Top Trials: The big decisions…

Top trials of 2006

The past year has seen intense navel-gazing in the Royal Courts of Justice as litigators began to digest the effects of the BCCI and Equitable Life settlements.

The true impact is yet to be known, but 2006 certainly saw more settlements than 2005. Of The Lawyer’s top 10 cases for 2006, four settled before trial or judgment, five reached judgment and one is still ongoing. That contrasts with two settlements, the collapse of BCCI and seven judgments in 2005.

Nevertheless, 2006 still proved to be an interesting and important year for litigators, with a number of significant decisions handed down.

SETTLED

CABLE & WIRELESS & PENDER INSURANCE V WILLIS & ORS
Solicitors: Francis Kean, Barlow Lyde & Gilbert; Terry O’Neill, Clifford Chance; Dan Sayles, Lovells (for Willis); several other firms for other defendants
Counsel: Jonathan Hirst QC, Brick Court Chambers; Colin Edelman QC, Devereux Chambers
Outcome: Settled
Judge: Mrs Justice Gloster
The £80m fraud claim brought by Cable & Wireless and its captive insurer Pender reached trial in October 2005. However, negotiations between the parties continued as the court hearings went on and settlements were reached before a judgment could be handed down.

WILLIAMS GRAND PRIX ENGINEERING & MCLAREN RACING V BAKER & MCKENZIE
Solicitors: David Lancaster, Pinsent Masons; Michael Robin and David Simon, Robin Simon
Counsel: Ian Mill QC, Blackstone Chambers; Jonathan Seitler QC, Wilberforce Chambers
Outcome: Settled
Judge: None allocated
Formula 1 teams Williams and McLaren settled their negligence claim against Baker & McKenzie a week before the January 2006 trial. A similar claim against Linklaters, concerning a commercial agreement with Bernie Ecclestone, settled in December 2005.

COLLINS STEWART V FINANCIAL TIMES
Solicitors: Rod Christie-Miller, Schillings; Nick Alway, Farrer & Co
Counsel: Richard Spearman QC,4-5 Gray’s Inn Square; Desmond Browne QC, 5 Raymond Buildings
Outcome: Settled
Judge: Mr Justice Gray
Collins Stewart sued the Financial Times for libel after the newspaper published allegations made by a former employee. The two parties settled the case in early January 2006, with the paper agreeing to pay damages, costs and print an apology.

AWG V MORRISON & ANOR
Solicitors: Adam Johnson, Herbert Smith; Andrew Hearn, Dechert (for Sir Fraser Morrison); David Stewart, Olswang (for Stephen McBrierty)
Counsel: Charles Aldous QC, Maitland Chambers; Charles Béar QC, 11 King’s Bench Walk (now Fountain Court Chambers); Lawrence Cohen QC, XXIV Old Buildings; Philip Marshall QC, Serle Court
Outcome: Settled
Judge: Mr Justice Blackburne
AWG claimed up to £130m from Sir Fraser Morrison over the September 2000 acquisition of construction business Morrison Construction, alleging that he and group operations director Stephen McBrierty fraudulently misrepresented Morrison’s financial state prior to its sale. However, the case settled prior to its February trial.

JUDGMENTS

MATTHEWS & ORS V KENT & MEDWAY FIRE AUTHORITY
Solicitors: Richard Arthur, Thompsons; Nick Chronias, Beachcroft Wansbroughs
Counsel: Robin Allen QC, Cloisters Chambers; John Bowers QC, Littleton Chambers
Outcome: Judgment
Judge: House of Lords
In March 2006 a three-two majority of the House of Lords allowed the appeal brought by a group of part-time firefighters against a July 2004 Court of Appeal ruling. The landmark decision granted the firefighters the same employment rights as their full-time equivalents.

APPLE CORPS V APPLE COMPUTERS
Solicitors: Nick Valner, Eversheds; Ian Terry, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
Counsel: Geoffrey Vos QC, 3 Stone Buildings; Daniel Alexander QC, 8 New Square; Lord Grabiner QC, One Essex Court
Outcome: Judgment
Judge: Mr Justice Mann
The Beatles’ record company Apple Corps claimed that the computer company breached a 1991 agreement over the ‘Apple’ name by entering into the music business. Mr Justice Mann disagreed, handing down judgment in favour of Apple Computers in May 2006.

FOOTBALL LEAGUE V HAMMONDS
Solicitors: Michele Freyne, Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw; Sarah Clover, Barlow Lyde & Gilbert; Michael Payton, Clyde & Co (for Part 20 defendant Stephen Townley)
Counsel: Justin Fenwick QC, Four New Square; Jonathan Sumption QC, Brick Court Chambers; Sue Carr QC, Four New Square
Outcome: Judgment
Judge: Mr Justice Rimer
Hammonds celebrated victory in the £150m negligence claim brought against forerunner Edge Ellison by the Football League in June 2006. Mr Justice Rimer found the firm guilty of two minor breaches of duty and fined it £4, but ruled that a solicitor does not have to advise on commercial interests when working on a contract.

