Return of the Italian Torpedo

A recent change in Cyprus law has re-opened the door to a forgotten legal tactic that can be used to frustrate and even sink proceedings before they set sail.

The slang term ‘Italian torpedo’ was used to refer to a litigation manoeuvre that consisted of issuing proceedings against a prospective opponent in a country with a notoriously slow and inefficient legal system.  This was done deliberately to cause a delay and, ideally, abandonment of the claim altogether.

It was previously thought that the tactic had been significantly undermined, through a combination of increased efficiency of overseas court systems, and the implementation of European law that enabled early challenges to jurisdiction where the chosen forum was clearly being used to cause delay.

Grosvenor Law (Dan Morrison / Thomas Burton Wills) recently acted for a fund executive in the energy-sector in a claim for damages for wrongful dismissal.  The fund pre-emptively issued proceedings in Cyprus, leading to contested proceedings in that jurisdiction. As a preliminary step, Grosvenor Law sought to challenge jurisdiction on the basis that the proceedings were effectively an employment dispute, and the executive was ordinarily resident in England.  Therefore, the claim should have been commenced in England.

In the course of the Cyprus proceedings, the Supreme Court of Cyprus handed down a separate decision1 effectively meaning that claims in Cyprus were immune from jurisdiction challenges.  The Court held that determining jurisdiction involved a premature and inappropriate assessment of facts which should not take place at a preliminary stage.  Accordingly, the decision on jurisdiction would have to be made at any final hearing.  Given that claims can take up to 10 years to reach trial in Cyprus, it meant that an outcome would be pushed so far into the future as to be meaningless.

As a result, it appears that the door has been opened again to use Cyprus as a jurisdiction to cause deliberate delay, where this would be advantageous for you.

Grosvenor Law have exceptional expertise in handling cross-border claims in commercial litigation, fraud, employment and family law.  We advise those bringing and defending claims across multiple jurisdictions and, as always, we fight to win.

  1. Αerocandia Aviation Services CY LTD v Gkioka (E136/2020) & Kontogiorgi v Αerocandia Aviation Services CY LTD (E165/2020) – Link to judgment (in Greek)
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