Liverpool Football Club got involved recently in off pitch battles with it’s litigation between the then owners Gillett and Hicks and the Club and it’s prospective new owners New England Sports Ventures. The case is interesting because it highlighted the ways in which the law deals with the problem of different courts in different countries making different, conflicting decisions, known in legal circles as ‘conflict of laws’. The Club won in the High Court here thus allowing the takeover to go ahead but then at the last minute Gillett and Hicks got a temporary injunction in Dallas, Texas, which went the other way. The Club cried foul and got the English court to order that Gillett and Hicks be prohibited from proceeding in America, which then led them to finally concede defeat. This is known as an ‘anti –suit injunction’
To get this anti-suit injunction, the English court needed to be satisfied that it was the ‘natural forum’ for resolving the dispute (although interestingly both new and old owners are American, the dispute is of course about an English Club), pursuit of the foreign action would be vexatious and oppressive and there would be real harm in the court here did not issue an injunction. None of this overrides American law or imposes an obligation on the US judge to hear a case or not as (since 1776) we have not had that power. But Gillett and Hicks would have been in contempt of court here if they had continued in the US. The ultimate penalty for contempt is imprisonment, which no doubt concentrated their minds and made them realise that they had scored an own goal this time.