OFFICE OF FAIR TRADING INVESTIGATION INTO CREDIT CARDS
Solicitors: Greg Olsen, Jones Day (for MasterCard International); Simon Polito and Susan Bright, Lovells (for MasterCard Members Forum (MMF)); Nigel Parr, Ashurst (for Royal Bank of Scotland)
Counsel: Nicholas Green QC, Brick Court Chambers (for MMF)
Outcome: Judgment
Judge: Competition Appeals Tribunal
In July 2006 the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) upheld the appeal of MasterCard and the Royal Bank of Scotland against the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) decision that the ‘interchange’ fees they charge for processing transactions are too high. The CAT ruling came despite the OFT’s earlier decision to set aside its own judgment.

THE PRESIDENT OF THE STATE OF EQUATORIAL GUINEA V FIRST SYSTEM DESIGN LTD & ORS
Solicitors: Robert Wilson, Penningtons; Andrew Kerman, Kerman & Co (for the first, second and fourth defendants; Joanna Kennedy, Collyer-Bristow (for the fifth defendant)
Counsel: Sir Sydney Kentridge QC, Brick Court Chambers; Philip Shepherd QC, XXIV Old Buildings; Michael McLaren QC, Fountain Court Chambers
Outcome: Judgment
Judge: Court of Appeal
In October 2006 the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal brought by the president and state of Equatorial Guinea against a September 2005 strike-out judgment of Mr Justice Davis. The claimants say that Simon Mann, Sir Mark Thatcher and others were involved in a coup, but unless the House of Lords reverses the strike-out, the claim will go no further.

Still ongoing:
Rabobank v National Westminster Bank

TOP TRIALS OF 2007

A large number of major cases that were kick-started in 2006
will come to a conclusion this year. The first of these is likely to be Rabobank v National Westminster Bank. This, however, is not the only matter that the banks are involved in.

A spate of actions have been brought by or against financial institutions. Of these, HSBC’s civil claim against the Liberal Democrat’s biggest-ever donor Michael Brown will arguably be the most high profile.

Meanwhile, away from the top 10 trials tipped for 2007, footballer Wayne Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford will be in court over his long-running battle with the Football Association.

With this breadth of hearings, the next 12 months will be both an important and interesting period for the UK courts.

RABOBANK V NATIONAL WESTMINSTER BANK
Solicitors: Bob Goldspink, Morgan Lewis; Stephen Paget-Brown, Travers Smith
Counsel: Tony Temple QC, 4 Pump Court; Nicholas Stadlen QC, Fountain Court Chambers
Trial date: Ongoing – to conclude in February
Judge: Mr Justice Colman
This long-running litigation hit the UK in October 2006 following previous cases in the US. Rabobank New York is suing National Westminster Bank for misrepresentation, fraud and breach of fiduciary duty over a loan made to the Yorkshire Food Group in a claim running into hundreds of millions of dollars.

THE PRESIDENT OF THE STATE OF EQUATORIAL GUINEA V FIRST SYSTEM DESIGN LTD & ORS
Solicitors: Robert Wilson, Penningtons; Andrew Kerman, Kerman & Co (for the first, second and forth defendants); Joanna Kennedy, Collyer-Bristow (for the fifth defendant)
Counsel: Sir Sydney Kentridge QC, Brick Court Chambers; Philip Shepherd QC, XXIV Old Buildings; Michael McLaren QC, Fountain Court Chambers
Trial date: Ongoing
Judge: Court of Appeal
The president and state of Equatorial Guinea is appealing against a September 2005 judgment of Mr Justice Davis in this high-profile case. The claimants say that Simon Mann, Sir Mark Thatcher and others were involved in a coup. Much of the claim has been struck out, prompting the appeal.

THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF ZAMBIA FOR AND ON BEHALF OF THE REPUBLIC OF ZAMBIA V MEER CARE & DESAI & ORS
Solicitors: Janet Legrand, DLA Piper; Alexander Ulm, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain; Richard Harrison, Barlow Lyde & Gilbert; Adetokunbo Oyegoke, Howards
Counsel: William Blair QC and David Head, 3 Verulam Buildings; Ian Croxford QC, Wilberforce Chambers; Roger Stewart QC, Four New Square;
Michael Sullivan and Hannah Brown, One Essex Court; Chima Umezuruike, 2 Gray’s Inn Square; Anothony Trace QC, Benjimin John and Ciaran
Keller, Maitland Chambers
Trial date: Ongoing
Judge: Mr Justice Peter Smith
The government of Zambia is trying to recover money alleged to have been misappropriated between 1996 and 2002, when third defendant Frederick Chiluba was president of Zambia.

REAL ESTATE V ABERDEEN ASSET & UBS
Solicitors: David Allen and Iain McDonald, Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw
Counsel: Jonathan Sumption QC and Mark Howard QC, Brick Court Chambers; Andrew Onslow QC, Michael Blair QC and Adrian Beltrami, 3 Verulam Buildings; Iain Milligan QC, 20 Essex Street
Trial date: May
Judge: Court of Appeal
Real Estate, a property-based split capital investment trust, which recently bought Battersea Power station, claims that at the time it floated on the London Stock Exchange Aberdeen Asset Managers and UBS failed to advise the board adequately on the risks of itself investing in other split capital investment trusts.

THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SOCIAL SECURITY AND PUBLIC SAFETY FOR NORTHERN IRELAND & ORS V NORTON HEALTHCARE & ORS
Solicitors: Craig Shuttleworth, Jones Day; Peter Scott, Norton Rose; David Rose, SJ Berwin; Roiter Zucker, Howrey
Counsel: David Pannick QC, Charles Flint QC, Tom de la Mare and Thomas Beazley QC, Blackstone Chambers; Nicholas Green QC, Brick Court Chambers; Bernard Eder QC, Essex Court Chambers;
Trial date: Various
Judge: TBA
Six pharmaceutical companies, including Norton Healthcare and the Goldshield Group, are being sued for alleged price-fixing of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs during 1996 and 2001 and conspiring to defraud the NHS of more than
£100m.

CLEVELAND BRIDGE UK V MULTIPLEX CONSTRUCTIONS (UK)
Solicitors: Yuri Botiuk, Reid Minty; Emerson Holmes, Clifford Chance
Counsel: Adrian Williamson QC, Simon Hargreaves, Lucy Garrett, Simon Hughes and Paul Buckingham, Keating Chambers; Roger Stewart QC, 4 New Square
Trial date: April
Judge: Mr Justice Jackson in the Technology and Construction Court
Multiplex, the much-criticised main contractors in the £760m Wembley Stadium development, and Cleveland Bridge, the former supplier of the steel used in the construction, including the new stadium’s iconic arch, have counter-sued each other in a £15m breach of contract case.

JPMORGAN CHASE BANK & THREE ORS V SPRINGWELL
Solicitors: David Warne, Richards Butler; Ian Moulding, Clifford Chance
Counsel: Mark Hapgood QC, Brick Court Chambers; Adrian Beltrami, Jonathan Davies-Jones and David Quest, 3 Verulam Buildings;
Michael Brindle QC, Fountain Court Chambers; Andrew Baker QC, 20 Essex; Nick Lavender, Serle Court Chambers
Trial date: April
Judge: Mrs Justice Gloster
The current action was started by Chase Manhattan in 2001, seeking a declarations of non-liability to Springwell, which is claiming in excess of $500m (£257m). Springwell alleges that, from 1987 to 1998, on the advice of Chase, it purchased very large quantities of debt instruments that were principally linked to emerging markets in South East Asia and Russia.

BRITISH SKY BROADCASTING V ELECTRONIC DATA SYSTEMS
Solicitors: Matthew Saunders, DLA Piper; Ted Greeno, Herbert Smith
Counsel: Mark Barnes QC and Zoe O’Sullivan, One Essex Court; Mark Howard QC, Alec Haydon and Fionn Pilbrow, Brick Court Chambers; Alex Charlton, 4 Pump Court
Trial date: October
Judge: TBA
BSkyB is claiming £400m of damages for deceit and fraudulent misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract against computer software company Electronic Data Systems over the installation of a billing system.

HSBC BANK PLC V 5TH AVENUE PARTNERS, MICHAEL ROBERT ALEXANDER BROWN & ORS
Solicitors: Robert Hunter, Allen & Overy; Kendall Freeman; Craig Walker Goodman Derrick; Jamil Ahmud, Ahmud & Co
Counsel: Mark Howard QC, Neil Calver and Alec Haydon, Brick Court Chambers; Christopher Carr QC, David Cavender and Derek Spitz, One
Essex Court; Gregory Mitchell QC, Adam Kramer, Ian Wilson, 3 Verulam Buildings; Barbara Dohmann QC and Robert Anderson, Blackstone Chambers; Gavin Kealey QC, 7 King’s Bench Walk; Paul Mitchell, Hailsham Chambers
Trial date: October
Judge: TBA
HSBC is claiming negligence, dishonesty, misrepresentation and breach of contract against the defendants. The claim comes after the bank issued an investigation into the Liberal Democrats’ biggest-ever donor Michael Brown’s accounts after he was wanted for fraud in the US, while four investors in 5th Avenue Partners tried to sue the Lib Dems and Brown, claiming they had been defrauded out of £45m.

CDC IXIS CAPITAL MARKETS V WESTLB AG & CIBC WORLD MARKETS
Solicitors: Kevin Lloyd, Herbert Smith; Jonathan Kelly, Simmons & Simmons; Graham Huntley, Lovells
Counsel: Thomas Ivory QC, David Wolfson, Michael Fealy and Conall Patton, One Essex Court; Andrew Twigger, 3 Verulam Buildings; Michael Brindle QC and John Taylor, Fountain Court Chambers; Mark Hapgood QC, Brick Court Chambers
Trial date: December
Judge: TBA
Ixis is claiming for co-purchase agreement and acquisition losses arising from the collapse of TV rentals company Boxclever. A preliminary procedural hearing last year saw a ‘standstill agreement’ being formulated to effectively keep at bay claims by WestLB alleging negligent misrepresentation of financial information in the course of the financing.