DIFC Courts seek public consultation for proposed specialist Technology and Construction Division.

The DIFC Courts are an important forum for dispute resolution in the Gulf and wider Middle East region. However, attracting potential litigants should not be taken for granted and specialist courts to deal with specific and complex issues may ensure that the DIFC Courts remain a key dispute resolution option in the Middle East. In what could become an attractive dispute resolution option for litigants, the DIFC Courts have opened a one month public consultation on the draft rules for its proposed Technology and Construction Division until 22 April 2017.

New Division

The draft rules are in line with the structure of the UK’s Technology and Construction Courts and are intended to apply to a wide range of claims involving "technically complex" issues for example:

  • building, engineering or other construction disputes;
  • claims relating to the design, supply and/or installation of computers, computer software and related network systems;
  • claims between neighbours, owners and occupiers of land in trespass, nuisance etc.; and
  • challenges to decisions of arbitrators in construction and engineering disputes.

Proposed Procedure

The case management procedure provided under the proposed rules is very much aligned with those of the Technology and Construction Courts in the UK.

However, notable differences include that they expressly provide that Court is likely to consider whether to instruct a court-appointed expert; the conducting of experiments; and/or order the production of a Scott Schedule detailing the parties’ claims. Further, the Court has discretion over whether to fix a pre-trial review unlike in the UK where the pre-trial review is compulsory.

Potential implications for UAE technology and construction disputes

The proposed new technology and construction division is an encouraging step towards providing a forum in which disputes can be managed and resolved by judges with proper knowledge and experience in the relevant fields.

Interestingly, a new technology and construction division may provide an English language alternative to the local UAE courts, which conduct proceedings in Arabic only. Although as a court forum, proceedings held in the new technology and construction division would not be confidential, the introduction of this division may provide a time and cost effective alternative to arbitration.