Boris Berezovsky v Roman Abramovich : Boris Berezovsky v Hine & Ors (2010)


Where issues raised common questions of fact in two sets of related proceedings in the Commercial Court and the Chancery Division, it was appropriate to try those issues once in the Commercial Court proceedings. That would achieve a significant saving of costs and court time and would remove the risk of inconsistent decisions.


The court was required to determine at a joint case management conference the extent to which two sets of related actions needed to be managed together. Two sets of actions, namely the "Abramovich action", which was proceeding in the Commercial Court, and three cases proceeding in the Chancery Division, had been identified as raising common questions of fact. The defendants proposed that what were known as the "Rusal issues", which were considered to be important issues arising in all actions, should be determined at the same time and before the same judge as the Abramovich action and that that action should be tried first. The claimant maintained that although there was a significant area of overlap between the two sets of proceedings, including the Rusal issues, it was not as significant as the defendants sought to make out. The issue for determination was whether the two sets of actions should be allowed to continue in their own respective ways, or whether steps should be taken to have at least some of the overlapping issues dealt with only once.


A trial of the Rusal issues once, and once only, in the Abramovich action was sensible, achievable, desirable and fair for the following reasons: (a) the Rusal issues were discrete issues with sufficiently well-defined boundaries to make a trial of them practicable; (b) they were substantial issues in both sets of proceedings and to try them once would achieve a very significant saving of costs and court time; (c) it would remove the risk of inconsistent decisions in relation to that issue; (d) the fact that there remained the prospect of inconsistent decisions on other shared questions of fact did not mean that the prospect should not be removed in relation to the Rusal issues; (e) it was illogical to say that, if a finding on the Rusal issues was to bind all defendants, then they should be bound on other common or shared issues, and that if that was not the case then there should not be a single trial of the Rusal issues; (f) on the basis of the evidence as it stood, there did not appear to be other obvious candidates to join the Rusal issues in the fold of issues to be determined in the Abramovich proceedings so as to bind all parties. Other issues were not sufficiently common, not sufficiently severable, or not practicably triable within the Abramovich action or subject to a combination of those factors; (g) it was undesirable to increase the number and scope of potential areas of inconsistent findings by adding the Rusal issues to them. Consequently, the Rusal issues were sufficiently discrete, sufficiently important and sufficiently common to make it proper to try them once, in the Abramovich action, with the defendants in other actions having the opportunity to participate in that action for that purpose and so as to bind all parties by findings made in relation to it (see paras 28-29 of judgment).

Judgment accordingly