Fascinating post up over at CNReviews, entitled, “Husband and wife sue mistress for 330,000 yuan in “lover’s fees.” The gist of the case is that a married couple sued the husband’s former mistress to require her to return 330,000 RMB the husband had given her during the course of the affair. The court ruled in favor of the married couple.
I will leave the moral lessons for others to analyze, but I love this case for all it can teach about how China’s courts (and arbitrators) tend to make their decisions. And though I am relying entirely on CN Reviews for the case analysis, that is fine because the point I will be making is only that Chinese courts rely far more on equity than do Western courts.
Chinese courts tend to give large account to what is “fair,” not just to what the law says. This means that if a Chinese company is late on a contract because its own supplier was late in delivering it a necessary component part, the Chinese court may very well excuse the delay. This means that if the price of a necessary component part jumps precipitously, a Chinese court might very well excuse the Chinese supplier for substituting in a cheaper part. Many times, Westerners ascribe Chinese court rulings to corruption, when they very well might have been due to equity.
If you have a dispute that may be heading to a Chinese court or to arbitration before a Chinese arbitration, think long and hard about the equities involved, not just the law.
UPDATE: This post has spurred a rather funny follow-up post by Dan Hull over at the What About Clients? Blog.

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Dan Harris

I am a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

I mostly represent companies doing business in emerging market countries. It has taken me many years to build my network and it takes constant communication and travel to maintain it. My work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

I was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, I am AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), I am rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (its highest rating), and I am a SuperLawyer.

I am a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and I constantly travel between the United States and Asia. I most commonly speak on China law issues and I am the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog (www.chinalawblog.com). Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed me regarding various aspects of my international law practice.

I am licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at my firm, I focus on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.