The DIFC Courts’ position as the region’s preeminent English-language business courts was reinforced in the first half of 2016, with the number and total value of cases continuing to increase strongly.
The period was also notable for a significant increase in the number of enforcement cases, indicating the confidence business has in the DIFC Courts as an efficient and effective conduit to reclaim money owed to them.
Between January and June 2016, the total value of Court of First Instance (CFI) cases, including arbitration-related cases and counter claims, and enforcement cases, handled by Dubai’s established English-language, commercial common law judicial system was approximately Dh3.44 billion. This compares with Dh2.33 billion in the same period of last year, a 48 per cent year-on-year increase.
Driving growth was a significant increase in the number of enforcement cases before the DIFC Courts. While the total number of CFI and arbitration cases grew by 35 per cent during the period, from 17 to 23, the total number of enforcement cases grew by 194 per cent, from 17 to 50.
The average claim value of enforcement cases also grew significantly during the period, from Dh6 million in the first half of 2015 to Dh31 million this year, a fourfold increase. Meanwhile, the average claim value of CFI and arbitration-related cases fell from Dh132 million to Dh82 million, suggesting the main courts’ workload is maturing to include a broad mix of both high value and moderate value commercial disputes. Overall, the average value of claims filed with the DIFC Courts in the first half of 2016 increased by 38 per cent from Dh16.5 million to Dh22.7 million.
The DIFC Courts began the year by setting out an ambitious five-year plan setting out their aspiration to be one of the world’s leading commercial courts by 2021. It focuses on four key qualities: innovation and continuing to set regional and international firsts; judicial excellence and offering a uniquely international and experienced bench of judges; service excellence and the implementation of benchmark local and global standards; and connectivity and building the world’s strongest enforcement regime.
Mark Beer, OBE, DIFC Courts CEO & Registrar, said: “The DIFC Courts’ performance in the first half of 2016 highlights the progress we are making in our mission to become one of the world’s leading commercial courts. It is particularly pleasing to see the work we have done to be one of the world’s most connected courts leading directly to a record number of businesses turning to the DIFC Courts to enforce monies owed to them.”
Graham Lovett, a Partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, said: “The DIFC Courts have proved to be a popular choice for a number of businesses and for a variety of reasons, whether it is a greater familiarity of that business with a common law court system, or the perception that the DIFC Courts offer a wider range of procedural options, such as quick judgments, injunctions, active case management or an ability to recover a larger proportion of legal costs.”
The workload of the DIFC Courts’ Small Claims Tribunal (SCT), fell in the first half of 2016, from 108 cases to 79. However, the total value of claims increased from Dh7 million to Dh9 million year-on-year, suggesting the claimants are responding to the new higher Dh1 million threshold for case values.