Phillips v Eyre and its application to multi-state torts in Nigeria: A critique
Choice of jurisdiction and applicable law are two questions that usually confront both litigants and the courts. Both have different rules guiding their application. What determines the jurisdiction of a court is different from what informs which law is applicable to a matter. In multi-state tort actions, it is a general principle of traditional English common law that a forum court applies the forum law to such actions provided ‘double liability’ of the defendant is proved. This is what is known as the rule in Phillips v Eyre. As straightforward as the double liability rule is, a critical appraisal of Nigerian case law reveals that Nigerian courts including the Supreme Court have continuously misconstrued and misapplied the rule as a rule of jurisdiction rather than that of applicable law. The misapplication of this rule in some cases has resulted in obvious miscarriage of justice; further compounded the problem of choice of jurisdiction rules of the courts and at the least portrayed the judicial ineptitude of Nigeria courts in the area of conflict of laws.
Keywords: multi-state torts, jurisdiction, applicable law, Phillips v Eyre