Dh3.4b paid out in claims through DIFC courts in 2017

The court, which settles commercial disputes, said small claims had spiked by 75 per cent

Amna Al Owais, chief executive and registrar for the DIFC courts, said the majority of cases heard in the Small Claims Tribunal, which rules on disputes below Dh100,000, were related to employment matters.

DUBAI: Companies at the losing end in corporate disputes in DIFC courts paid out a record Dh3.4 billion last year in claims, the courts said on Monday.

The disputes heard in the DIFC, also known as the Dubai International Financial Centre, courts saw their settlements increase by 26 per cent to Dh3.4 billion in 2017, fuelled by a spike in cases brought before the financial centre’s Court of First Instance and Small Claims Court.

In a review of its key figures for 2017, the court said it had seen 520 cases in total, across all divisions, with claims at the main Court of First Instance (CFI) increasing to 54, a 17 per cent rise.

The value of Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) claims and counterclaims increased by 75 per cent in 2017, to Dh36.2 million, from Dh20.7 million in 2016.

In terms of the percentage of cases settled before a judgement was made, the courts said that for the CFI, the settlement rate increased from 83 per cent to 88 per cent in 2017.

The settlement rate for the SCT also rose to 85 per cent, a 10 per cent increase from 2016.

According to Amna Al Owais, chief executive and registrar for the DIFC courts, the majority of the cases heard in the SCT, which rules on disputes below Dh100,000 in value, were related to employment matters.

“These are the default cases within the DIFC. We also have tenancy disputes, banking cases for unpaid dues, or unsettled credit card payments,” Al Owais said.

As for the Court of First Instance, which hears claims exceeding Dh100,000 in value, Al Owais said largely the cases dealt with breaches of contract, describing such claims as a typically commercial type of disputes.

“This is the area where we have the majority of our disputes. We also have some arbitration disputes in the CFI,” she added.

In a separate statement, the chief justice of the DIFC courts, Justice Michael Hwang, said the body was midway through a five-year strategy, promising to maintain the court’s rate of progress, “channelling our energy and drive for excellence into our ambition to be one of the most service-oriented and connected courts in the world.”

In terms of the court’s outlook for 2018, Al Owais would not speculate on the types of cases the court might hear, declining to say whether she thought there would be an increase in cryptocurrency-related disputes, following the boom in controversial initial coin offerings (ICO).

Hwang said in his statement that the body would continue to offer its dispute resolution services to parties around the world.

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