International disputes continue to dominate the work of the Commercial Court, accounting for 75% of business in 2018-2019, according to the court's annual report, published today. The court defines as ‘international’ any case where the part of the business relevant to the dispute is not carried on in the UK, regardless of where the party is incorporated or resident.
The court is handling 'many more' banking and financial disputes than in previous years, the report reveals, as well as disputes between high net worth individuals from around the world. The average length of trials has risen by two days to nine days, but this may in part be due to one particularly long trial.
In news on schemes to improve efficiency, the report states that a number of cases have been brought under the shorter trials scheme, although the flexible trials scheme 'continues to be under-utilised by parties'. It also echoes a warning by the chancellor of the High Court about the risk of parties using the disclosure pilot against opponents, stating: 'There have also been concerns that there is in some cases “game-playing” with parties taking tactical positions on the completion of the disclosure review document. Encouragement to adopt a cooperative approach remains important.'
Efforts continue to tackle judges' concerns about the quality of factual witness evidence, with a working group formulating best practice for the preparation of witness statements.
In his foreword, Mr Justice Teare, judge in charge of the Commercial and Admiralty Courts, observes that 'few natural disasters (such as the collapse of the dam in South America or the outbreak of avian flu in North America) and few areas of unrest in the world (such as Libya and Yemen) are not subject to detailed attention and analysis in the court’.