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Date:   15 February 2001
Court:   Supreme Court of Denmark
Local case reference:   n/a
CISG Nordic ID:   010215DK
Country of decision:   Denmark
Buyer's country:   Denmark
Seller's country:   Italy
Goods involved:   Pipes / Jurisdiction
Case history:   1st instance: 1997 November 26 Western High Court (not available)
Original language:   Danish
Provisions cited:   CISG articles 9, 31
Original court document:   Reported below in full text.
Rapporteur:   Thomas Neumann
Case citations:   n/a

 

Commentary

Hertz & Lookofsky, Ugeskrift for Retsvæsen (UfR) (B) [2001] 558-561.

Bernstein & Lookofsky, Understanding the CISG in Europe, 2d ed., Kluwer (2003) §: 2-11 n.156; §: 4-2 n.15; §: 4-3 n.31.

[2005] Schlechtriem & Schwenzer ed., Commentary on UN Convention on International Sale of Goods, 2d (English) ed., Oxford University Press, Art. 31 paras. 76, 92.

 

 

Abstract

by Steensgaard, Kasper

The case concerned jurisdiction a case of delivery of defective pipes between a Danish buyer and an Italian seller. The court had to decide whether a "franco" delivery clause in the parties' agreement could forms basis for jurisdiction under art. 5(1) Brussels Convention (1968). The parties agreed that Italian law was applicable to the case, the clause had to be interpreted accordingly, which meant that the clause only affected the distribution of transportation costs - and not the place of delivery (as opposed to under § 65 of the Danish Sales Act). The place of delivery was then decided under art. 31(a) CISG, which was at the place of handing over the pipes to the first carrier in Italy. Thus the Danish courts could not claim jurisdiction under art. 5(1) Brussels Convention (1968), and the case was dismissed. The Supreme Court of Denmark affirmed the decision by the Western High Court.


Abstracts are also available at Unilex and CISG W3

 

 

Translated text

Reproduced with permission from CISG Denmark

 

Judgment of the Danish Supreme Court

 

(Damstahl A/S v. A.T.I. S.r.l)

 

15 February 2001 [Case No. 569/1997]

 

Court composed of Hornslet, Marie-Louise Andreasen, Torben Melchior, Peter Block, Lene Pagter Kristensen.

 

Appearances: Torben Bonderop, advokat,for the buyer; Thomas Højlund, advokat, for the seller.

 

Appeal from the High Court, Western Division

 

Judgment of Danish High Court, Western Division, 26 November 1997

Judgment of the Supreme Court

 

Judgment of the Danish High Court, Western Division,

Chamber no. 1 of 26 November 1997

 

Court composed of Lis Sejr, Lilholt, H. Pagaard (temporarily appointed).

 

[PLEADINGS OF THE PARTIES]

 

In these proceedings, which were brought on 4 August 1995, the Plaintiff, Damstahl A/S [hereinafter "Buyer"], claims as follows:

 

1. That the Defendant A.T.I. S.r.l. [hereinafter "Seller"], be ordered to acknowledge that, acording to a declaration of 31 July 1995, the [Buyer] has properly indemnified its Norwegian subsidiary Damstahl AS for any sum – not including the counterclaim made by the subsidiary – that the subsidiary was ordered to pay to K. Lund AS Engros by way of damages pursuant to a judgment or court settlement relating to Case No. A 199/95 in the Midthordland Herredsrett (district court) in Norway.

 

2. That the [Seller] be ordered to pay to the [Buyer] the sum that, according to a declaration of 31 July 1995, the [Buyer] has paid to indemnify its Norwegian subsidiary Damstahl AS in connection with Case No. A 199/95 plus interest at the usual rate as from the date of the [Buyer]'s performance of the above declaration until payment is made.

 

The [Buyer]'s claims concern the [Seller]'s delivery of pipes to the [Buyer] in May 1993 for transmission to K. Lund AS Engros via the Norwegian subsidiary. The [Buyer] has claimed that the goods delivered do not conform with the contract.

 

The [Buyer] brought proceedings before the Danish High Court, Western Division, arguing that the contractual place of delivery was Skanderborg, Denmark, relying on Article 5(1) of the EC Judgments Convention, see section 227(1) of the Danish Administration of Justice Act.

 

In its defence of 10 May 1996, the [Seller] moved for dismissal of the case, arguing that delivery was effected in Italy when the pipes were handed over to an "independent carrier" and that the courts of Denmark have no jurisdiction over the seller, neither under the provisions of the EC Judgments Convention nor the Danish rules on jurisdiction.

 

The issue of jurisdiction was considered in separate, oral arguments, see section 253 of the Danish Administration of Justice Act.

 

[FACTS OF THE CASE]

 

The facts of the case relevant to the issue under consideration are:

 

For the purpose of a construction contract for a gas pipe installation in Norway, the contractor, Trønderrør AS, ordered acid- and rust-resistant pipes from K. Lund AS Engros, who went on to conclude a contract with the [Buyer]'s Norwegian subsidiary, Damstahl AS, for the delivery of the pipes. At the request of Damstahl AS, the [Buyer] sent an inquiry of 10 January 1992 to the [Seller] concerning the delivery of, inter alia, 1500 m of pipes 30 x 2 mm of the type wst. 4436/aisi 316. The [Seller] replied by a telex of the same day, offering to deliver, inter alia, the pipes concerned at a price stated as "31.45" per unit. Against the quoted price in the telex, the figure "31.-" was indicated in a different handwriting.

 

By a telex of 14 January 1992 to the [Seller] and referring to the [Seller]'s telex of 10 January 1992 as well as a telephone conversation of 13 January, the [Buyer] ordered the pipes concerned at the price of 31.00 Danish kroner per unit for delivery in March 1992. The telex includes the following information:

 

"...Delivery: Free delivered Skanderborg.

[...]

Certificate: According to DIN 50049/3.1.b – with invoice. The date on which we have received the goods as well as certificates is deemed to constitute the date of delivery.

[...]

We look forward to receiving your order confirmation. ..."

