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British Airways Board v. Laker Airways Ltd.

1 A.C. 58 (1984)

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British Airways Board v. Laker Airways Ltd.

United Kingdom House of Lords

1 A.C. 58 (1984)

Facts

The British Airways Board and British Caldonian Airways Ltd. (collectively, BA) (plaintiffs) sought an injunction in a United Kingdom court to prevent Laker Airways Ltd. (Laker) (defendant) from pursuing an antitrust lawsuit against BA in the United States. The lower court denied the injunction, and BA appealed. The United Kingdom’s Act of 1980 (1980 act) gave the U.K. Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (secretary of state) authority to issue certain orders if the secretary of state found that a foreign country might regulate international trade in such a way that would damage the trading interests of the United Kingdom. In such a case, section 1 of the 1980 act authorized the secretary of state to issue orders prohibiting compliance by a U.K. person with any requirement or prohibition by the foreign country. Section 2 of the 1980 act authorized the secretary of state to issue orders prohibiting a U.K. person from complying with any requirement to produce commercial documents or information to an overseas court. Section 6 of the 1980 act provided that a U.K. person would not breach English law by paying a foreign judgment and allowed that person a remedy in the United Kingdom to recover noncompensatory money paid on the foreign judgment. While the appeal was pending, the secretary of state issued an order applying sections 1 and 2 to the enforcement of U.S. antitrust laws against U.K. airlines. As a result, the secretary of state prohibited any U.K. business from complying with a requirement or prohibition imposed on that business under the United States’ antitrust laws, and from complying with any request by a U.S. court to produce commercial documents or information. The order provided that one or both prohibitions could be lifted upon the secretary of state’s consent. The Court of Appeal reversed the denial of the antisuit injunction for two reasons. First, the court found that the secretary of state’s order prohibited BA from satisfying any judgment a U.S. court might issue. Second, the court held that BA was prohibited from providing any discovery that might assist in BA’s defense. Laker sought review of the secretary of state’s order, arguing that the order was an ultra vires act because the secretary of state gave no reasons supporting its decision. The Court of Appeal dismissed Laker’s application for review. Laker appealed both decisions to the House of Lords.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Diplock, J.)

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