Dubai – MENA Herald: The DIFC Courts’ standing as an international centre of legal excellence continues to be mirrored by a surge in the value of cases filed, according to figures released today.
The first nine months of 2015 witnessed a five-fold increase in the total value of claims filed with Dubai’s established English-language, commercial common law judicial system, from AED1.1 billion to AED5.3 billion, a higher aggregate value than all claims filed in 2013 and 2014 combined.
The huge increase reflects the increasing size and complexity of cases handled by the DIFC Courts, rather than an increase in the amount of litigation. The total number of cases filed with the Court of First Instance (CFI) in the first nine months of 2015 fell slightly, while the average value per claim has more the doubled, from AED40.3 million to AED95.7 million.
Of the cases heard by the CFI so far in 2015, almost all were international disputes. Moreover, a recent survey by Clyde & Co showed that almost 30% of all mergers and acquisitions contracts in the Middle East which choose litigation now choose the DIFC Courts. Importantly, settlement rates remain extremely high at 92 percent, in part because of an innovative fee structure introduced earlier in 2015 which incentivises parties to settle early by rebating court fees.
Michael Hwang, Chief Justice of the DIFC Courts, said: “There is a clear correlation between the trust that international commerce places in Dubai’s ability to settle complex commercial disputes and the increasing value of cases filed with the DIFC Courts. For businesses across the region and internationally, the DIFC Courts are the preferred forum to hear even the largest commercial disputes.”
The total and average values of cases heard by the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) also increased following the extension of its default jurisdiction to cover all claims up to AED 500,000 in value, regardless of the nature of the case. The extension has benefitted businesses by offering cheaper, faster and confidential access to justice, with the emphasis at SCT hearings on amicable dispute resolution, with parties usually not represented by lawyers. The total value of SCT cases heard in the first nine months of 2015 quadrupled from AED3.7 million to AED 14.6 million, while the average claim value increased by 43% to AED 82,000. Despite the SCT’s increasing workload, over 90 percent of cases are still resolved within four weeks of the case commencing.
Mark Beer, OBE, Chief Executive and Registrar of the DIFC Courts: “The ongoing surge in the value and complexity of cases heard by the DIFC Courts further reinforces their reputation for providing a certain, safe and trusted environment for businesses to operate. Moreover, the ability to maintain such high settlement rates is testament to the significant investments made into world-class people, facilities and processes, as well as the ongoing efforts to connect with other courts systems around the world.”
Since the turn of the year, the DIFC Courts have continued to formalise their links with other international jurisdictions, particularly in commercial centres with strong links to the UAE. Memoranda covering the mutual enforcement of money judgments have been signed with courts in Singapore, New York and Kazakhstan. These build on treaties such as the GCC Protocol and Riyadh Convention, treaties with China and France, and arrangements with many other common law courts overseas.