Blog: 2017 in the Commercial Court — a busy year
Seán Barton, head of the dispute resolution and litigation group at McCann FitzGerald, looks at last year in the Commercial Court.
2017 was a particularly busy year for Ireland’s Commercial Court.
Our research indicates that 216 new cases were admitted to the High Court Commercial List in 2017. This is a significant increase from the 157 cases admitted in 2016, the last full year for which statistics are available.1 In 2017, the Commercial Court’s caseload spread across plenary actions, summary judgment claims, applications under the Companies Act (particularly in relation to court-sanctioned reorganisations, cross-border mergers and share capital reductions), judicial review and intellectual property cases. Our research also shows that the increase in cases admitted was not confined to particular types of case, but rather came from an increase in several areas including plenary actions, summary judgment claims, applications under the Companies Act and judicial review.
In addition to the wide spread of types of actions the Commercial Court dealt with, our research indicates that the industries represented in the Commercial Court spanned almost every sector of the economy. The highest number of cases still came from the banking and financial services industry. Almost half of these cases appeared to be debt enforcement proceedings by banks and loan portfolio acquirers. The second highest number of cases came from the construction and infrastructure sector, with a large number of these being judicial review cases, reflecting a lift in major development projects, which attract risks of legal challenge. Our research shows that the banking and financial services industry and the construction and infrastructure industry combined accounted for over half of the cases admitted to the Commercial Court in 2017. The concentration of cases is much less pronounced beyond these two industries.
Given the large number of multinational corporations operating in and from Ireland, it is perhaps unsurprising that the next highest number of cases come from the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry, the insurance and reinsurance industry, and the aviation industry. There were also several cases involving parties in the wind power and renewable energy sector, the hospitality and retail industries, and the communications sector.
Our research also shows that only eleven cases were refused admission to the Commercial Court in 2017, similar to the number refused in 2016, reinforcing the view that the Commercial Court takes a broad view of the meaning of ‘commercial matters’.
As the court which most closely reflects who and where we are as an economy, it is interesting to see the significant increase in cases admitted to the Commercial Court and the wide variety of actions and industries the court deals with.