The current litigation landscape for professionals in Hong Kong is relatively benign: but is this the lull before the storm? Accurate records are kept of all actions commenced in the Hong Kong High Court, which deals with claims of over HK$1 million. The graph above shows the number of claims begun by writ each year over the last 15 years. This data covers all claims, not just those against professionals, but gives an indication of the general litigation trends.
As can be seen, over the last 15 years, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of claims per year (of over 75%). Over the last five years, the number of claims has slowly increased, but remains well below historic levels.
Mediation is entirely voluntary and it can start before any formal proceedings are commenced or at any stage during the process of litigation.
Under Practice Direction 31 (which came into effect after the Civil Justice Reform 2009), the Court has the duty as part of active case management to encourage parties to engage in alternative dispute resolution procedure, including mediation. This was designed to promote the underlying objective of facilitating early settlement of disputes.
The Court will take into account any unreasonable failure of a party to engage in mediation when exercising its discretion on costs, and can make an adverse costs order. Mediation is suitable for many claims against professionals as the process is quick, private and confidential, and the terms of settlement can have greater flexibility and practicality (not being bound by the legal remedies that a court can usually grant).