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Compagnie de Navigation et Transports SA (France) v. Mediterranean Shipping Co. SA (Switzerland)
Swiss Federal Supreme Court
21 Y.B. Comm. Arb. 690 (1996)
A French company, Somatrans ZAE, signed a contract with Mediterranean Shipping Co. SA (MSC) (defendant) for MSC to ship two sealed containers. MSC and Somatrans ZAE specialized in international sea shipping and had worked together over several years. An original bill of lading issued for the containers identified the consignee as Somatrans, Île de la Réunion (Somatrans Réunion). Somatrans ZAE did not sign the original bill of lading but filled it out and then gave it to MSC. On the back of the bill of lading were general conditions that were also included on other bills of lading MSC and Somatrans ZAE had used in transactions during their business relationship. Article 2 of the general conditions stated that disputes arising from the bill of lading were to be arbitrated. Somatrans Réunion signed the general conditions on the original bill of lading and also signed a copy. Upon examining the containers, Somatrans Réunion found they had been forced open, and packages had been stolen. Somatrans ZAE subsequently sought indemnification from its insurer, Compagnie de Navigation et Transports SA (CNT) (plaintiff). CNT filed reimbursement proceedings against MSC in the Court of First Instance in Geneva. MSC invoked the arbitration clause and challenged the jurisdiction of the court. MSC’s objection was dismissed. MSC appealed, and the Court of Appeal of the Canton Geneva reversed. CNT appealed the decision of the court of appeal, arguing that the arbitration clause was invalid because the shipper, Somatrans ZAE, never signed the bill of lading.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning
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