The Singapore International Commercial Court (“SICC”) recently announced the creation of a specialised Technology, Infrastructure and Construction List (“TIC List”) to handle complex disputes, including technology-related disputes and those arising from infrastructure and construction projects.
What makes the TIC List different
The TIC List offers additional case management tools suited to complex cases involving multiple contracts, various parties and voluminous evidence. Such features are often the hallmarks of disputes arising on major projects.
The consent of the parties, and an order of the court, is required for a case to be placed in the TIC List. Where a case is placed in the TIC List:
- The court has enhanced case management powers relating to expert evidence, eg it can convene a case management conference with the experts, or direct the experts to produce a joint statement and/or a joint report.
- The use of a Scott Schedule may be directed by the court; this is a table which sets out each issue to be determined by the court and each party’s submissions on that issue.
- The court can require the exchange of affidavits of evidence-in-chief of some or all witnesses prior to disclosure of documents; this may come as a surprise to some practitioners, for example those in England and Wales, where witness evidence is normally exchanged after disclosure has taken place.
- Voluntary protocols are available, namely a:
- Simplified Adjudication Process Protocol, which streamlines the resolution of smaller-value claims in cases containing a large number of distinct claims.
- Pre-Action Protocol, which encourages the frank and early exchange of information between the parties; although query whether the fact that suitable cases are not automatically placed in the TIC List will mean that parties are less likely to consider using the protocol.
There is a specialist list of judges with experience of hearing complex commercial cases, made up of judges from the Singaporean judiciary as well as international judges.
International parallels – the TCC
There are some parallels that can be drawn with the English Technology and Construction Court (TCC), which is also designed to handle technically complex disputes such as construction and engineering disputes and technology-related disputes.
Other notable similarities include dedicated judges with relevant expertise (including Sir Vivian Ramsey who was previously a TCC judge and is now a specialist TIC List judge), expert evidence case management powers, the use of Scott Schedules (which in fact take their name from one of the early Official Referees sitting in what is now the TCC) and the availability of a pre-action protocol.
Potential impact of the TIC List
The SICC, a division of the General Division of the High Court and part of the Supreme Court of Singapore, was established in 2015 as a centre for the resolution of international commercial disputes. It offers a relatively unusual combination of traditional court proceedings and elements that are more akin to arbitration, for example parties can apply for the proceedings to be confidential and can agree to limit their rights to appeal.
The establishment of the TIC List may help to increase the attractiveness of the SICC as a forum for resolving major project disputes. However, it remains to be seen whether the availability of the TIC List will take away from the prevalent use of arbitration in resolving major project disputes, particularly where international parties are involved. The ability of a successful party to enforce an arbitral award pursuant to the New York Convention (of which over 160 countries are signatories) may mean that in many cases arbitration is the preferred option.
You can find out more about the TIC List here.