Ian Watts – providing legal services in Gibraltar since 2002
Introduction to Gibraltar Commercial Litigation
Gibraltar is home to a vast amount of locally registered companies conducting international business. In the province of everyday life, commercial disputes naturally arise, with legal redress being quite often inexorable.
Strictly speaking, the term ‘commercial litigation’ encompasses a dispute between companies, but it can also consist of disputes between individuals and companies and vice-versa. The gamut of commercial litigation therefore ranges (and by way of example only) from traditional litigation brought under either the Companies Act 2014 or Insolvency Act 2011, to employment law proceedings brought at first instance before the Gibraltar Employment Tribunal as well as land law claims brought by or against commercial landlords under Part IV of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1983.
Matters of Jurisdiction & Procedure
The Jurisdiction of the Court
Gibraltar does not possess a specialised divisional court such as the Commercial Court seen in the jurisdiction of England and Wales. Instead, the Supreme Court of Gibraltar possesses general jurisdiction to hear and determine commercial law disputes. All proceedings are assigned to its Chancery Jurisdiction (which also deals with disputes relating to trusts). In Gibraltar, like in England and Wales, the mainstay of company litigation is brought under local legislation, with the principal statute being the Companies Act 2014. Matters relating to corporate insolvency are brought under provisions of the Insolvency Act 2011.
Matters of Procedure
The Civil Procedure Rules [CPR] 1998 (as amended from time to time) apply in Gibraltar, and are subject to local modifications. Proceedings brought under the Companies Act 2014 are dealt with in accordance with CPR Part 49 and Practice Direction 49A which supplements it – they are termed ‘specialist proceedings’. Proceedings brought under the Insolvency Act are dealt with by recourse of the procedural code laid down by the Insolvency Rules 2014 and CPR Practice Direction 49B. Local practitioners at the Chancery Bar therefore also need to pay heed to the Commercial Court Guide contained in the White Book Service.
Unless there is a specified method of bringing commercial proceedings laid down by the Companies Act 2014, generally the procedure involves filing a Claim Form under the CPR Part 8 procedure. Ordinary civil actions under the CPR Part 7 procedure can be brought about against errant or delinquent directors for breach of their fiduciary duties. That said, certain applications are dealt with by way of Petitions – for example, under a compulsory winding-up of a Gibraltar company or petitions brought by minority shareholders based on ‘unfair prejudice’.
ADR – Alternative Dispute Resolution
Commercial litigation can be quite complex, requiring specialist advice, and often fairly expensive. It is good practice for the parties to a potential dispute to consider alternative forms of resolving their differences before embarking in court proceedings. Common forms of dispute resolution mechanisms in Gibraltar Commercial Litigation include Mediation and Arbitration (the latter is governed by the Arbitration Act 1895 which is a consolidating statute relating to Gibraltar arbitral proceedings and also transposes into domestic law international conventions in respect of foreign arbitration awards under the Geneva Convention of 1923 or the New York Convention 1958).
For further information on Commercial Litigation in Gibraltar please contact Ian Watts.
 The jurisdiction of the court to hear commercial disputes is always subject to International Legislation and/or the Conflict of Law rules which may confer jurisdiction upon a foreign court on the facts of a given case.
 There are of course instances where Counsel needs to move the court for an urgent order on an application ‘’without notice’’. This is typical where injunctive relief is necessary – e.g. the obtaining of a domestic or international freezing order.
©Ian Watts, Barrister-at-Law, 2017-2023. All Rights Reserved.