2004: big names for big cases

Last year saw some massive court actions and precedent-setting decisions, as well as a ‘sea of interpretative uncertainty’

At the beginning of 2004, The Lawyer examined 10 of the most important cases of the coming year.

Looking back, they provide a good snapshot of the state of litigation. Three are ongoing, four concluded at trial and and three settled. The majority of disputes never actually make it to trial, with many settling out of court and many more being mediated. Warring parties are also increasingly attracted by the privacy of arbitration.

Two of The Lawyer’s selected disputes made it all the way to the House of Lords in 2004, with Kirin-Amgen v Transkaryotic Therapies in particular receiving close legal scrutiny. In finding for the defendants, Lord Hoffmann surprised observers by overturning his own 1989 ‘Improver’ or ‘Protocol’ test on patent law, and brought the UK in line with the Continent.

Here is how those cases highlighted last year by The Lawyer panned out:

Case: Campbell v Mirror Group Newspapers
Solicitors: Keith Schilling, Schillings; Kevin Bays, Davenport Lyons.
Lead counsel: Andrew Caldecott QC, One Brick Court; Desmond Browne QC, 5 Raymond Buildings.
Trial date: 18 February 2004.
Judgment handed down: May 2004.
Summary of Case: Sensationally overturning the Court of Appeal’s ruling against her, the Lords found for Naomi Campbell in her privacy case against the Daily Mirror. Acting on a conditional fee arrangement in the Lords, Campbell’s solicitors Schillings reaped more than £1m in the win.

Case: Royal Bank of Canada v Rabobank
Solicitors: Margaret Cole, White & Case; Damien Byrne Hill, Herbert Smith.
Lead counsel: Guy Phillips QC, Fountain Court;
Ali Malek QC, 3 Verulam Buildings.
Trial date: 23 January 2004.
Judgment handed down:
23 January 2004.
Summary of Case: In a
spin-off from the Enron litigation, Rabobank persuaded the Court of Appeal that it had the right to defend a claim brought against it by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in the US courts. RBC claims that Rabobank owes it money from a swaps contract issued before Enron’s collapse, under which Rabobank assumed part of Enron’s credit risk.

Case: Mahonia v WestLB
Solicitors: Richard Swallow, Slaughter and May; Alex Gordon, Berwin Leighton Paisner.
Lead counsel: Lord Grabiner QC, One Essex Court; Michael Brindle QC, Fountain Court.
Judge: Mr Justice Cooke.
Trial date: 14 June-26 July 2004.
Judgment handed down:
2 August 2004.
Summary of Case: Mahonia, a Jersey trust administered by Mourant du Feu & Jeune, was cleared by Judge Cooke of having links to disguised loans by Enron. The judge ruled that trades between Mahonia, JPMorgan Chase and Enron were commodity trades, and that WestLB was liable to JPMorgan for making the claims against Mahonia.

Case: JPMorgan Chase Bank v HIH Casualty and General Insurance & Ors
Solicitors: Jamie Harris, Morgan Lewis & Bockius; John Hall, CMS Cameron McKenna.
Lead counsel: Colin Edelman QC, Devereux Chambers; Nicholas Hamblen QC, 20 Essex Street.
Judge: Mr Justice Langley.
Trial date: October 2004.
Summary of Case: Otherwise known as ‘Paramount One and Paramount Two’, this case – part of the film finance cases affecting the London insurance market – settled in late spring 2004. Settlement has been the order of the day for most of this litigation, ending years of disputes between banks and insurers over losses made on film financing guarantees.

Case: Kirin-Amgen v Transkaryotic Therapies
Solicitors: Gary Moss, Taylor Wessing; David Wilson, Bird & Bird.
Lead counsel: Anthony Watson QC, Andrew Waugh QC, Three New Square; David Kitchen QC, 8 New Square.
Judge: Lord Hoffmann chaired the appeal panel.
Trial date: 5 July 2004.
Judgment handed down:
21 October 2004.
Summary of Case: In dismissing Kirin-Amgen’s claim that it had the patent to a treatment for anaemia, Lord Hoffmann brought UK patent law in line with Europe. The ruling will have an enormous influence on future patent cases.

Case: Loss relief group litigation.
Solicitors: Simon Whitehead, Dorsey & Whitney; Inland Revenue solicitors.
Lead counsel: Graham Aaronson QC, Pump
Court Tax Chambers; Richard Plender QC,
20 Essex Street.
Judges: In High Court, Mr Justice Park; in Court of Appeal, Lord Justices Peter Gibson and Longmore.
Trial dates: 3 March 2004; 28 May 2004.
Judgments handed down: 3 March 2004; 28 May 2004.
Summary of Case: One of several group litigation orders going through the courts, the litigation was heard in both the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Sixty companies are claiming that UK tax laws are in breach of European treaties. At the first stage, Judge Park ruled that the High Court did not have jurisdiction to rule. The Court of Appeal disagreed, finding in favour of the claimants. The case will be heard in the Lords on 7 June.

Case: Sumitomo v Credit Lyonnais Rouse
Solicitors: Chris Vigrass, Ashurst; Matthew Newick, Clifford Chance.
Lead counsel: Christopher Carr QC, One Essex Court; Michael Briggs QC, Serle Court.
Judge: Mr Justice Cooke.
Trial date: October 2004.
Summary of Case: The final chapter in the illicit trading scandal, in which Sumitomo claimed that Crédit
Lyonnais Rouse (CLR) had dishonestly assisted copper trader Yasuo Hamanaka, was set down for 30 weeks, but settled in a fortnight. Sumitomo unreservedly withdrew all its allegations, while CLR paid a contribution to Sumitomo’s costs.

Case: Virgin Mobile v
Solicitors: Denton Wilde Sapte; Andrew House, Linklaters.
Lead counsel: Charles Aldous QC, Maitland; Jonathan Sumption QC, Brick Court.
Trial date: 8 June 2004.
Summary of Case: This dispute over T-Mobile’s supply of airtime services to Virgin was due to go to court in the summer, but settled in January with the companies agreeing a new contract.

Case: BCCI Liquidators v Bank of England
Status: Ongoing (see The Lawyer, 24 January).

Case: BP Amoco v Swiss Re, Axa Global, AIG, Ace, Aegis
Status: Ongoing (see The Lawyer, 24 January).