Choice of forum for claims brought against businesses

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KG Berlin: Place of jurisdiction is the location of the company’s registered office

A business’s ordinary place of jurisdiction depends on the location of the company’s registered office. That was the verdict of Berlin’s court of appeals – the Kammergericht (KG) Berlin – in a ruling from June 17, 2022 (case ref.: 2 AR 23/22).

In instances where legal disputes are decided in court, the legal venue is a key factor, both in national and international cases. A commercial law firm with an experienced team of litigation experts such as MTR Legal Rechtsanwälte is best placed to represent domestic and international clients in these instances.

A lot of businesses have offices in a number of different cities, but it is important to note that the administrative headquarters and the registered office specified in the articles of association are not always the same place. This raises the question of which court has jurisdiction when conducting legal proceedings, including in instances where a writ of execution is to be enforced against a company. The KG Berlin has provided some clarity on this issue, ruling that the ordinary place of jurisdiction is based on the location of the registered office as revealed in the articles of association, and this is the case even if there are no operational facilities at the registered office.

Company’s registered office key to determining ordinary place of jurisdiction

The creditor in the case in question had obtained a writ of execution against a company and wanted to apply for a court attachment and transfer order. The defendant company is registered in the commercial register of the District Court of Charlottenburg – the Amtsgericht (AG) Charlottenburg – with its registered office in Berlin and a business address within the catchment area of Schöneberg’s district court, the AG Schöneberg.

The creditor sought to file for enforcement through the AG Charlottenburg. But the latter felt that it did not have local jurisdiction and instead transferred the case to the District Court of Cologne – the AG Köln – which is where the business’s administrative headquarters is located. However, it also had doubts about its jurisdiction, but instead of referring the case to the AG Schöneberg as requested by the creditor, it referred the matter back to the AG Charlottenburg, which ultimately referred the case to the KG Berlin.

Administrative headquarters irrelevant to place of jurisdiction

The KG Berlin concluded that the AG Schöneberg had jurisdiction. Citing section 828(2) of the German Code of Civil Procedure (ZPO), the court noted that the appropriate court of execution for issuing an attachment and transfer order is the local court at which the debtor has their ordinary place of jurisdiction in Germany. In cases involving a legal entity, the ordinary place of jurisdiction is determined by the registered office of the company. If this legal entity is a UG or a GmbH – two types of companies in Germany with limited liability – the company’s registered office is specified in the articles of association. Whether the company has offices in other locations or whether the administrative headquarters is not the same as the registered office is irrelevant.

If the company’s registered office spans multiple judicial districts, e.g., Berlin, the business address recorded in the commercial register can be used to further specify the competent court.

The team of legal experts at MTR Legal Rechtsanwälte advises on matters relating to litigation.

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