Commercial Court activity at six-year high despite Covid

America: Growing number of litigants coming to UK

The appeal of the Commercial Court remains strong, with the number of judgments handed down in the past 12 months and the number of litigants at six-year highs, new research has shown.

In the year to 31 March, the court handed down 292 judgments, a 47% increase on 2019/20, a year which the authors at Portland Communications suggested was an anomaly.

More than 90% of these judgments were in response to hearings heard in this period, showing that activity remained strong despite Covid.

There were 1,336 litigants from 75 different nationalities, meaning the latter number was above 70 for the third year in a row, “underlining London’s reputation as an international hub for dispute resolution”.

Portland’s ninth annual survey of the Commercial Court found a dip in the proportion of litigants from the EU (from 16.5% there years ago to 11.5%), while the proportion of UK litigants grew to half of the total.

The report said: “While this decline may be attributed to the fall-out from Brexit, it also corresponds with the establishment of international commercial courts across the EU, including in France, Germany and the Netherlands.

“With the added uncertainties around enforcement, there is perhaps a growing risk that European litigants may choose to settle their disputes closer to home.”

At the same time, there was a sharp rise in the number of US litigants, making them the second largest foreign nationality after Russians litigating in the Commercial Court.

This increase was largely attributed to business contracts proceedings. “This is unsurprising, given English law’s history of being a preferred choice for governing law clauses, particularly in international commercial contracts.

“Over 60% of the cases involving US litigants were launched by US parties, indicating the trust that US litigants have in the UK courts.”

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