 

On 16 January 1992, the [Seller] sent its order confirmation, containing a box with the pre-printed text "PORTO – PORT" in which the text "F.CO DOMIC. NON SDOG" had been typed. The order confirmation contains a pre-printed text reading:

 

"TERMINI DI CONSEGNA NON SONO IMPEGNATIVI / THE DELIVERY TERMS ARE NOT BINDING."

 

The pipes were delivered in Skanderborg as agreed and the [Seller] sent an invoice dated 24 March 1992, containing a box with pre-printed text "PORTO – TO in which the text "F.CO DOMIC. NON SDOG" had been typed.

 

During the proceedings, an invoice was produced addressed to the [Seller] by the firm of Avandero, Milan, Italy, who, according to the information available, had been signed by the [Seller] to carry the pipes ordered from Italy to Denmark.

 

The invoice reads, inter alia:

 

"EXPORT PER 8660 SKANDERBORG

[...]

RESA: DDU NON SDOGANATO."

 

The [Buyer] transmitted the pipes to Norway, where its Norwegian subsidiary delivered them to K. Lund AS Engros, who in turn delivered the pipes to the contractor, Trønderrør AS. After they had been buried, the pipes leaked and the contractor claimed Norwegian kroner 655,419 in damages from K. Lund AS Engros as well as the [Buyer]'s Norwegian subsidiary. K. Lund AS Engros admitted liability and subsequently brought proceedings against the [Buyer]'s Norwegian subsidiary claiming that the subsidiary be ordered to reimburse the damages paid. In a declaration of 31 July 1995 to its Norwegian subsidiary, the [Buyer] promised to indemnify the subsidiary for any sum that the subsidiary would be ordered to pay to K. Lund AS Engros.

 

The [Buyer] produced a fax of 17 November 1992 sent to the [Seller] in which the [Buyer] places an order for pipes and in which delivery is specified as "Delivery: free Skanderborg, packing incl." In a fax of 1 December 1992, the [Seller] acknowledged the order, and the fax contains the following term: "CONDITIONS AS USUAL."

 

In his testimony Mr Ole Petersen, Ejer, explained that he is employed as group purchasing manager with the [Buyer] and has been a member of the [Buyer]'s staff since 1980. He is also in charge of purchasing for the Swedish and Norwegian subsidiaries. Cooperation with the [Seller] began in 1981-82. Mr. Stefano Benetti phoned him and they agreed to meet in Italy. At this meeting terms of payment and delivery were discussed but prices and time of delivery were to be agreed on individually for each consignment. They agreed on the following term of delivery: free delivered Skanderborg; and the following term of payment: invoice month + 60 days. In his opinion this means that the agreed terms of delivery entail that delivery has been effected when the goods have been unloaded in Skanderborg. The negotiations were conducted in English. No supply agreement was prepared but the parties subsequently made a "general agreement" under which the [Buyer] acts as the [Seller]'s representative in Scandinavia. The case at hand started when the [Buyer] sent an inquiry to the [Seller], which was the usual procedure, and the [Seller] replied by making an offer on 10 January 1992. The offer contains changes in prices made in his handwriting and these changes were made following a telephone conversation with Mr Losa, who accepted the changed prices. The order was placed on 14 January 1992 and contained the usual term of delivery: free delivered Skanderborg. The requirement of a certificate means that the goods cannot be deemed delivered until the certificate has been received. The first certificate was received by fax on 14 January 1992, which was quite acceptable. In the order the [Buyer] had asked for a confirmation, which was sent on 16 January 1992. The confirmation states that the time of delivery is week 14 in 1992, i.e. the first week of April. The parties had originally contemplated delivery in March 1992.

 

Since 1982 the trading volume between the parties has ranged from 200 metric tons to 1,000 metric tons annually. In 1993 the [Buyer] bought 390 tons of goods at a value of 7.8 million Danish kroner; 881 tons at a value of 17.4 million Danish kroner in 1994; 385 tons at a value of 12 million Danish kroner in 1995; and 76 tons at a value of 2 million Danish kroner in 1996. Occasionally goods were damaged in transit. In such cases an endorsement to that effect was made on the waybill and a request for a credit note was faxed to the [Seller]. These were always issued without any problems and only concerned small amounts. He does not know whether the [Seller] made any claims against the carrier. He mentioned a specific example where goods were delivered in March 1993; these goods had not been properly secured during the transport and part of the goods had been damaged. When asked, the [Seller] replied that the amount of the damage could be set-off against the price of the next consignment. The damage amounted to 76,000 Danish kroner.

 

In his testimony Mr Ruggieri Losa Erba, Italy, explained that he has been on the [Seller]'s staff since 1977. He has been in charge of the sale of the stainless steel produced by the [Seller] for 15 years. Approximately 90% of the production is exported, mainly to countries in Europe. The free delivered term is a usual term for sale in Europe. In his opinion the term entails that the seller has to find a carrier, hand over the goods to the carrier, who delivers them to the customer. The seller pays the costs of transporting the goods. This term had been chosen because the [Seller] wanted to provide the customer with the service of finding and paying the carrier. He participated in the negotiations with the [Buyer] in the early 1980s. The [Seller] has always used this term and has never received complaints about the term nor has it been the subject of renegotiation. It is correct that, in a few cases, the [Seller] has issued a credit note to the [Buyer] concerning the goods damaged in transit. The [Seller] was under no obligation to do so but decided to issue the credit notes to keep up the good relationship between the parties. The credit notes were for small amounts of 5,000-10,000 Danish kroner. The handwritten order confirmation of 1 December 1992, in which he wrote "conditions: as usual," was supplemented by a typewritten confirmation containing the usual term: "F.CO DOMIC. NON SDOG." The DDU term in the invoice from the carrier Avandero to the [Seller] concerns the relationship between the carrier and the [Seller]. Thereby the carrier – on its own initiative – accepted the risk vis-á-vis the [Seller].

