Litigation and enforcement in the UK (England and Wales): overview

A Q&A guide to dispute resolution law in the UK (England and Wales).
The country-specific Q&A gives a structured overview of the key practical issues concerning dispute resolution in this jurisdiction, including court procedures; fees and funding; interim remedies (including attachment orders); disclosure; expert evidence; appeals; class actions; enforcement; cross-border issues; the use of ADR; and any reform proposals.
To compare answers across multiple jurisdictions visit the dispute resolution Country Q&A tool.
This Q&A is part of the global guide to dispute resolution. For a full list of jurisdictional Q&As visit global.practicallaw.com/dispute-guide.

Main dispute resolution methods

1. What are the main dispute resolution methods used in your jurisdiction to resolve large commercial disputes?

Litigation

The default method of resolving large commercial disputes in England and Wales is by way of High Court litigation, usually in a division of the High Court known as the Business and Property Courts.
The system is adversarial in nature. The role of the judge is largely passive; he/she does not carry out an investigatory role. Parties must prove their case on the balance of probabilities. Therefore, for a court to be satisfied that an event occurred, it must find on the evidence presented before it that the occurrence of the event was more likely than not.
The litigation process is governed by the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) and various specific guides that apply to specialist courts (such as the Admiralty and Commercial Courts Guide and the Chancery Guide).
The courts require parties to:
  • Have complied with any relevant pre-action protocol before commencing legal proceedings (see Question 8).
  • Consider alternative dispute resolution (such as mediation) both before commencing litigation and during the litigation process (see Questions 30 to 34).

 

Arbitration

When entering into an agreement, the parties can choose to submit any disputes that may arise to arbitration. Arbitration differs from litigation in the following ways:
  • Arbitration is a consensual process such that all parties to the arbitration proceedings must have agreed to submit the dispute in question to arbitration.
  • The procedural rules that apply are chosen by the parties.
  • The proceedings are usually confidential in nature.
Decisions on the merits are final and are not subject to appeal (although in certain limited circumstances the court of the seat of the arbitration can set aside the award).
Arbitration awards are generally enforceable under the UN Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (New York Convention).

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