It's time the people sued

Just when most lawyers thought they were doing well to keep their clients out of court, some curious news is revealed.

By Curtis Law Solicitors.

According to one big city firm there has been a rise in the number of claims issued in the Commercial Court (a specialist court within the High Court).

According to statistics the number of cases issued in the Commercial Court rose from 1,167 in 2012 to 1,353 in 2013. One explanation for the rise is the time disputes can take to get to court following the recent recession.

Let’s look at these figures in more detail, as these are undoubtedly complex cases which raise difficult legal issues. The Commercial Court, as noted above, is a specialist court which hears various claims - for example export or import of goods; the carriage of goods by land, sea, air, insurance and re-insurance; banking and financial services; the purchase and sale of commodities. Such claims are often dealt with by large multination firms as they are not your average contractual dispute in the County Court!

In a complex commercial claim there is a process the parties have to go through before a claim is ever issued. This involves evidence gathering, instructing of experts, and discussions with the other party. This can often take months and sometimes even years and in certain cases the parties have to follow a protocol before issuing.

But let us look behind these figures. The Ministry of Justice Court Statistics Quarterly October to December 2013 noted :

1. In October to December 2013, the Civil Courts (not including family claims) dealt with 374,000 new claims and 10,500 hearings or trials. These represent a reduction of around 12% and 37% respectively since the same period in 2009.

2. Historically, between 3.0% and 3.5% of all claims issued have gone to hearing or trial.

3. There was an average of 60 weeks between a claim being issued and the claim going to trial.

4. Between October and December 2013 a total of 170,408 judgements were made.

So what does this tell us? In simple terms, after a recession there are a number of high value complex claims which is to be expected. In my specialist area of lender claims, overvaluations and mortgage frauds often come to light when the property market is recovering and the lenders are looking at their security. For the majority of potential litigants, the statistics simply reflect the growing reluctance of many businesses to become embroiled in civil claims. There are of course other avenues to consider but the key here is to first seek commercial advice.