 

In support of the claim that the case should be heard on its merits, the [Buyer] has argued primarily that the parties have agreed that delivery is to be effected in Skanderborg and accordingly, the Western Division of the Danish High Court has territorial jurisdiction over the case under Article 5(1) of the EC Judgments Convention. The UN Convention on the International Sale of Goods (CISG) may apply to the contract but Article 31(a) of the CISG, which the [Seller] relies on for its motion for dismissal, is a non-mandatory provision (see Article 6 of the CISG), from which the parties have agreed to derogate. According to the [Buyer]'s order of 14 January 1992 the term of delivery was free delivered Skanderborg. The [Seller]'s order confirmation of 16 January 1992 states that the parties had agreed: "F.CO DOMIC. NON SDOG," i.e. "franco domicile non sdognato," which is the Italian name for the INCOTERM DDU (delivered duty unpaid). The contract between the [Seller] and the carrier contained the same term. Under the DDU term the seller has to pay the cost and bear the risk involved and the goods are not delivered until they have been placed at the buyer's disposal at the place of destination, in casu Skanderborg. This is also clear from the provision in the order that the goods will not be deemed delivered until the [Buyer] has received the goods as well as the certificate. The [Buyer] and the [Seller] agree that the free delivered term must be interpreted as explained and that this is supported by the provision of section 65 of the Danish Sale of Goods Act.

 

In case the court does not agree that the free delivered term in the contract is to be interpreted as submitted, the [Buyer] claims in the first alternative that the parties have done business in accordance with the [Buyer]'s interpretation of the free delivered term, a practice that binds the [Seller], see Article 9 of the CISG. Consequently, the [Seller] cannot rely on the delivery term contained in his order confirmation. It must therefore be deemed that the parties have derogated from Article 31(a) as a result of the practices established between them.

 

In the second alternative, the [Buyer] has claimed that at the time of conclusion of the contract neither party was aware that the acceptance in reality did not conform with the offer (in Danish law referred to as "skjult dissens", i.e. hidden dissent) and that the [Seller] bears the risk hereof. More specifically the [Buyer] has argued that the contract between the parties had in reality been concluded when the [Buyer] placed his order, that all previous dealings between the parties had been done in accordance with the buyer's interpretation of the free delivered term, that the [Buyer] therefore had no reason to be aware of a subsequent, different delivery term - in Italian – in the order confirmation, a term that was in effect superfluous. Consequently the term should not be taken into consideration.

 

In support of its motion to dismiss, the [Seller] has primarily argued that the Western Division of the Danish High Court does not have jurisdiction under Article 5(1) of the EC Judgments Convention because delivery under Article 31 of the CISG is effected when the goods are handed over to the first carrier, and this was done when the goods were handed over to the carrier Avandero S.p.A. of Milan. The contract between the parties must be deemed concluded when the order confirmation was received because the [Buyer] requested a confirmation of the order. The order confirmation contains the term "franco domicile non sdognato", which is not the Italian name for the INCOTERM DDU term, but a term that solely specifies the allocation of costs and does not specify the passing of the risk or the place of delivery. The Italian name of the DDU term is "reso non sdognato". The term contained in the carrier's invoice to the [Seller] is irrelevant for establishing the contract between the [Buyer] and the [Seller]. Italian law treats the free delivered term as a term allocating costs, which is the interpretation that applies in most international sales.

 

As to the [Buyer]'s first alternative claim, the [Seller] denies that previous dealings between the parties were based on the interpretation of the terms of delivery alleged by the [Buyer]. The [Buyer] has not proved the existence of a general agreement concerning the terms of delivery and the presented correspondence concerning a subsequent order does not prove that such practices exist. The fact that the [Seller] has agreed to reimburse the [Buyer] for minor damage to the goods in transit in order to keep up the good relationship between the parties is irrelevant.

 

As to the [Buyer]'s second alternative claim, the [Seller] denies that, unknown to the parties, the acceptance in reality did not conform with the offer (hidden dissent) and that the [Seller] bears the risk hereof.

 

GROUNDS FOR THE DECISION

 

The [Buyer]'s telex of 14 January 1992, in which it places the order for the pipes, states that delivery is to be made "free delivered Skanderborg". In the same telex the [Buyer] asked for an order confirmation from the [Seller]. The [Seller]'s order confirmation of 16 January 1992, which has not been disputed by the [Buyer] and therefore forms part of the contractual basis, states that delivery is to be made "F.CO DOMIC. NON SDOG." The [Buyer] has argued that the term of delivery contained in the [Seller]'s confirmation of 16 January 1992 corresponds to the INCOTERM DDU term, which entails that delivery must be effected in Skanderborg. The seller has argued that a free delivered term in international sales contracts is usually interpreted as governing solely the allocation of the costs of transporting the goods, and that this corresponds to the interpretation under Italian law; similarly the term in the order confirmation solely applies to the allocation of costs.

 

The parties agree that Italian law applies for the purpose of establishing the place of delivery.

 

On the evidence the court finds that the term contained in the [Seller]'s order confirmation does not correspond to the INCOTERMS DDU term. Moreover, the court finds that a free delivered term in international sales contracts is usually interpreted as to apply solely to the allocation of the costs of transporting the goods. On these grounds, it has not been proved to the satisfaction of the court that a contract has been concluded to the effect that the contractual place of delivery is Skanderborg. The court finds that the terms of delivery stated in the carrier's invoice to the [Seller] are immaterial as to the relations between the [Buyer] and the [Seller].

 

Furthermore, the court is not satisfied that trade between the parties has been based on the buyer's interpretation of the free delivered term, and as there is no basis for letting the [Seller] bear the risk of any disagreement between the parties, the place of delivery has to be established in accordance with Article 31(a) of the CISG. Accordingly, delivery was effected in Italy and the Danish courts do not have jurisdiction to hear the claim for damages against the [Seller] under Article 5(1) of the EC Judgments Convention nor under the Danish rules on jurisdiction.

 

The court hereby finds for the [Seller].

 

The [Buyer], Damstahl AS, is ordered to pay the costs, i.e. Danish kroner 25,000, to the [Seller], A.T.I. S.r.l.

 

Judgment of the Supreme Court

15 February 2001

 

Appeal from the Western Division of the High Court, chamber no. 1.

 

The [Buyer], Damstahl A/S, claims that the appeal be allowed and that the case be remitted to the Western Division of the High Court for a full trial on the merits.

 

The [Seller]. A.T.I. S.r.l., has moved for dismissal of the appeal.

