Elliott Phillips, Colin Grech and Paul Grant explore the commercial litigation landscape in Gibraltar

By Elliott Phillips & Colin Grech & Paul Grant

Partner Elliott Phillips and Associates Colin Grech and Paul Grant explore the commercial litigation landscape in Gibraltar.

This chapter was originally published in The Legal 500’s Litigation Country Comparative Guide – Gibraltar: Litigation on 30 June 2022.

An extract of Signature’s contribution may be found below and the full chapter can be found here.

Gibraltar: Litigation

  1. What are the main methods of resolving disputes in your jurisdiction?

The main dispute resolution method used in Gibraltar to resolve commercial disputes is litigation. It is common for high-value commercial disputes to end before the Supreme Court of Gibraltar, which has equivalent judicial status to that of the High Court in London. Alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, is often preferred for low-value commercial matters.

  1. What are the main procedural rules governing litigation in your jurisdiction?

The Civil Procedure Rules made under the Civil Procedure Act 1997 in England and Wales apply in Gibraltar by virtue of section 38A of the Gibraltar Supreme Court Act 1960 and the Gibraltar Supreme Court Rules 2000.

  1. What is the structure and organisation of local courts dealing with claims in your jurisdiction? What is the final court of appeal?

The legal system of Gibraltar is based on the adversarial system and follows the three English legal principles – statute, common law and rules of equity. As such, the Gibraltar Court system largely reflects that of England and Wales. The Magistrates’ Court predominantly deals with criminal and administrative matters. The Supreme Court of Gibraltar is the equivalent of the High Court and Crown Court in England and Wales and hears civil and criminal proceedings as well as appeals from the Magistrates’ Court. Appeals from the Supreme Court are usually made in the first instance to the Gibraltar Court of Appeal which typically comprises retired judges of the English Court of Appeal. The highest court of appeal for Gibraltar is the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in London, which is able to hear appeals from the Gibraltar Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court of Gibraltar has separate jurisdictions to which it allocates cases of different subject matter, so that the case is properly managed and is heard by the appropriate judge. Examples of these are (i) the chancery jurisdiction, which generally hears commercial disputes, matters relating to trusts and estates, and company law matters including insolvency, (ii) the ordinary jurisdiction which has the capacity to hear a wide-range of cases, (iii) the admiralty jurisdiction which hears matters of admiralty law and shipping, (iv) the divorce and matrimonial jurisdiction which hears matters pertaining to matrimonial and family law, and (v) the criminal jurisdiction. In relation to commercial civil litigation, cases are allocated to one of three different tracks during the case management phase, with each track providing for cases of different monetary values and complexity, as per CPR Part 26:

(i) The small track is for claims with a value of not more than £10,000;

(ii) The fast track is generally for cases valued between £10,000 and £25,000;

(iii) The multi-track is generally for claims valued at over £25,000 or where the small track or fast track is not suitable.

  1. How long does it typically take from commencing proceedings to get to trial in your jurisdiction?

Complex commercial cases typically arrive before the Court for final hearing between 12 and 18 months from the date of service of the claim form. Depending on the subject matter, a case can be expedited through a Part 8 civil procedure. The Part 8 procedure is intended to be used for the determination of claims that do not have a substantial dispute of fact and which are capable of being resolved without lengthy and complicated pleadings. Examples of when the Court may consider expediting proceedings include some of the following:

(i) Deciding on any preliminary issues: these may involve points of law or facts that a party must first overcome in order to continue and will usually not involve the cross-examination of witnesses.

(ii) Injunctions: a court may expedite a trial as an alternative to granting an interim injunction where it determines that the requirements for an injunction have not been met.

(iii) Impact on insolvency proceedings: the Court may consider how a delay in proceedings may prejudice a party in relation to separate insolvency proceedings.

(iv) Other reasons of commercial urgency: the Court would require something beyond the standard reasons financial and commercial certainty, but may consider certain extenuating circumstances as sufficient reasons to expedite any proceedings.


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