2005: clash of the litigation titans

Grabiner and Sumption square up as the heavyweights of the bar prepare themselves for a raft of momentous litigation


The next 12 months promise the renewal of hostilities between several of the bar’s heavyweights and old rivals, as a number of significant cases come to trial.

The year kicks off in style with a showdown between old rivals Anthony Grabiner QC of One Essex Court and Brick Court’s Jonathan Sumption QC. They face each other in next month’s Court of Appeal case over a pair of fake Louis XV vases sold to art dealer Taylor Thomson by auctioneers Christie’s. In May there will be a rematch in a dispute over Chesterfield cigarettes, Philip Morris v Venfin Ltd.

Other noted titans of the bar appear in suitably large cases. Essex Court Chambers’ Gordon Pollock QC and Nicholas Stadlen QC of Fountain Court are continuing the fight in BCCI. Michael Briggs QC of Serle Court will meet 3/4 South Square’s Gabriel Moss QC in the House of Lords over Spectrum Plus.

There are many others – well over 100 barristers are, or have been, involved in just these 10 selected cases. BCCI and Equitable Life are particularly notable for the number of solicitors, silks and juniors instructed. It promises to be an exciting year for heavyweight litigation.

Case: Liquidators of BCCI v Bank of England
Solicitors: Christopher Grier-son, Lovells; John Goddard, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
Lead counsel: Gordon Pollock QC, Essex Court Chambers; Nicholas Stadlen QC, Fountain Court Chambers.
Trial date: Ongoing
Judge: Mr Justice
Tomlinson.
Summary of Case: After a year in court already, BCCI is still rumbling along and breaking records on the way with the largest ever brief fee and the longest ever opening statement. The two leading silks have been exchanging salvos with relish and with luck may make closing statements at some point
in 2005.

Case: Equitable Life v Ernst & Young
Solicitors: Christa Band, Herbert Smith; Clare Canning, Barlow Lyde & Gilbert.
Lead counsel: Iain Milligan QC, 20 Essex Street; Mark Hapgood QC, Brick Court Chambers.
Trial date: 11 April 2005.
Judge: Mr Justice Langley.
Summary of Case: After various pieces of pre-trial litigation, Equitable will finally hit the Commercial Court in April under the watchful eye of Mr Justice Langley. Like BCCI, the amount claimed – £2.6bn – is mammoth, as the life insurer attempts to prove that its former auditor Ernst & Young was
negligent.

Case: Taylor Thomson v Christie’s
Solicitors: David Gold, Herbert Smith; Rupert Boswall, Reynolds Porter Chamberlain.
Lead counsel: Lord
Grab-iner QC, One Essex Court; Jonathan Sumption QC, Brick Court Chambers.
Trial date: 28 February 2005.
Judge: n/a.
Summary of Case: Auction house Christie’s is appealing against the judgment of Mr Justice Jack in May 2004, which awarded damages to art collector Taylor Thomson for misrepresentation and breach of duty of care. Thomson had bought two urns for £2m, described as dating from the reign of Louis XV in France, that were later found to be fake.

Case: HSH Nordbank v Barclays Capital
Solicitors: Lista Cannon, Richards Butler; Andrew Hughes, Linklaters.
Lead counsel: Richard Salter QC, 3 Verulam Buildings; Mark Barnes QC, One Essex Court.
Trial date: 21 February 2005.
Judge: n/a.
Summary of Case: In this much-anticipated case, German bank HSH Nordbank is suing Barclays Capital for alleged mis-selling and mismanagement involving collateralised debt arrangements. It is notable partly because Richards Butler has emerged as one of the few firms able to act against a UK bank.

Case: Kuwait Airways Corporation v Iraqi Airways Company
Solicitors: Chris Gooding, Howard Kennedy; Jack Rabinowicz, Teacher Stern Selby.
Lead counsel: Joe Smouha QC, Professor Christopher Greenwood QC, Essex Court Chambers; Stephen Nathan QC, Blackstone Chambers.
Trial date: February 2005.
Judge: Mr Justice Crossley.
Summary of Case: The
14-year battle between Kuwait Airways and Iraqi Airways over the loss of the former’s fleet of aircraft during the 1990 Iraq invasion continues. In February, the ‘Perjury 2’ trial kicks off, in which Kuwait Airways allege a 1995 House of Lords judgment was obtained through perjury. Last year Kuwait Airways won $150m (£80m) in damages in another part of the case.

Case: Re Spectrum Plus
Solicitors: John O’Conor, Allen & Overy (for National Westminster Bank); Inland Revenue solicitors; Nick Pike, Lawrence Graham.
Lead counsel: Gabriel Moss QC, Andreas Gledhill, 3/4 South Square; Michael Briggs QC, Serle Court Chambers.
Trial date: April 2005.
Summary of Case: The House of Lords will hear Spectrum Plus in April, nine months after the Court of Appeal ruled that a debenture granted to NatWest by Spectrum created a fixed charge over Spectrum’s book debts. The ruling has consequences for another 500 administration and liquidation cases, as it will decide whether preferential creditors get paid first.

Case: R v Beckingham and Barrow Borough Council
Solicitors: Treasury Solicitor; Hayton Winkley Kendal; Barrow Borough solicitor.
Lead counsel: Alistair Webster QC, Lincoln House Chambers; Mark Turner QC, Deans Court Chambers.
Trial date: February.
Judge: Mr Justice Pool.
Summary of Case: This is the first case in which a local authority faces corporate manslaughter charges over its handling of the Legion-naires outbreak in Barrow.

Case: Weir & ors v Secretary of State for Transport/ Department of Transport
Solicitors: Edwin Coe; Clyde & Co.
Lead counsel: Michael Crystal QC, 3/4 South Square; Jonathan Sumption QC, Brick Court Chambers.
Trial date: 27 June.
Judge: n/a.
Summary of Case: The shareholders are seeking disclosure from the Department of Transport of information about a controversial ruling made by the Office of National Statistics on 1 October 2001, which six days later led Stephen Byers, the former Transport Secretary, to put Railtrack into administration.

Case: MAN v Freightliner
Solicitors: Slaughter and May; Clifford Chance; Linklaters (for part 20 defendant Ernst & Young).
Lead counsel: Dominic Kendrick QC, 7 King’s Bench Walk; Geoffrey Vos QC, 3 Stone Buildings; Justin Fenwick QC, Four New Square.
Trial date: January 2005
(for 16 weeks).
Judge: Mr Justice
Moore-Bick.
Summary of Case: MAN is seeking £400m compensation for its purchase from Freightliner of a UK truck manufacturing business, ERF, in March 2000. The claimant alleges that it has spent a fortune trying to turn ERF into a viable business after it allegedly discovered that ERF’s annual financial statements had been
fabricated.

Case: BP Amoco v Swiss Re, Axa Global, AIG, Ace, Aegis
Solicitors: Herbert Smith; Clyde & Co; Simmons & Simmons; Norton Rose.
Lead counsel: Oliver
Popple-well QC, Brick
Court Chamb-ers; Dominic Kendrick QC, 7 King’s Bench Walk; Mark Howard QC, Brick Court Chambers.
Trial date: 3 October.
Judge: n/a.
Summary of case: A battle over liability for all of BP Amoco’s claims from January 1999 to June 2000. The defendants are disputing the validity of insurance contracts made before BP merged with Amoco.