 

For the purposes of these proceedings, further details have been obtained and Mr Osvaldo Jatri, who is employed with the carriers Avandero, Milan, has given evidence.

 

The [Seller]'s order to Avandero, dated 24 March 1992, includes the following term: "Condizioni resa: F.CO DOM. NON SDOG."

 

The order of 17 November 1992 and the order confirmation of 1 December 1992 mentioned in the judgment of the High Court concern the consignment mentioned by Mr. Petersen in his testimony and which was damaged in transit; the loss is estimated to 76,000 Danish kroner. The order of 17 November 1992 stated:

 

"Please be very careful with packing and handling, must be without dents ... the tubes are for candleholders."

 

This Court has requested and received information about Italian law from the Italian Ministry of Justice. In its reply of 16 September 1999 to the Court's questions, the Italian Ministry of Justice explained, inter alia (translated):

 

"Question 1:

"The free delivery term used in Italian contracts for the sale of goods is a cost allocation term. The free delivered terms used in commercial contracts (for instance CIF-cost insurance freight, FOB-free on board, and DAF-delivered at frontier, which are all common in international contracts) do not change the rule that the seller is relieved of his obligations when the goods are handed over to the carrier or the rule that the buyer bears the risk of the goods being lost in transit. This interpretation is established Italian case law in respect of the most widely used free delivered terms.

 

"These general statements do not prevent the use of free delivered terms stipulating that the seller shall bear the risk during the carriage of the goods to their destination if this follows from an agreement or usages. An 'agreement' is a contract concluded by the parties.

 

[...]

 

"Questions 2 and 3:

"According to Italian law it is immaterial to the interpretation of the free delivered term whether an Italian firm contracts with a foreign firm located outside Italy, for example a Danish firm located in Denmark, or contracts with another Italian firm."

 

Before this Court the [Buyer] has not argued that the term of delivery contained in the [Seller]'s order confirmation of 16 January 1992 is the Italian equivalent of the INCOTERMS DDU term. The [Buyer] has maintained that the DDU term contained in the invoice from Avandero is part of the contract between the carrier and the [Seller]. The claim made by the seller that this is not the case should be treated as a new allegation and therefore inadmissible. In the [Buyer]'s opinion the information about the damaged goods in March 1993 shows that, according to the practices that the parties have established between themselves, any loss caused by damage in transit has been credited to the [Buyer] and that this was not merely done in case of minor damage.

 

The [Seller] has argued that its order to Avandero shows that the term of delivery is the same as that contained in the order confirmation sent to the [Buyer]. The DDU term contained in Avandero's invoice is not part of a contract between the [Seller] and Avandero; moreover, such a term in the contract of carriage is not part of the contract between the [Seller] and the buyer. Those cases in which the [Seller] has credited the [Buyer] with amounts due to damage in transit all involve situations in which the carrier was liable. Liability for the damage amounting to Danish kroner 76,000, caused to the goods in March 1993, was either that of the carrier – careless handling of the goods - or that of the [Seller] – insufficient packaging.

 

This appeal was heard on the basis of written evidence and records, see section 387 of the Danish Administration of Justice Act.

 

GROUNDS FOR THE DECISION

 

On the evidence, the term "F.CO DOMIC. NON SDOG" contained in the order confirmation of 16 January 1992 is an abbreviation of "franco domicile non sdognato", which translates into "free delivered domicile, duty unpaid." Both the buyer's order and the seller's confirmation contained a free delivered term. As the parties agree that Italian law governs the contract and as it appears from the information requested and received by this Court that Italian law treats a free delivered term exclusively as a cost allocation term, this Court finds that the contract between the parties does not stipulate that the place of delivery is Skanderborg.

 

Having regard to the [Seller]'s order to the carrier of 24 March 1992, this Court is satisfied that the [Seller] did not agree to the DDU term contained in the carrier's invoice and the Court therefore finds that this term is irrelevant to these proceedings. The Court finds that the [Seller] has not introduced a new allegation in this respect.

 

It has not been proved to the satisfaction of the Court that the dealings between the parties have been based on the [Buyer]'s interpretation of the free delivered term.

 

This Court therefore finds that the place of delivery was in Italy, see Article 31(a) of the CISG and accordingly, the Danish courts have no jurisdiction over the [Buyer]'s claim pursuant to Article 5(1) of the EC Judgments Convention.

 

On those grounds the Court hereby rules:

 

Appeal dismissed.

 

The [Buyer], Damstahl A/S, is ordered to pay the costs of the proceedings before this Court, i.e. Danish kroner 25,000, to the [Seller], A.T.I. S.r.l.

 

The [Buyer] is ordered to pay the above costs within two weeks of the pronouncement of this judgment.

 

 

Original text

 

H.D. 15. februar 2001 i sag 569/1997

Damstahl A/S (adv. Torben Bondrop, Kbh.) mod A.T.I. s.r.l. (adv. Thomas Højlund, Kbh.).

 

Vestre Landsrets dom 26. november 1997 (1. afd.)

(Lis Sejr, Lilholt, H. Pagaard (kst.)).

 

Under denne sag, der er anlagt den 4. august 1995, har sagsøgeren, Damstahl A/S, nedlagt følgende påstande:

 

1. Sagsøgte, A.T.I. s.r.l., tilpligtes at anerkende, at sagsøgeren i henhold til erklæring af 31. juli 1995 med føje har friholdt sit norske datterselskab Damstahl AS for ethvert beløb, som datterselskabet - når der bortses fra datterselskabets modkrav - er blevet pålagt at betale til K. Lund AS Engros i erstatning ved dom eller retsforlig i forbindelse med sag nr. A 199/95 ved Midthordland Herredsrett i Norge.

 

2. Sagsøgte tilpligtes til sagsøgeren at betale det beløb, som sagsøgeren i henhold til erklæring af 31. juli 1995 har friholdt sit norske datterselskab Damstahl AS for i forbindelse med sag nr. A 199/95 med tillæg af sædvanlig procesrente fra tidspunktet for sagsøgerens opfyldelse af nævnte erklæring, til betaling sker.

