Commercial Disputes in the time of Coronavirus

14 May 2020

By John Arnold, Partner and Head of Commercial Law

The global pandemic that is affecting us is constantly creating uncertainties and issues that may cause division between people and companies in commercial relationships.

At the same time, the Civil Courts in this country are struggling to cope with their existing workload and are functioning mainly on telephone hearings
with matters being prioritised by the Courts themselves and not by the parties involved in a dispute. The Court system may be running behind as a result
of the pandemic for many months to come.

What therefore are individuals and companies to do when faced with a potential dispute?

The first point to make is that people involved in such situations should keep talking to each other. There is not the facility in these times for saying:

“I will see you in Court”

as that is not presently going to happen.

For cases where there is an apparently intractable dispute, then people may consider instructing Solicitors to try to further their aims.

However, in the present absence of a fully functioning Civil Court Service, people should seriously consider Mediation as an option.

Why should you consider Mediation?

As a firm, we have a great deal of experience in dealing with Mediations. We have always found them to be a very constructive process in allowing disputing
parties to continue to talk, and to continue to understand the viewpoint of the other party.

Even in normal times, a Court decision can be a very blunt instrument whereas mediation has the capacity to incorporate all kinds of issues into a resolution
which works for all parties. We have been involved in mediations concerning property rights, company purchases, and allegations concerning defective
goods and services. Our Family Law department has two Accredited Mediators who deal mainly with disputes between family members.

Before a commercial dispute reaches the stage where neither party is talking to the other, we would urge that a Solicitor is contacted with a view to achieving
a resolution through Mediation.

Solicitors can facilitate the appointment of an independent Mediator who will listen to both parties, try to understand both viewpoints and look to broker
an agreement between them. Mediators do not measure their success in anything other than settlements achieved.

It is important to appreciate that in a Court case, parties can both come out thoroughly dissatisfied. In a Mediation, it is always said that people can
walk away after a settlement with something they don’t necessarily like, but with something that they can both live with. In these times, it is important
that we deal with things in a pragmatic way that allows us to get on with the next challenge.

For more information or to arrange a free half hour consultation with a member of our Commercial Law team, please contact us on 01244 356 789 or email

Please note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.