November 22 2004
The rules which implemented the new Commercial Court introduced a number of features into the Irish High Court system to make it more business friendly, including the following:
The majority of the cases entered to the Commercial Court so far relate to business contracts or the construction of business documents or contracts, but there have also been cases relating to insurance, intellectual property rights and judicial review. While the Commercial Court is clearly in its early days, the statistics emerging from the first seven months of its operation up to August 11 2004 show that of the 23 applications for admission, 21 cases were admitted while two were refused entry to the court's list. Of the 21 cases admitted, 14 of these have already been disposed of either by way of full hearing or settlement. One quite astonishing statistic is that the average time period from the entry of a case into the list to its conclusion is only five to six weeks.
It is probable that some of the cases which were dealt with in the Commercial
Court had already been ongoing, so it will only be possible to assess what the real average time will
be once the court has
been in operation for a longer period. Nonetheless, it is abundantly clear from the information which has emerged
to date that cases are proceeding at speeds which were previously
unheard of. This will result in Irish companies being less wary of the timing
involved in resolving a dispute in the Irish courts, which previously may have
taken years to resolve. By speeding up the proceedings, legal costs will also
inevitably be significantly reduced, thus removing another perceived barrier
to having an issue settled by the Irish courts.
The establishment of the Commercial Court has undoubtedly resulted in savings to businesses in Ireland so far, both as a result of the more specialized approach to cases and also due to the use of modern information technology in proceedings before the court. While it could be said that the new rules envisage a certain amount of front-loading of work and expense, trials will be shorter or will become unnecessary where cases can be settled or resolved through alternative dispute resolution. The establishment of the Commercial Court has become an important part of the legal infrastructure in Ireland. Indeed, Ireland may become an attractive neutral venue for companies which have no connections in Ireland and which require an efficient resolution of commercial disputes by a court that accommodates modern business commercial needs.
(1) There is a very important provision which allows the court to deal with any other claim (other than personal injuries) which the judge considers appropriate for entry into the court list, having regard to the commercial and any other aspect of the case. Five of the 21 cases dealt with up to August fell into the 'catch-all' category of cases which do not necessarily have a value of €1 million.
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