 

Sagsøgerens påstande vedrører sagsøgtes leverance i maj 1993 af rør til sagsøgeren til videreforsendelse via sagsøgerens norske datterselskab til K. Lund Engros AS. Leverancen hævdes af sagsøgeren at være behæftet med mangler.

 

Sagsøgeren har anlagt sagen ved Vestre Landsret under henvisning til artikel 5, nr. 1, i EF-Domskonventionen, jf. retsplejelovens § 227, stk. 1, idet sagsøgeren har gjort gældende, at det aftalte leveringssted for leverancen var Skanderborg.

 

Sagsøgte har i svarskrift af 10. maj 1996 nedlagt påstand om afvisning af sagen, idet sagsøgte har gjort gældende, at levering fandt sted i Italien ved rørenes overgivelse til ”fremmed fragtfører”, og at sagsøgte således hverken i henhold til EF-Domskonventionen eller danske værnetingsregler har værneting i Danmark.

 

Det omtvistede værnetingsspørgsmål har været gjort til genstand for særskilt mundtlig forhandling, jf. retsplejelovens § 253.

 

Sagens nærmere omstændigheder af betydning for afgørelsen af det foreliggende spørgsmål er følgende:

 

Til brug for en entreprise vedrørende et gasrøranlæg i Norge bestilte entreprenøren Trønderrør AS syrefaste og rustfrie rør hos K. Lund AS Engros, der herefter indgik aftale med sagsøgerens norske datterselskab Damstahl AS om levering af rørene. På foranledning af Damstahl AS forespurgte sagsøgeren herefter sagsøgte via telex af 10. januar 1992 om levering af blandt andet 1500 m rør 30 × 2 mm af typen wst. 4436/aisi 316. Sagsøgte besvarede i telefax af samme dag forespørgslen med et tilbud på levering af blandt andet de omhandlede rør til en pris, der er angivet som ”31,45” pr. enhed. Ud for den angivne pris er i telefaxen med anden håndskrift anført ”31,-”.

 

Ved telex af 14. januar 1992 til sagsøgte bestilte sagsøgeren under henvisning til sagsøgtes telefax af 10. januar 1992 og telefonsamtale af 13. januar 1992 de omhandlede rør til en pris på 31,00 DKK pr. enhed til levering i marts 1992. I telexen er blandt andet anført:

”. . .

Levering: franko Skanderborg

. . .

Certifikat: i henhold til din 50049/3.1.b - sammen med fakturaen. Leveringstiden anses for at være datoen, hvor vi har modtaget både varer og certifikater.

. . .

Vi imødeser modtagelse af Deres ordrebekræftelse.

. . . ”

 

Sagsøgte afgav den 16. januar 1992 ordrebekræftelse, hvori der i en rubrik med fortrykt tekst ”PORTO - PORT” med maskinskrift er angivet ”F.CO DOMIC. NON SDOG”. Ordrebekræftelsen indeholder en fortrykt tekst, der er sålydende: ”TERMINI DI CONSEGNA NON SONO IMPEGNATIVI/THE DELIVERY TERMS ARE NOT BINDING”.

 

Rørene blev leveret i Skanderborg som aftalt, og sagsøgte fremsendte faktura dateret den 24. marts 1992, hvori der i rubrikken med fortrykt tekst ”PORTO - TO” med maskinskrift er angivet ”F.CO DOMIC. NON SDOG”.

 

Under sagen er fremlagt en faktura udstedt til sagsøgte af firmaet Avandero, Milano, der efter det oplyste var antaget af sagsøgte til at transportere de bestilte rør fra Italien til Danmark.

 

I fakturaen er blandt andet anført:

”EXPORT PER 8660 SKANDERBORG

. . .

RESA: DDU NON SDOGANATO”

 

De leverede rør blev af sagsøgeren sendt videre til Norge, hvor de gennem sagsøgerens norske datterselskab blev leveret til K. Lund AS Engros, der igen leverede videre til entreprenøren Trønderrør AS. Efter rørenes nedgravning opstod der lækager, hvorefter entreprenøren gjorde et erstatningskrav på norske kr. 655.419 gældende over for både K. Lund Engros og sagsøgerens norske datterselskab. K. Lund AS Engros anerkendte det rejste erstatningskrav og har herefter anlagt sag mod sagsøgerens norske datterselskab med påstand om betaling af den erlagte erstatning. Over for sit norske datterselskab har sagsøgeren den 31. juli 1995 afgivet en erklæring, ifølge hvilken sagsøgeren har påtaget sig at friholde datterselskabet for ethvert beløb, som datterselskabet måtte blive pålagt at betale til K. Lund AS Engros.

 

Sagsøgeren har fremlagt en telefax af 17. november 1992 til sagsøgte, hvori sagsøgeren afgiver ordre på nogle rør, og hvori der vedrørende levering er anført ”Delivery: free Skanderborg, packing incl.”. Sagsøgte har ved telefax af 1. december 1992 bekræftet denne ordre, og der er i telefaxen blandt andet anført ”CONDITIONS AS USUAL”.

 

