What does the Technology and Construction Court’s (TCC) annual report for 2009-10 tell us about the work of the court?
Increased workload and trials
For one thing, the court’s workload does not seem to be decreasing. Some 502 new claims were brought in the London TCC in the year. That is about the same as in the previous year, but a substantial increase over the period 2007-2008 and earlier years. This looks very much like an indication of parties’ increased readiness to litigate in tougher economic times.
Secondly, more cases are going to trial (54) than in the previous year (47). The report says that “some of these were substantial” and my general perception is that the number of long judgments is increasing. For comparison, some 80 judgments have been reported on BAILII since September 2010. Although not all of these were full trials (and several concerned adjudication), this does indicate that the momentum is being maintained.
Thirdly, more work means more judges. The annual report refers to the current complement of High Court judges as four, with a fifth anticipated to be appointed within the next two years. There will soon no longer be senior circuit judges sitting in the TCC and this will mean that smaller value work will, in general, be dealt with by the county courts (save, for consistency reasons, for adjudication cases).
The TCC continues to benefit from a panel of High Court judges to supplement those permanently assigned to the TCC but the need for this facility is expected to reduce over the coming years, to coincide with a fifth High Court judge.
Disputes suitable for the TCC
The nature of the court’s work seems to be changing. A breakdown reveals that “pure” construction disputes now account for only 40% of the total working figure and the percentage is falling. Akenhead J, the judge in charge of the TCC, spoke in July of an increase in technology (IT and telecommunications) and public procurement disputes. Part 60 of the CPR defines a TCC claim as involving “issues or questions which are technically complex” or where a “trial by a TCC judge is desirable”. The list of examples in Practice Direction 60 (PD 60) is not intended to be exhaustive and the annual report notes other new areas of work such as personal injury claims arising from earth moving operations.
Home and away
Another trend noted by the annual report is the growth in international work. This reflects the fact that:
- The TCC judges have practiced overseas before coming to the bench.
- A number of overseas contracts now have jurisdiction clauses referring disputes to the TCC in London.
Promotion of the TCC both domestically and overseas is expected to be enhanced when it moves into the Rolls Building later this year.
Pioneering electronic working
Finally, as befits a court where technology claims play a substantial part, the TCC has pioneered the way on electronic working so that all cases issued in the TCC are now issued electronically or are scanned onto an electronic case file. The report refers to “great enthusiasm” for the scheme in the TCC and development of this process is likely to be enhanced when the TCC moves to the Rolls Building with its modernised facilities.