The Commercial Court in London held that the subject matter of three sets of proceedings did not warrant their transfer from the Chancery Division in Bristol to the Commercial Court in London, as although they were set in an insurance context, there was nothing that required the expertise of judges in the Commercial Court.
The applicant group companies applied to transfer three related sets of proceedings that they had commenced against the respondents from the Chancery Division in Bristol to the Commercial Court in London. The proceedings had concerned three separate claims: an intellectual property claim, a money claim, and a third claim in which there was a dispute over the division of profits made from loans made to policy holders to finance the payment of insurance premiums.
The Judge held that the court should not take account of the relative advantages of London or Bristol in so far as London could be said to be favoured as there was nothing to prevent the proceedings being moved to London while remaining in the Chancery Division. Accordingly, showing London to be more appropriate could not be a reason for a transfer. The Court’s focus was therefore on whether the Chancery Division or the Commercial Court was the more suitable venue. The Judge held that the test was whether it appeared that the Commercial Court was a significantly more suitable court for the proceedings to be tried in than the Chancery Division; the word “significantly” was included as it was a matter of commonsense that if the position was balanced, then the proceedings ought to be left where they were given the disruption and costs that would be involved in a transfer. In deciding which court was more suitable, by far the most important consideration was the subject matter of the proceedings and whether the matters could benefit from the expertise of judges in the Commercial Court, although relative expedition and costs were factors that were to be secondarily taken into account. Although the court accepted that the context of the money claim was the insurance industry, it was not part of the insurance industry that required the specialist knowledge of the Commercial Court. However, there was no doubt that if the proceedings had been commenced in the Commercial Court they would not have been expelled given the considerable overlap in some areas between the Chancery Division and the Commercial Court.
The case demonstrates that the courts are reluctant to move proceedings unless the circumstances warrant.