Ole Petersen, Ejer, har som vidne forklaret, at han er ansat som koncernindkøbschef hos sagsøgeren, hvor han har været ansat siden 1980. Han forestår også indkøb til datterselskaberne i Sverige og Norge. Samarbejdet med sagsøgte begyndte i 1981 8-2. Stefano Benet ti kontaktede dem telefonisk, hvorefter der blev afholdt et møde i Italien. På mødet drøftedes blandt andet betalings- og leveringsvilkår generelt, mens pris og leveringstid skulle aftales fra gang til gang. Det blev aftalt, at leveringsbetingelserne skulle være: Frit leveret Skanderborg. Betalingsbetingelserne skulle være løbende måned + 60 dage. Efter hans opfattelse betyder de aftalte leveringsbetingelser, at levering er sket, når varerne er læsset af i Skanderborg. Under forhandlingerne blev der talt engelsk. Der blev ikke lavet en samhandelskontrakt, men senere er der lavet en ”generel agreement”, hvorefter sagsøgeren er sagsøgtes repræsentant i Skandinavien. Den konkrete sag startede med en forespørgsel fra sagsøgeren til sagsøgte, hvilket er sædvanligt. Herefter fremkom sagsøgte med et tilbud den 10. januar 1992. På dette tilbud er der med hans håndskrift tilføjet nogle ændrede priser, hvilket er sket efter en telefonsamtale med R. Losa, der accepterede de tilskrevne priser. Ordren blev afgivet den 14. januar 1992 og indeholdt den sædvanlige leveringsklausul: frit Skanderborg. Certifikatkravet betyder, at varen ikke kan anses for leveret, før certifikatet er modtaget. Certifikat blev i første omgang modtaget med telefax den 14. januar 1992, hvilket var i orden. I ordren bedes om ordrebekræftelse, der blev afsendt den 16. januar 1992. Af denne fremgår det, at leveringstiden er fastsat til uge 14 i 1992, hvilket er første uge af april. Oprindelig var der foreslået levering i marts 1992. Samhandelen mellem parterne har siden 1982 ligget mellem leveringer på 200 t til 1.000 t årligt. I 1993 købte sagsøgeren 390 t varer til en værdi af 7,8 mio. kr., i 1994 881 t til en værdi af 17,4 mio. kr., i 1995 385 t til en værdi af 12 mio. kr. og i 1996 79 t til en værdi af 2 mio. kr. Der er undertiden opstået transportskader i forbindelse med leveringerne. I så fald har man lavet en påtegning på fragtbrevet og har herefter pr. telex kontaktet sagsøgte for at få en kreditnota. Disse er altid blevet udstedt uden problemer. Det har ikke drejet sig om de store beløb. Han ved ikke, om sagsøgte i disse tilfælde har gjort et ansvar gældende mod transportøren. Han kan nævne et konkret eksempel, hvor man i marts 1993 fik leveret varer, der ikke havde været ordentligt fastgjort under transporten, hvorfor en del af dem var blevet beskadiget. Ved henvendelse til sagsøgte sagde denne, at man kunne modregne i næste levering. Denne skade drejede sig om varer for 76.000 kr.

 

Ruggieri Losa Erba, Italien, har som vidne forklaret, at han har været ansat hos sagsøgte siden 1977. Han har i 15 år varetaget salg af rustfrit stål, som sagsøgte producerer. Ca. 90% af produktionen sælges til udlandet, fortrinsvis til Europa. Franko-klausulen anvendes normalt ved salg i Europa. Han forstår klausulen således, at sagsøgte skal finde en transportør, som får overdraget varerne og leverer til kunden. Sagsøgte betaler for transportomkostningerne. Man har valgt denne klausul, fordi man gerne vil yde kunden den ekstra service at finde og betale transportøren. Han deltog i forhandlingerne med sagsøgeren i begyndelsen af 80'erne. Man har hele tiden brugt den samme klausul. Han har aldrig modtaget reklamationer over klausulen, som heller aldrig er blevet genforhandlet. Det er korrekt, at sagsøgte i nogle tilfælde har udstedt kreditnota til sagsøgeren som følge af opståede transportskader. Dette var man ikke forpligtet til, men har valgt at gøre det på grund af det gode samhandelsforhold. Det har drejet sig om skader på mindre beløb på 5.-10.000 kr. Den håndskrevne ordrebekræftelse af 1. december 1992, hvor han har anført ”conditions: as usual”, er blevet fulgt op af en maskinskreven ordrebekræftelse, hvori den sædvanlige klausul ”F.CO DOMIC. NON SDOG” har været påført. DDU-klausulen, der er anført på fakturaen fra transportøren Avandero til sagsøgte, vedrører forholdet mellem transportøren og sagsøgte. Transportøren har dermed - på eget initiativ - påtaget sig risikoen i forhold til sagsøgte.

 

Sagsøgeren har til støtte for påstanden om, at sagen skal fremmes i realiteten, i første række gjort gældende, at det mellem parterne er aftalt, at levering skal ske i Skanderborg, hvorfor Vestre Landsret i medfør af EF-Domskonventionens artikel 5, nr. 1, har stedlig kompetence til at behandle sagen. FN-Konventionen om internationale køb (CISG) finder nok anvendelse på aftalen, men dennes artikel 31, litra a, som sagsøgte påberåber sig som grundlag for sin afvisningspåstand, er en deklaratorisk bestemmelse, jf. artikel 6, der er fraveget ved parternes aftale. Ifølge sagsøgerens ordre af 14. januar 1992 skulle levering ske franko Skanderborg. Af sagsøgtes ordrebekræftelse af 16. januar 1992 fremgår, at parterne havde aftalt ”F. CO DOMIC. NON SDOG”, dvs. ”franco domicile non sdognato”, hvilket er den italienske betegnelse for INCOTERMS-klausulen DDU (delivered duty unpaid). Denne klausul er gentaget i sagsøgtes aftale med fragtføreren. DDU-klausulen betyder, at sælgeren ud over at bære omkostninger for og risikoen ved transporten først har leveret, når varerne stilles til køberens disposition på bestemmelsesstedet, som i dette tilfælde er aftalt til Skanderborg. Dette tydeliggøres i øvrigt også ved ordrens bestemmelse om, at varerne først kan anses for leveret, når såvel varer som certificat er modtaget. Sagsøgeren er enig med sagsøgte i, at fastlæggelsen af leveringsstedet skal ske efter italiensk ret, men at franko-klausulen skal forstås som anført, understøttes dog af bestemmelsen i den danske købelovs § 65.

 

For det tilfælde, at sagsøgeren ikke får medhold i, at den aftalte franko-klausul må forstås som anført ovenfor, har sagsøgeren i anden række gjort gældende, at parterne har praktiseret deres samhandel i overensstemmelse med sagsøgerens opfattelse af franko-klausulen, hvilken praksis sagsøgte er bundet af, jf. CISG artikel 9, hvorfor sagsøgte ikke kan støtte ret på den leveringsklausul, der er angivet i sagsøgtes ordrebekræftelse. CISG artikel 31, litra a, må således anses for fraveget gennem parternes praksis.

