Litigation and enforcement in the British Virgin Islands: overview
A Q&A guide to dispute resolution law in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
The country-specific Q&A gives a structured overview of the key practical issues concerning dispute resolution in this jurisdiction, including court procedures; fees and funding; interim remedies (including attachment orders); disclosure; expert evidence; appeals; class actions; enforcement; cross-border issues; the use of ADR; and any reform proposals.
Main dispute resolution methods
1. What are the main dispute resolution methods used in your jurisdiction to resolve large commercial disputes?
Litigation remains the primary dispute resolution mechanism in large commercial disputes in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).
Court proceedings are adversarial in nature and governed by the Eastern Caribbean Civil Procedure Rules 2000, as amended (CPR). In commercial matters, the CPR is supplemented by a number of Practice Directions and notes. Under the CPR, judges have broad powers to actively manage cases to ensure that they are disposed of fairly and expeditiously. Whenever possible, the court encourages co-operation between the parties, guided by the overriding objective to deal with cases justly.
The standard of proof for commercial claims is the same as for all other civil claims, that is, the parties must prove their case “on a balance of probabilities”. The burden of proof in a commercial fraud claim is the same as for civil claims, but the cogency of the evidence must be commensurate with the seriousness of the allegation.
Alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation and arbitration, are available (see Question 30 to 34). However, they are less popular in large commercial disputes. The British Virgin Islands Arbitration Centre is a relatively new addition to the BVI arsenal of dispute resolution resources, but although in its infancy the sophistication of its infrastructure and the quality of its panel of arbitrators rival those of the most established centres of London and New York.
2. What limitation periods apply to bringing a claim and what triggers a limitation period?
Limitation periods in the BVI are as follows (BVI Limitation Act 1961):
- Contract and tort claims: six years from the date on which the cause of action accrued.
- Claims brought in respect of deeds: 12 years from the date of breach of the obligation under the deed.
- Actions for sums recoverable under statute (other than a penalty or forfeiture): six years from the date on which the cause of action accrued.
- Judgment debt: 12 years from the date on which the judgment became enforceable.
- Arrears of interest on a judgment debt: six years from the date on which interest became due.
- Recovery of land: 12 years from the date on which the right of action accrued.
- Recovery of monies secured by a mortgage or charge on property: 12 years from the date on which the right to receive monies accrued.
- Fraudulent breach of trust by trustee or trustee’s conversion of property: no limitation period.
- All other actions by beneficiaries for breach of trust or recovery of trust property: six years from the date on which the cause of action accrued.
- In so far it relates to the above periods, in any action for which a limitation period is prescribed by the Limitation Act 1961, the limitation period will not start running until the claimant has discovered the fraud or the mistake (as the case may be), or could with reasonable diligence have discovered it, where any of the following applies:
- the action is based on the fraud of the defendant or its agent, or of any person through whom they claim;
- the right of action is concealed by the fraud of any such person;
- the action is for relief from the consequences of a mistake.
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This article was first published in Thomson Reuters Practical Law.