So we are on the cusp of a litigation boom if a recent survey by Gallagher, the risk manager and insurance broker, (specifically Its Business Litigation Index) is to be believed.
Employment litigation will surge later this year after the furlough scheme ends, with organisations likely to face a high volume of redundancy-related claims, Gallagher says.
Cyber-related litigation will increase, they predict, because of remote working, a greater reliance on technology and automation and there will be more data-related group claims.
Contract disputes will also be on the march arising out of COVID-related breaches and supply chain issues. Oh and add Brexit to the mix and you have the perfect storm, according to Gallagher. (No mention interestingly of the recent trend for companies having to resort to suing their insurers for non-pay out of policies to cover Covid losses, but that is surely part of the picture too. Unsurprisingly Gallagher is keener to stress the role of insurance brokers to help businesses defend any potential claims).
Our perspective at Bell Yard chimes with some of the above – but not all.
On the employment front, from our vantage point, some companies in the City and elsewhere have in many instances begun to restructure already. The end of furlough may not be quite such a cliff-edge in our opinion. We have seen cases in the last 12 months involving high-end talent wars as well as those concerning allegations of inappropriate behaviour – and expect no let-up in these types of matters. We anticipate businesses will continue to add talent in growth areas and to bolster leadership teams. They will also continue to weed out those who don’t respect or embody the right values in our new D&I-friendly era, although it is possible some exits may be made under the cloak of Covid-related restructuring. PR handling skills for such sensitive matters will remain in demand.
Cyber cases have been a growing trend for a while and we agree will continue its upward trajectory, as well as all nature of group claims from unlawful fuel emissions (which arguably has tech at the heart) to medical practice. Group cases in particular require expert PR support – look no further for a firm with notable experience! We have yet to see supply chain-related cases cross our books for covid reasons or due to the recent Suez canal block incident.
We do however anticipate a spate of fraud-related cases coming into radar soon, given the pandemic has provided the perfect opportunity for rogue employees. And creditor-led / insolvency related litigation.
Health-related litigation and healthcare sector litigation is also an obvious area in which to expect more disputes. Cases involving foreign litigants in English courts seem to be in abeyance and this is not a trend we see reversing any time soon.
Of course, PR is often a useful or essential part of litigation battle armoury at the outset of a claim, for claimants and respondents alike. The challenge for us is predicting when cases will likely come to trial given court backlogs, associated incentives to settle and greater use of ADR mechanisms.
Thankfully it has been a busy lockdown for the Bell Yard team but we are certainly up for a litigation boom. We look forward to abandoning Zoom and meeting in person to discuss prospective matters very soon.
by Louise Beeson 7 May 2021