 

Sagsøgeren har i tredje række gjort gældende, at aftalen er indgået med skjult dissens, og at risikoen herfor må bæres af sagsøgte. Sagsøgte har herved nærmere anført, at parternes aftale reelt var indgået på tidspunktet for sagsøgerens ordreafgivelse, at parternes hidtidige samhandel var blevet praktiseret i overensstemmelse med sagsøgerens opfattelse af franko-klausulen, at sagsøgeren herefter ikke havde anledning til at være opmærksom på en efterfølgende afvigende - italiensksproget - leveringsklausul i ordrebekræftelsen, som reelt var overflødig, og at det således ikke kan bebrejdes sagsøgeren, at man ikke gjorde indsigelse mod den der anførte leveringsklausul, hvorfor der skal bortses fra den.

 

Sagsøgte har til støtte for sin afvisningspåstand i første række gjort gældende, at betingelserne for at anse Vestre Landsret for rette værneting i medfør af EF-Domskonventionens artikel 5, nr. 1, ikke er til stede, idet levering i henhold til CISG artikel 31, litra a, er sket ved varernes overgivelse til den første transportør, hvilket skete ved overgivelse til transportøren Avandero s.p.a., Milano. Parternes aftale kan først anses for indgået med modtagelsen af ordrebekræftelsen, idet sagsøgeren ved sin ordreafgivelse selv efterspørger en ordrebekræftelse. I ordrebekræftelsen angives ”franco domicile non sdognato”, som ikke er den italienske betegnelse for INCOTERMS-klausulen DDU, men er en klausul, der alene fastlægger omkostningernes fordeling, og som ikke tager stilling til risikoens overgang eller leveringsstedet. Den italienske betegnelse for DDU-klausulen er ”reso non sdoganato”. Den klausul, der er anført i transportørens faktura til sagsøgte, har ikke betydning for fastlæggelsen af aftalen mellem sagsøgeren og sagsøgte. Da italiensk ret er afgørende for fastlæggelsen af leveringsstedet, har den danske forståelse af frankobestemmelsen ingen betydning. I italiensk ret er frankoklausulen en omkostningsbestemmelse, hvilken forståelse i øvrigt også gælder for de fleste internationale køb.

 

Over for sagsøgerens subsidiære anbringende har sagsøgte bestridt, at parternes samhandel hidtil har været praktiseret i overensstemmelse med den forståelse af leveringsbetingelserne, som sagsøgeren gør gældende. Sagsøgeren har ikke dokumenteret, at der foreligger en generel aftale om leveringsbetingelser, og den fremlagte korrespondance om en efterfølgende ordre kan ikke tages til indtægt for, at der skulle foreligge en sådan praksis. Det forhold, at sagsøgte af hensyn til samhandelsforholdet har accepteret at godtgøre sagsøgeren mindre transportskader, kan ikke tillægges betydning.

 

Over for sagsøgerens mere subsidiære anbringende har sagsøgte bestridt, at der skulle foreligge en skjult dissens, som sagsøgte bærer risikoen for.

 

Landsretten udtaler:

I sagsøgerens telex af 14. januar 1992, hvorved sagsøgeren afgav ordre på de i sagen omhandlede rør, er anført, at levering skal ske ”franco Skanderborg”. Sagsøgeren udbad sig i samme telex en ordrebekræftelse fra sagsøgte. I sagsøgtes ordrebekræftelse af 16. januar 1992, som sagsøgeren ikke har gjort indsigelse imod, og som herefter må anses for en del af aftalegrundlaget, er vedrørende levering anført: ”F.CO DOMIC. NON SDOG.”.

 

Sagsøgeren har gjort gældende, at den i ordren af 14. januar 1992 anførte franko-klausul må forstås således, at leveringsstedet er aftalt til Skanderborg, og at leveringsklausulen i sagsøgtes ordrebekræftelse af 16. januar 1992 svarer til INCOTERMS-klausulen ”DDU”, der ligeledes indebærer, at levering først kan anses for at være sket i Skanderborg.

 

Sagsøgte har heroverfor gjort gældende, at en franko-klausul i internationale køb typisk opfattes som udelukkende vedrørende spørgsmålet om fordelingen af fragtomkostninger, og at dette svarer til forståelsen i italiensk ret, ligesom klausulen i ordrebekræftelsen også kun angår omkostningsfordelingen.

 

Der er mellem parterne enighed om, at italiensk ret skal anvendes ved fastlæggelsen af leveringsstedet.

 

Efter det oplyste kan det ikke lægges til grund, at klausulen i sagsøgtes ordrebekræftelse svarer til INCOTERMS-klausulen ”DDU”. Det må endvidere lægges til grund, at en franko-klausul i internationale køb ofte opfattes som udelukkende vedrørende fordelingen af fragtomkostningerne.

 

Allerede på denne baggrund kan det ikke anses for godtgjort, at der er indgået aftale om, at leveringsstedet var aftalt til Skanderborg. Det bemærkes herved, at angivelsen af leveringsbetingelserne i transportørens faktura til sagsøgte ikke kan tillægges betydning i forholdet mellem sagsøgeren og sagsøgte.

 

Da det endvidere ikke er godtgjort, at parterne i deres samhandel har lagt sagsøgerens forståelse af franko-klausulen til grund, og da der ikke er grundlag for at lade sagsøgte bære risikoen for en eventuel uoverensstemmende opfattelse, må leveringsstedet fastlægges i overensstemmelse med CISG artikel 31, litra a. Leveringen må således anses for sket i Italien, hvorfor der ikke er værneting her i landet efter EF-Domskonventionens artikel 5, nr. 1, eller efter danske værnetingsregler for det mod sagsøgte rejste erstatningskrav.

 

Landsretten tager derfor sagsøgtes afvisningspåstand til følge.

- - -

Sagsøgeren, Damstahl A/S, skal i sagsomkostninger betale 25.000 kr. til sagsøgte, A.T.I. s.r.l.

 

Højesterets dom.

I tidligere instans er afsagt dom af Vestre Landsrets 1. afdeling den 26. november 1997.

I pådømmelsen har deltaget fem dommere: Hornslet, Marie-Louise Andreasen, Torben Melchior, Peter Blok og Lene Pagter Kristensen.

