Singapore launches sector list to speed resolution of complex disputes

Unveiling of tech, infrastructure and construction list comes as city-state cements its reputation as a global centre for arbitration
Singapore- 11 Aug, 2019: Supreme Court building in Singapore. The Supreme Court of the Republic of Singapore is one of the two tiers of the court system in Singapore  T

Singapore's Supreme Court building Tang Yan Song; Shutterstock

Parties involved in complex disputes in Singapore related to tech, infrastructure and construction projects can expect a speedier resolution under a new list launched by the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC).

The Technology, Infrastructure and Construction (TIC) list sets out to offer parties including architects, surveyors and accountants as well as those involved in disputes related to construction and engineering more effective resolutions.  

Claims relating to computer systems, computer software and the supply of goods or services for tech, infrastructure and construction projects can also be included on the list, which came into effect 31 August.

Cases on the TIC list will have access to case management features intended to speed the resolution of such technically complex disputes, which usually involve numerous contracts signed by multiple parties and voluminous evidence. The features include exchange of affidavits of evidence-in-chief prior to disclosure of documents and presentation of the parties’ cases using Scott Schedules, which set out each issue to be determined by the Court.

Specialist TIC judge Justice Vivian Ramsey, a former judge in charge of the Technology and Construction Court (TCC) in London, said he had “seen many complex multimillion dollar project disputes get bogged down for years due to the sheer number of related contracts and parties involved".

Ramey, who is believed to be one of the prime movers behind the new list, added that its simplified adjudication process protocol meant that parties could “resolve a large number of distinct smaller-value claims pegged to the decision of the Court on substantive ones".

The ability to join parties into one hearing coupled with the efficiency and flexibility accorded under the TIC list would enhance the dispute resolution landscape for complex disputes, the SICC said, and result in time and costs savings for all parties involved.

For a case to be eligible to be placed in the list, it must involve technically complex issues and the nature of the dispute must be such that trial by a TIC judge is desirable, the court added.

Singapore-based HFW partner Dan Perera described the TIC list as a demonstration of the city-state’s commitment to being the region’s resolution forum of choice.

“By establishing a specialist list, with the calibre of the judges it has tasked with hearing what are often highly complex, technical and expert-heavy TIC cases, industry participants will undoubtedly have a high degree of confidence in the quality of judgments,” he said.

SICC president Justice Quentin Loh is among the judges to hear cases on the TIC list, the launch of which he described as “a milestone for the SICC in the efficient administration of justice with procedural flexibility and fair, impartial and practical processes."

Perera said that Singapore, which has long been a key jurisdiction for hearing infrastructure and construction disputes, will “undoubtedly be a major hub for the resolution of many Belt and Road project disputes. With its focus on becoming a leading global technology hub, this development seeks to keep pace with the changing commercial landscape, both in Singapore and the region," he said.

Singapore ranked jointly with London as the world’s favourite arbitration centre in a survey of more than 1,200 in-house lawyers, arbitrators and practitioners in a survey published earlier this year.

Anneliese Day QC, a leading disputes silk at commercial set Fountain Court, which has practices in London and Singapore, told GLP: “This is a significant development which will be welcomed by lawyers and clients in Singapore and across Asia, as well as internationally.”

Day added: “The scope of the new list and the flexibility of creative case management by high quality judges will enhance the SICC’s standing as a commercial court, with which members of my set are increasingly familiar, and is in line with international court practice elsewhere, such as the TCD list in the DIFC Courts.” 

The announcement of the list, based as it is on English common law claims, comes as the United Kingdom seeks to promote the use of English law abroad – and in its own commercial courts.

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