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Clifford Chance's property litigation team named real estate litigation team of the year for its work with Canary Wharf Group

8 November 2019

Clifford Chance's property litigation team named real estate litigation team of the year for its work with Canary Wharf Group

Clifford Chance's Property Litigation Team has been named Real Estate Litigation Team of the Year at the inaugural Commercial Litigation & Arbitration Awards, which were hosted by Legal Week in London on 5 November 2019.

The awards, which showcase the most innovative and challenging cases in the UK, recognise Clifford Chance's exceptional work and influence across the property and litigation sectors over the past 12 months. Clifford Chance's submission was underpinned by its work for Canary Wharf Group on its victory in its £500 million court case against the European Medicines Agency (EMA), in the High Court in London in February 2019.

The EMA had claimed that their 25-year lease of premises in Canary Wharf would be legally "frustrated" as a result of Brexit. However, the court comprehensively ruled that Brexit would not frustrate the lease and that the EMA would remain bound to perform the lease terms. This landmark ruling had widespread ramifications for both the British property industry and UK commerce in preventing a vast number of potential claims that other leases and contracts had also been frustrated by Brexit.

Clifford Chance's proactivity and forward-thinking approach was demonstrated by their ability to convince the judiciary to bring forward the case before the original Brexit deadline in March 2019 given the implications for their client and UK plc. This meant expediting the usual court timeframe. Working with Wilberforce Chambers and Brick Court Chambers, they presented compelling arguments on behalf of Canary Wharf Group that resulted in the judge agreeing that the EMA's argument would have lowered the threshold for the frustration of leases and contracts beyond the property sector. And in the inevitable appeal stage, the EMA subsequently withdrew all of their arguments.

Ben Hatton, Director of Property Litigation who led the team said: "We are delighted to have received this award, which recognises our work for Canary Wharf Group on this important case and the wider implications of the judgment in both the British and European commercial and political spheres. It was a real team effort and a great result for our client."

Clifford Chance's experienced real estate litigation team acts on the full range of property disputes in courts, tribunals, expert determinations and arbitrations. The team also advises clients on property litigation risk avoidance in transactions.