 

Appellanten, Damstahl A/S, har nedlagt påstand om, at dommen ophæves, og sagen hjemvises til behandling i realiteten ved Vestre Landsret.

 

Indstævnte, A.T.I. s.r.l., har påstået stadfæstelse.

 

Der er til brug for Højesteret tilvejebragt yderligere oplysninger og afgivet forklaring af Osvaldo Zatri, der er ansat hos transportfirmaet Avandero, Milano.

 

I A.T.I.'s ordre til Avandero, der er dateret 24. marts 1992, er bl.a. anført: ”Condizioni resa: F.CO DOM. NON SDOG”.

 

Den i dommen omtalte ordre af 17. november 1992 og den omtalte ordrebekræftelse af 1. december 1992 angik den leverance, som er omtalt i Ole Petersens forklaring, ved hvilken der i marts 1993 under transporten skete skade på de leverede varer for 76.000 kr. I ordren af 17. november 1992 er yderligere bl.a. anført:

 

”Please be very carefull with packing and handling, must be without dents . . . the tubes are for candleholders.”

 

Der er fra det italienske justitsministerium indhentet oplysninger om italiensk ret. I ministeriets svar af 6. september 1999 hedder det bl.a. (dansk oversættelse):

 

”Spørgsmål 1:

”Franko”-klausulen, der benyttes i købekontrakter i Italien, er en omkostningsklausul. De ”franko”-klausuler, der er almindelige i handelspraksis (f.eks. CIF-klausulen - cost insurance freight, FOB-klausulen - free on board, klausulen ”frit ved grænsestation” eller ”frit ved grænse”, som er hyppige i international handel), har ikke til formål at ændre ved reglen om, at sælger frigøres fra sin forpligtelse ved overdragelse af varen til fragtfører, eller at friholde køber for risikoen for varernes undergang under transporten. Denne fortolkning er udtrykkelig fastslået i italiensk ret i forbindelse med de hyppigste ”franko”-klausuler.

Hvad der her er sagt generelt udelukker ikke, at man med ”franko”-klausulen kan lade sælger bære risikoen i forbindelse med varetransporten frem til bestemmelsesstedet, såfremt der er indgået aftale herom, eller der er kutyme herfor.

Ved aftale forstås en kontrakt indgået mellem parterne.

. . .

 

Spørgsmål 2 og 3:

Ifølge italiensk lov gør det ingen forskel i fortolkningen af ”franco”-termen, om et italiensk firma handler med et udenlandsk firma beliggende uden for Italien, f.eks. med et dansk firma beliggende i Danmark, eller handler med et andet italiensk firma.”

 

Damstahl har ikke for Højesteret gjort gældende, at den leveringsklausul, der er angivet i A.T.I.'s ordrebekræftelse af 16. januar 1992, er den italienske betegnelse for INCOTERMS-klausulen DDU. Damstahl har fastholdt, at DDU-klausulen i fakturaen fra Avandero er udtryk for den mellem transportøren og A.T.I. indgåede aftale. Det af A.T.I. anførte om, at dette ikke er tilfældet, er et nyt anbringende, som ikke bør tillades fremsat. Oplysningerne vedrørende transportskaden i marts 1993 viser, at der var fast praksis for, at tab ved transportskader blev krediteret Damstahl, og at dette ikke alene skete ved små skader.

 

A.T.I. har anført, at det fremgår af selskabets ordre til Avandero, at leveringsklausulen skulle være som angivet i ordrebekræftelsen til Damstahl. DDU-klausulen angivet i Avanderos faktura beror således ikke på en aftale mellem A.T.I. og Avandero, og i øvrigt har en sådan klausul i transportaftalen ingen betydning for aftaleforholdet mellem A.T.I. og Damstahl. A.T.I.'s krediteringer til fordel for Damstahl i nogle tilfælde, hvor der er opstået transportskader, vedrører situationer, hvor transportøren har været ansvarlig. Med hensyn til skaden til et beløb af 76.000 kr. i foråret 1993 var der tale om et ansvar enten hos transportøren for håndtering under transporten eller hos A.T.I. for dårlig emballering.

 

Sagen er behandlet skriftligt, jf. retsplejelovens § 387.

 

Højesterets bemærkninger.

Klausulen i ordrebekræftelsen af 16. januar 1992 om ”F.CO DOMIC. NON SDO” er efter det oplyste en forkortelse af ”franco domicile non sdognato”, som kan oversættes til ”franco hjemsted, told ikke betalt”. Såvel Damstahls ordre som A.T.I.'s ordrebekræftelse indeholdt således en franco-klausul.

 

Da der er enighed om, at kontraktforholdet er undergivet italiensk ret, og da det fremgår af de til brug for Højesteret indhentede oplysninger, at en francoklausul efter italiensk ret alene er en omkostningsklausul, tiltræder Højesteret, at det ikke fremgår af parternes aftale, at leveringsstedet var aftalt til Skanderborg.

 

Det må på grundlag af A.T.I.'s ordre til transportøren af 24. marts 1992 lægges til grund, at angivelsen af leveringsklausulen DDU i fakturaen fra transportøren ikke hidrører fra A.T.I., og Højesteret tiltræder derfor, at der ikke kan lægges vægt på denne angivelse. Det bemærkes, at A.T.I. ikke i denne forbindelse kan anses at have fremsat et nyt anbringende.

 

Det er heller ikke efter bevisførelsen for Højesteret godtgjort, at parterne i deres samhandel har lagt Damstahls forståelse af franco-klausulen til grund.

 

Højesteret tiltræder herefter, at leveringsstedet var i Italien, jf. CISG art. 31, litra a, og at der derfor ikke i medfør af EF-domskonventionens art. 5, nr. 1, er værneting i Danmark for Damstahls krav. Højesteret stadfæster derfor dommen.

 

Thi kendes for ret:

Landsrettens dom stadfæstes.

I sagsomkostninger for Højesteret skal appellanten, Damstahl A/S, betale 25.000 kr. til indstævnte, A.T.I. s.r.l.

 

De idømte sagsomkostningsbeløb skal betales inden 14 dage efter denne højesteretsdoms afsigelse.

 

 

 

 

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