Wednesday 18 July 2018

Disputes before the Commercial Court soar to record level

Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor

A RECORD number of litigants will seek to have cases heard this week in the Commercial Court, which was set up five years ago to fast track multi-million euro business disputes.

Today's applications will see a major claim against businessman Harry Crosbie and Point Village Development Limited, the company behind his €850m Point Village project; and attempts to sue Dublin-based Thema International Fund plc, which invested with disgraced US "Ponzi Prince" Bernard Madoff. Since the beginning of 2009, the number of new disputes seeking entry to the court list has averaged between six and 10 new cases every Monday morning. But today a record 20 new applicants will ask Mr Justice Peter Kelly, who heads the court, to admit their cases.

AIG Life (Ireland) is one of three separate applications by parties over the Madoff investments. Last week US District Judge Denny Chin gave Madoff the maximum prison sentence of 150 years for masterminding a massive fraud that robbed investors of $64.8bn.

Costly

The Commercial Court, which became operational in January 2004, heralded a new approach to commercial litigation in Ireland. It was set up to send a message to the world that Ireland is a good place to do business and resolve costly disputes.

Its pre-trial procedures and proactive case management, including the powers of judges to manage proceedings, has been replicated throughout the courts system.

But its resources, which are crucial to securing early trial dates, are limited and lawyers fear that it may become overwhelmed as the recession deepens.

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