Courts gear up for monster cases

As the new court term kicks off today (5 September), the UK’s top sets and the biggest litigation firms are preparing to begin battle in a fresh round of cases – while others return to all-too-familiar battles.

The biggest case kicking off this term is undoubtedly Cable & Wireless and Pender Insurance v Valentine & ors. Because there are 17 defendants being sued by Cable & Wireless, plenty of sets and solicitors have become involved in the case.

Insurance is also the hot topic in BP’s fight with broker Aon, which has been set down for eight weeks beginning 17 October and featuring Brick Court silks Andrew Popplewell and George Leggatt on either side, along with Tom Weitzmann QC of 3 Verulam Buildings.

Another one to watch out for will be the showdown between 3/4 South Square’s Michael Crystal QC and One Essex Court’s Lord Grabiner QC in the Gadget Shop administration dispute. A row over the collapsed business’s acquisition strategy has led to this high-profile court case.

Meanwhile, the BCCI and Equitable Life trials rumble on – both are at the cross-examination stage, and Equitable at least may well reach a conclusion before the year is out.

This year’s biggest court cases
Case: Cable & Wireless and Pender Insurance v Valentine & ors (Global Crossing).

Solicitors: Barlow Lyde & Gilbert; Clifford Chance; McGrigors.

Lead counsel: Jonathan Hirst QC, Brick Court Chambers; Barbara Dohmann QC, Blackstone Chambers.

Trial date: October 2005.

Summary of case: One of the largest reinsurance cases to hit court recently, Cable & Wireless is suing 17 defendants over alleged fraud and breach of contract upon the company and its subsidiary Pender Insurance, leading to the collapse of US telecoms company Global Crossing.

Case: New Gadget Shop.

Solicitors: Hammonds; McGrigors.

Lead counsel: Michael Crystal QC, 3/4 South Square; Lord Grabiner QC, One Essex Court.

Trial date: To be confirmed
Summary of case: After the Gadget Shop went into administration, a dispute arose between the co-owners. Hammonds and Crystal are acting for Freeserve creator Peter Wilkinson and UBS trader John Wood, while McGrigors has instructed Lord Grabiner for Scottish entrepreneurs Tom Hunter and Chris Gorman.

Case: ANB & ors v SE Banken.

Solicitors: Hextalls; Slaughter and May.

Lead counsel: Michael Driscoll QC, Maitland Chambers; Duncan Matthews QC, 20 Essex Street.

Trial date: 12 October.

Summary of case: To be heard in the Court of Appeal in mid-October, the case concerns arbitration proceedings and the consequences where there is a dispute over which name the arbitration was commenced in.

Case: Hoechst AG and anor v CIR & AG; Metallgesellschaft AG and ors v CIR & AG.

Solicitors: Dorsey & Whitney; Solicitor to the Inland Revenue.

Lead counsel: David Cavender, Ian Glick QC, One Essex Court.

Trial date: 23-24 November.

Summary of case: The House of Lords will hear this case, concerning the advanced corporation tax payable by companies resident in other EU states, in November. The case has already been heard in other courts, including the European Court of Justice, and will be vital for many companies.

Case: BP v Aon.

Solicitors: Herbert Smith; Simmons & Simmons.

Lead counsel: Andrew Popplewell QC, George Leggatt QC, Brick Court Chambers; Tom Weitzmann QC, 3 Verulam Buildings.

Trial date: 17 October.

Judge: Mr Justice Colman.

Summary of case: This dispute over millions of pounds of insurance cover is due to be heard over eight weeks this term – one of the longer cases to hit the courts before Christmas.