CROPTE DE CHANTERAC AND OTHERS

FAMV No. 41 of 2013

IN THE COURT OF FINAL APPEAL OF THE

HONG KONG SPECIAL ADMINISTRATIVE REGION

MISCELLANEOUS PROCEEDINGS NO. 41 OF 2013 (CIVIL)

(ON APPLICATION FOR LEAVE TO APPEAL

FROM CACV NO. 37 OF 2012)

____________________

BETWEEN

TOTAL LUBRICANTS HONG KONG LIMITED 1st Plaintiff/
1st Respondent
TOTAL OIL ASIA-PACIFIC PTE LTD 2nd Plaintiff/
2nd Respondent
TOTAL LUBRIFIANTS SA 3rd Plaintiff/
3rd Respondent
and
CHRISTOPHE DE LA CROPTE DE CHANTERAC 1st Defendant
JEAN-CHRISTOPHE LAMBERT 2nd Defendant
CAROLINE HUOT (alias CAROLINE SURIN) 3rd Defendant
VALERIE JONIAUX 4th Defendant
GULF OIL MARINE LIMITED 5th Defendant/
1st Applicant
GULF OIL INTERNATIONAL UK LIMITED 6th Defendant/
2nd Applicant

____________________

Appeal Committee : Chief Justice Ma, Mr Justice Tang PJ and Mr Justice Fok PJ
Date of Hearing and Determination : 29 April 2014
Date of Reasons for Determination : 20 May 2014

_________________________________

REASONS FOR DETERMINATION

_________________________________

Mr Justice Fok PJ :

1. In this application for leave to appeal, the two applicants were 5th and 6th defendants (D5 and D6 respectively) in the underlying action.[1] At the conclusion of the hearing, we dismissed the application for leave without calling on the respondents (Ps in the underlying action), indicating that our reasons would be handed down in due course. These are our reasons.

The application for leave to appeal

2. The claim arises out of the activities of the 1st to 4th defendants (respectively D1 to D4), former officers and employees of the plaintiffs (Ps), who are alleged to have defected and launched, in 2008, D5 (a subsidiary of D6) as a competitor. The original claims were made against D1 to D4 for breach of contractual, fiduciary and equitable duties.

3. Ps applied to amend their statement of claim to plead a cause of action against D5 and D6 of unlawful means conspiracy. That plea and the proposed plea in the amended statement of claim were struck out by a judgment of J. Poon J dated 15 December 2009 Judgment (the 2009 Judgment).

4. There was a dispute about the effect of that judgment and so the Judge ruled in a judgment dated 24 February 2010 (the 2010 Judgment) that all the claims against D5 and D6 were struck out so the action against them was dismissed.[2]

5. Ps subsequently sought to raise a properly formulated plea of unlawful means conspiracy against D5 and D6 by way of re-amended statement of claim. By his Judgment dated 7 February 2012 (the 2012 Judgment), the Judge granted leave to re-amend. He did so notwithstanding that he had ordered, by the 2010 judgment, that the action against D5 and D6 was dismissed.

6. D5 and D6 appealed from the 2012 Judgment to the Court of Appeal on the grounds that the conspiracy claim was the subject of cause of action estoppel and was an abuse and/or the judge was functus officio. The Court of Appeal held[3] that there was no cause of action estoppel because there was no final judgment on...

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