Dubai, United Arab Emirates; 26 February 2020: The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts today released its annual figures for the full year of 2019, with total a volume of 952 cases across all divisions, revealing a 43% increase year-on-year.
COMMERCIAL CLAIMS INCREASE
The volume of cases of the main Court of First Instance (CFI) grew significantly in 2019, increasing by 16% year-on-year, signaling strong business confidence in the DIFC Courts. The total value of cases in the same period, including arbitration-related cases, amounted to AED 3.1 billion, with an average case value of AED 82.8 million.
Cases brought before the CFI covered a range of sectors including banking and finance, construction, real estate and manufacturing and involving disputes related to breach of contract, outstanding payments, wills and probate, and employment. There was also a noticeable increase in the number of opt-in cases in 2019, with over 70% of claims in the CFI originating from parties electing to use the DIFC Courts to resolve their disputes.
Reinforcing the Courts’ record of certainty for business through enforceable judgments, the total value of enforcement claims filed amounted to AED 2.6 billion in 2019. The number of cases increased by 35%, with 251 enforcement cases in 2019, rising from 185 cases in the same period in 2018.
CASES SURGE FOR SMALL CLAIMS TRIBUNAL
The Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) experienced a surge of growth in 2019, with its case load increasing by 47% to 585 claims (2018: 399 cases) and with 56% of claims in the SCT originating from parties electing to use the DIFC Courts to resolve their disputes. This growth was driven primarily by breach of contract cases which represented 43% of all SCT cases in 2019, followed by banking (27%) and employment (20%). Reinforcing the SCT’s increasing popularity for business trading, the total value of claims increased by 29% in 2019, rising from AED 53.3 million to AED 68.7 million.
Awareness of the SCT services was also bolstered by a cooperation agreement signed in 2019 with Dubai SME, the agency of Dubai Economy mandated to develop the small and medium enterprise sector. The terms of the memorandum state that the two entities will collaborate to provide Dubai SME member companies with information and access to the DIFC Courts services, including the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT).
Zaki Azmi, Chief Justice, DIFC Courts, said: “The laws establishing the DIFC Courts are designed to ensure we provide the certainty, flexibility and efficiency expected by court users. The performance of our Courts in 2019 reflects continued trust of process and confidence in delivery of swift outcome of justice. Our youth is our strength, given our agility to adapt to meet the needs of a diverse range of court users, whilst providing the highest standards of service. For 2020, we intend to reinforce the overall courts experience by adopting new user-friendly procedures and further improving the overall access to our dispute resolution services.”
INNOVATION POWERING SERVICE EXCELLENCE
In 2019, the DIFC Courts signed a cooperation agreement with the Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) to launch the world’s first Court Tech Lab. In exploring how judicial systems can be strengthened through technology, the Court Tech Lab will unite individuals and companies helping to prototype and launch the advancement of legal technology, such as Blockchain-powered initiatives, AI-enabled programmes and cloud-based solutions.
The Tech Lab will be mandated to help cultivate those ideas by running a yearly competition cycle, helping to raise support and capital for companies demonstrating promising breakthroughs in the arena of court tech. Harnessing the established framework and talent pool from DFF’s AREA 2071 ecosystem, the competition will invite start-ups, scale-ups and innovative SME participants to submit and present new and viable court tech solutions.
The most noteworthy development in the Wills Service in 2019 was the issuance of the amended DIFC Wills and Probate Registry Rules. After extensive discussions with registered legal practitioners, the geographical limitation on the Wills was removed, enabling registrants and lawyers to have full control over deciding what assets, in the UAE and abroad, to include in the wills.
Away from the big picture, the DIFC Courts continued to support the work being done by Dubai’s legal community for those less fortunate than themselves. More than 160 lawyers helped provide legal support to over 600 people under the Pro Bono Programme, the first-of-its-kind initiative launched by the DIFC Courts over a decade ago.
The full DIFC Courts Annual Report, 2019, can be viewed at