Litigation explosion fails to materialise

The number of cases being launched in the High Court has reached a six-year high, ;but ;the ;much-­anticipated litigation boom has yet to take off.

According to Ministry of Justice ­statistics, there were 64,046 civil cases in the High Court in 2007 – just 1.6 per cent higher than in the previous year, when 63,027 cases were heard.

This marks a reverse in trends after the number of cases fell between 2000 and 2006, reaching a low of 49,442 in 2004.

Reynolds ;Porter ­Chamberlain litigation ­partner Fiona Walkinshaw said: “The jump in cases reaching court hasn’t been as sharp as some might have expected, with the credit crunch tightening its grip in the second half of 2007.”

One explanation for this, she said, was the move towards alternative dispute resolution methods such as arbitration.

“Many ;financial ­institutions will want to stay out of the public arena and opt for alternative means to settle claims,” she said.

Equally, cases arising from ;the ;collapse ;of Lehman Brothers will be handled by the administrators rather than the courts.

Although Walkinshaw anticipated a rise in High Court claims launched in 2008, she said it would be difficult to gauge litigation activity with so many ­corporates looking for alternative means of settlement.