DIFC Courts records $1.59bn of cases in 2016, up 5%

Caseload increases as Dubai's financial hub gains in popularity for cross-border transactions
DIFC Courts records $1.59bn of cases in 2016, up 5%
By Sarah Townsend
Wed 01 Feb 2017 02:10 PM

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts handled a total of AED5.85 billion ($1.59 billion) of cases last year, a five percent increase on 2015, it announced on Wednesday.

2016 was “another record year” for DIFC Courts, it said, with the average value of cases filed in the Court of First Instance growing 17 per cent year-on-year to AED104 million ($28.4 million), even if it handled approximately the same number of cases as in 2015.

The total value of cases heard by the Court of First Instance in 2016 was AED2.71 billion ($739.9 million) – up 22 per cent year-on-year.

DIFC Courts said global businesses are increasingly bringing commercial cases to the DIFC’s international common law-based jurisdiction.

The total $1.59 billion caseload includes cases handled in the courts of First Instance, Arbitration and Enforcement, as well as the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT).

The latter – the region’s first small claims tribunal established in 2007 – handled AED20.16 million ($5.49 million) of cases in 2016, up 5 percent year-on-year, with the average claim standing at AED92,900 ($25,200), up 4 percent year-on-year.

Last year, the SCT launched the region’s first ‘smart’ court, enabling claimants based anywhere in the world to bring cases worth less than AED1 million ‘virtually’ via advanced technology.

Another factor driving growth in total caseload was the legal sector choosing to ‘opt-in’ to the DIFC Court’s jurisdiction, meaning lawyers can have cases heard there even if their clients are not based in the DIFC financial free zone.

A survey of 122 commercial legal practitioners by the DIFC’s Academy of Law found that more than half (57 percent) of respondents said they had used the DIFC Courts opt-in clause when drawing up commercial contracts.

Mark Beer, CEO and registrar of the DIFC Courts, said: “In 2016, the DIFC Courts continued to be the preferred dispute resolution forum for businesses of all sizes from both the UAE and overseas.

“Key attractions were our exceptionally strong enforcement regime, judicial bench and efficient, customer-centric processes, which were all enhanced over the last 12 months.”

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