New Year, New (DIFC-LCIA) Rules

The DIFC-LCIA has kick started the new year by publishing the DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Rules (“2021 Rules”), effective as of 1 January 2021.  The implementation of the 2021 Rules will streamline procedure while improving the effectiveness of arbitrations.

Key changes contained within the 2021 Rules introduce additional powers to the Arbitral Tribunal to expediate proceedings and control procedure.  While the tribunal already held broad powers, Article 14.6 of the 2021 Rules specifically lists powers that the tribunal can now implement with a view to expediate proceedings.  These powers include limiting the length of written submissions, oral or written testimony along with the implementation of technology to expediate proceedings.

Importantly, the 2021 Rules introduces the power of early determination of frivolous claims or weak defences.  Article 22.1 (viii) of the 2021 Rules provides that any claim and/or defence that is “manifestly outside the jurisdiction of the Arbitral Tribunal, or is inadmissible or manifestly without merit” the Arbitral Tribunal may, where appropriate, issue an order or award to that effect. The concept of early dismissal is a significant change within the rules which addresses the absence of an express provision for summary judgment procedure found in litigation.

The 2021 Rules also broadens the scope for parties to consolidate arbitrations.  Previously, parties were limited to consolidating arbitrations that involved the same parties under the same arbitration agreement.  The 2021 Rules widens the scope in that the tribunal may consolidate arbitrations where; i) all parties to the arbitrations to be consolidated agree so in writing; or ii) there are compatible arbitration agreements between the same disputing parties or arising out of the same transaction or series of related transactions”.  This provision extends the previously limited circumstances where parties could consolidate proceedings.  In addition, the 2021 Rules provides that two or more arbitrations, under the same arbitration agreement, can be conducted concurrently with the same arbitral tribunal for each arbitration.

While other administrative measures were also introduced by the 2021 Rules, the clear focus of the changes relate to the efficient conduct of proceedings.  The changes to the rules provide the tribunal with additional procedural powers to effectively control proceedings whilst introducing new provisions which were previously absent from the rules.  These marked improvements assist to clarify the rights and obligations of the parties and enhance the DIFC-LCIA’s appeal as a forum for international arbitration.

For further information in relation to the proposed new rules, please contact Joanna Stewart (jstewart@davidsoncolaw.com)

January 2021

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