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Report: Recent reduction in UK Commercial Court Litigation volumes

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A recent independent report by London-based litigation analytics specialists Solomonic has highlighted a fall in the number of litigation actions taking place in the UK’s commercial courts, following steady growth in the preceding five previous years.

The commercial courts had fast become the court of choice for litigants from Europe and farther afield, but the dual impacts of undecided post-Brexit legislation and the more recent Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic has seen litigants seek alternative jurisdictions.

The Solomonics report indicates that between April 2019 and March 2020, 198 cases were heard in London’s commercial courts, a 9% decline compared to the previous year. Litigants from EU countries formed 13.6% of all litigants, down from 16.5% two years ago. In contrast, statistics compiled by litigation consultants Portland show that the number of litigants from Singapore and Kazakhstan has risen almost 200% since 2018/19. UK based litigants made up 45% of total commercial court users, with a large proportion of litigants coming from the USA, Russia and Cyprus.

Litigation demand

Whilst Brexit is clearly impacting on the UK legal sector, the additional impact of Covid-19 is yet to play out in full. The pandemic certainly seems responsible for claims filed in the chancery and commercial courts, reducing from 83 a week at the start of March to 29 by the end of the month. Since then, the numbers have been slowly increasing as the UK adapts to life in lockdown; once society and businesses return to ‘normal’, analysts predict a spike in litigation activity to service pent up demand from the past 2 months. In commenting on the numbers, law professor Dr G Ruhl said:

Of course, it is too early to tell whether the decline in EU27 litigants since 2017 marks the beginning of a trend or whether it is historical coincidence. There are, however, at least two reasons that make it seem plausible that some EU27 litigants may have started to reconsider their decision to litigate in London…First of all, there is the likely effect of Brexit on judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters. Second, some EU27 countries, notably France, Germany and the Netherlands, have recently created new international commercial courts and court chambers to make their civil justice systems more attractive for international commercial litigants.” 

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