Termination and Repudiation
02/07/13 - Breakfast Seminar *NO BOOKING FEE* Richard Silver will discuss the rights of a party to terminate and/or to elect to accept a repudiation of contract and the legal consequences.Read More
London / Epping OfficeTel: 0845 345 1244
Fax: 0845 345 1039
Cardiff OfficeTel: 02920 474 570
Fax: 02920 474 575
Silver Shemmings LLP
11-13 Dowgate Hill,
Confidentiality in dispute resolution - Advantage arbitration?
Arbitration v Litigation
The two prime means of resolving disputes in contract or tort with a binding decision are arbitration and litigation. Both have their pros and cons. Those drafting a contract, including consultants' appointments, are advised to make a decision as to which forum will apply in the event of a dispute. Users of standard forms of building contracts will need to check which is the default forum. By way of example the 2005 JCT contracts make litigation the default forum, and as a result if you want arbitration to apply you will to positively confirm this in the document.
However, one advantage of arbitration is "confidentiality".
Arbitration is generally held with only the parties to the dispute and their witnesses present. The press and the public are not involved and there is no publishing of the parties' pleadings ie the statement of case and defence and counterclaim, or for that matter the arbitrator's award. Beyond that, the parties themselves have an implied duty not to disclose what went on at the tribunal, although there are exceptions to this for instance the parties may agree to disclose documents or a court may order documents to be disclosed. The duty of confidentiality also extends to the arbitrator.
By contrast in a court of law, the press, a member of the public (which might include an interested competitor), could theoretically attend court and hear all the evidence relating to the dispute. The publicity which surrounds a court case may not be the sort of message that a firm wants to send and may in that event have a significant bearing on deciding where there is a choice where to have the dispute heard. If the issue of confidentiality is a high priority, then recent changes to the law in respect of litigation may have made arbitration even more attractive and at the same time litigation less so.
As a result of CPR rule 5.4, since October 2006 it has been possible for a member of the public to request and obtain from the Court Service copies of the parties pleadings. This means, in general, that anyone can obtain a Claimant's Particulars of Claim or a Defendant's Defence, including the Counterclaim if there is one. These documents may contain extremely detailed and sensitive information which could for instance be very interesting to a competitor or may be very embarrassing to the protagonists. Whilst witness statements and expert reports are not being made accessible, it is more than conceivable that the opportunity afforded to obtain copies of the parties pleadings may alone be sufficiently damaging.
Unless confidentiality, or the lack of it, is of fundamental importance then confidentiality should be only one of a number of factors to take into consideration in making the decision to incorporate litigation or arbitration in the agreement. Clearly that decision should fully take into account what type of business you are in, including the likely or actual nature of the matter in dispute, and in particular the details which will come before the judge or arbitrator.
At Silver Shemmings we have a wide range of experience in advising our clients in how best to manage potential disputes. While it is usually preferable to avoid formal disputes where these do occur we can provide practical commercial and legal advice one how to manage the dispute and the most appropriate forum to use.
Silver Shemmings also have Partners who regularly accept appointments as Arbitrators. If you are looking for an Arbitrator, then please contact the offices below.
For more information and initial advice please contact us on:
Sarah Shemmings or Richard Silver
Tel.: 0845 345 1244
Robert Shawyer – Cardiff
Tel.: 02920 474 570
Don’t forget that you can also make initial contact through our free helpline 08455 1 92 92 1