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Sector Insights

Technology and Construction Court launches in Dubai

19.10.2017 Energy & infrastructure

Pavlo Samothrakis

Pavlo Samothrakis Partner

Sheridan Steiger

Sheridan Steiger Senior Associate

On 17 September 2017, the Dubai International Financial Centre (the “DIFC”) Courts published Part 56 of the Rules of the DIFC Courts (the “Rules”) and, in doing so, established a specialist Technology and Construction Division (the “TCD”). The TCD will offer a forum similar to that of the Technology and Construction Court of England and Wales. It will be staffed with specialist judges who are able to handle complex technical disputes which, until now, have mostly been referred to arbitration by parties in the region.

This announcement follows a public consultation that was carried out in March and April 2017 and seeks to build on the reliance of the local region’s economy on the construction and technology sectors. A recent BMI study estimates that the total value of building and construction contracts in the MENA region will reach US$300 billion by 2019. A separate report, compiled by Gartner, estimates that IT spending in the region will reach US$155.5 billion in 2017.

Part 56 of the Rules states that a claim may be brought in the TCD if it involves issues or questions that are technically complex. Part 56 provides a non-exhaustive list of categories of claims that will satisfy this requirement, including:

>  Building or other construction disputes;

>  Engineering disputes;

>  Claims involving engineers, architects or surveyors;

>  Claims involving the DIFC and the development of land or the construction of buildings;

>  Claims relating to the design, supply and/or installation of computers and information technology systems and services;

>  Challenges to decisions of arbitrators in construction and engineering disputes.

The TCD will be headed by Justice Sir Richard Field who brings with him 20 years of experience acting on complex matters in the Commercial Court in England. Sir Richard joined the DIFC Courts in 2015 following his tenure as Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court in London. Upon his appointment, Sir Richard commented, “it is a privilege to be chosen to lead the TCD, which represents an important addition to the UAE’s dispute resolution infrastructure. By forming a specialist division to handle complex – and sometimes new – types of construction and technology disputes, the DIFC Courts are working to secure businesses both now and in the future.”

The creation of the TCD mirrors similar specialist courts in other jurisdictions and the appointment of Sir Richard as head of the TCD is an encouraging sign that the DIFC Courts intend to appoint judges with the necessary experience and expertise to hear cases that are typically complex and founded in technical, industry-specific detail.

At present, the majority of construction and technology contracts entered into in the MENA region typically provide for arbitration in the event of a dispute arising. With the establishment of the TCD, we expect parties to take advantage of this option available to them and for an increasing number of future contracts to provide for TCD jurisdiction, albeit in certain cases it will remain appropriate for parties to retain arbitration clauses, such as in projects of a more commercially sensitive nature.

We will monitor the cases that will start coming through the TCD and provide further updates in due course.

Article authors:

Pavlo Samothrakis Sheridan Steiger