The 'general adjourned period' (GAP) during which the courts in Hong Kong have been closed, save for urgent and essential court business, has been extended to 13 April 2020. The GAP is a consequence of the extraordinary measures adopted in Hong Kong to combat the coronavirus public health emergency.
The High Court recently decided that it can, as part of its case management powers and of its own volition, order that a directions hearing take place by means of a telephone conference without the physical presence in court of the parties or their legal representatives. The court's decision is set against the background of the extraordinary measures adopted in Hong Kong to combat the coronavirus public health emergency.
In a recent case, the Court of First Instance discharged ex parte (without notice) injunctions restraining the second defendant from disposing of or dealing with its assets in Hong Kong. The injunctions were granted in aid only of the plaintiffs' claims against the first defendant which were being pursued in parallel proceedings in mainland China. This was on the basis that the second defendant's assets should be available to satisfy the plaintiffs' eventual judgment against the first defendant.
The High Court has rejected an application for summary judgment of a claim to release money frozen by a bank. This was in the context of an investigation into the alleged use of the account for criminal activity. In its defence, the bank argued that the customer agreement contained an implied term that the bank could act on evidence of suspected fraudulent conduct to suspend operation of the account.
The Court of Final Appeal recently reaffirmed the principles applicable when the courts consider making an enhanced award of costs in favour of the successful party (ie, 'indemnity costs'). The judgment makes it clear that the courts' discretion to award indemnity costs is unrestricted – although, as a basic requirement, such costs should be ordered only when it is appropriate to do so and the receiving party must be able to show that the case has some special or unusual feature.
The English civil justice system has shown itself to be capable of rapid change as it adapts to the new reality caused by COVID-19. The clarion call from the English courts is that they are open for business, driven by the need to maintain the access to justice which is vital for the functioning of civil society. However, this will not be an easy task and it would be naive to think that there will not be teething problems during the move into a new era of conducting litigation in new ways.
In a recent case, the High Court considered to what extent a defendant should be permitted to use funds subject to a freezing injunction to fund its legal expenses where the claimant advances a quasi-proprietary claim over those funds. This decision provides helpful guidance on the analysis of quasi-proprietary claims and the circumstances in which claimants can insist that defendants meet a more onerous test before using disputed monies over which the claimant asserts ownership to fund their defence.
The Court of Appeal recently ordered a funder to pay the full amount of adverse costs. In a significant judgment for commercial litigation funders, the court found that the 'Arkin cap' (which can cap a litigation funder's liability for adverse costs at the amount of funding that was provided) is not a binding rule to be applied automatically in every case involving a litigation funder.
Where parties have agreed in a contract that the English courts will have jurisdiction in the event of a dispute, it does not automatically follow that English law will be the governing law. A party recently found this out, to its cost, when a different governing law clause meant an expired limitation period. This case demonstrates that those entering into contractual agreements should carefully consider a choice of law clause in order to designate the laws of a country that suits them.
A director who extracted money from a company by way of sham invoices may have a defence to an equitable compensation claim for misappropriation of the company's funds. The facts in this case may test the willingness of the trial court (due to hear the matter later in 2020) to develop the equitable remedies for breach of fiduciary duty.