Mammoth cases cause fireworks in court as year draws to a close

It’s been a big week for litigation, with a number of crucial rulings on cases identified as part of The Lawyer’s top 20 cases earlier this year. 

Just yesterday, the High Court threw out most of the claims brought by Swiss bank UBS against a German water company. The $340m case, concerning complex derivatives bought by Kommunale Wasserwerke Leipzig (KWL), has been through both the German and English courts.

The decision, which saw Mr Justice Males roundly castigate both UBS and KWL for past behaviour, was a victory for Addleshaw Goddard and German firm Noerr who teamed up to represent the water company. They turned to barristers from Brick Court Chambers – the set which also featured heavily in another key judgment last week.

Brick Court and Monckton Chambers have picked up most of the counsel instructions in what looks set to be one of the biggest competition cases to be reaching the courts. The battle pits commercial users of airlines, ranging from “Chinese fruit and vegetable packers to East African flower growers” against British Airways (BA) and a flock of other airlines who are alleged to have been part of a cartel seeking to raise air cargo prices.

Last week’s judgment on a preliminary issue saw BA’s efforts to have the claims struck out fail as Mr Justice Peter Smith lambasted the slow-moving European Commission processes in competition cases.

But Peter Smith J was not the only judge calling out the authorities last week. Family Division president Lord Justice Munby has rightly caught the attention of many in the legal world for his biting comments criticising the legal aid regime. The case concerned saw Withy King solicitor Rebecca Stevens step in to work more than 100 hours pro bono when her client, a father fighting to keep his son with him, failed to get legal aid.

In the middle of Pro Bono Week, it’s worth remembering that litigation covers not just the big commercial cases but also those smaller ones which make such a difference to individual lives.

Note: Yesterday the research process for this year’s Global Litigation Top 50 kicked off. If you think you should have received a questionnaire and haven’t, please contact

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