What is the world’s longest-running litigation?

February 26, 2020

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This article is written by Yavanika ShahTeam LawSikho.

Christopher Colombus. Heard of him?

He was the Italian explorer and colonizer who completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. He was determined to find a direct water route west from Europe to Asia, but he never did. 

Instead, he stumbled upon the Americas.

But have you heard of Pleitos Colombinos?

You would be wondering, well, what do these two Greek sounding words mean and how are they relevant to this article?

These were a long series of lawsuits that Columbus’s heirs bought against the Crown of Castle between 1508 and 1536.

Lawsuits? Interesting, right?

Let me tell you the story:

These historic series of lawsuits sprung up by the signing of the Capitulations of Santa Fe sometime in 1492. 

Under the capitulation, the Spanish Crown promised Columbus 10% of all the revenue from any lands he discovered in perpetuity. Which meant the rights under the agreement were transferable to his heirs even after his death. They also granted Columbus the titles of Admiral of the Ocean Sea, the Viceroy, the Governor-General, and honorific Don, among other things.

Just imagine, being promised a whopping tenth part of all riches to be obtained from his intended voyage for life IN PERPETUITY!

According to researchers, this contract would be valued at over $100 trillion in today’s currency and would have made Columbus’ family one of, if not the wealthiest, in recorded history. Jeff Bezos, are you reading?

It was not a formal agreement and the capitulation was on the basis of a series of negotiations between Columbus and the Spanish Crown. Capitulation was a word used for agreements or contracts signed between Royalty and civilians at the time. The documents were pretty complex and it actually took over 3 months to prepare!

But everything was not rosy amidst this really rosy capitulation drawn for Columbus.

Columbus fell out of favor and the Royals reneged on their agreement!

Columbus spent his final day’s poor and destitute, but with enough strength to gather supporters for litigation against the Crown. 

The litigation dragged on for three centuries and involved ten generations, with the Crown arguing that it was actually Martin Alonso Pinzon, the captain of the Pinta, who was the true Discoverer of the New World, not Columbus!

Both parts finally submitted to arbitration in 1536 after long negotiations. The parties delivered some promises under the arbitration proceedings which included a payment of 10,000 ducats annually to the heirs of Columbus. 

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The one-tenth part of all the riches in perpetuity did not really happen, despite there being a legit agreement between the parties.

Columbus probably didn’t have a good enough lawyer to draft and negotiate his capitulations.

What can you learn from the Capitulations of Santa Fe?

Well, we are not in the 1500s anymore. Contracts have evolved and the lawyers have become smarter at creating enforceable contracts that are hard to get out of.

They have to:

Can you afford to make any errors in your contracts in 2020?

Well, if you’re prudent enough, you’d wish to not leave any stone unturned to make your contracts full-proof. And that is why, lawyers who can draft good contracts, and also enforce those contracts when one of the parties fail to honor it, are in high demand. 

How can you learn contract drafting?

Contract drafting and negotiation is like learning karate or learning to play a musical instrument – the more you practice, the better you get at it. 

To make sure you really get the core skills, we have created more than 100 contract drafting and negotiation exercises that are administered by our experts over 50 weeks, which enable you to form necessary brain and memory patterns to apply the knowledge in real-life situations. 

Our assignments are realistic and imitate the sort of work you will get from a client or at a job. If you practice these and get detailed personal feedback, you will know what to do in specific situations at work because you have already dealt with them before in your course!

You will build your muscles by working on smaller problems and then begin to work on more complex and challenging situations.

When you walk into a real-life situation, you will be pleasantly surprised to realize at how much of it you have already tackled before through the practice exercises.

We currently have enrolments open for admission in our Diploma in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation, and Dispute Resolution.

This is a 12-months diploma course with 1 online live class per week, 2 practical /drafting exercises per week, printed study materials at your disposal, doubt clearance within 24 hours and a lot of other benefits that you can find on the course page with details.

How can you start? It’s simple.

Find out more about the Diploma in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution here

We strongly recommend you to download the free material from the course page to get a sense of what we teach.

What is the career potential after doing this course?

You can take this course even if you have not studied contract law (or any law for that matter). Businessmen, project management and contract management professionals and other working professionals who regularly need to deal with contracts will also find this course extremely beneficial.

If you have any queries, comment below or schedule a career counseling session by calling 011-4084-5203.

Other courses open for enrolments currently till 29th February are:


Diploma in Cyber Law, Fintech Regulations and Technology Contracts

Diploma in Advanced Contract Drafting, Negotiation and Dispute Resolution


Certificate Course in Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace

Certificate Course in Capital Markets, Securities Laws, Insider Trading and SEBI Litigation

Certificate Course in Labour, Employment and Industrial Laws for HR Managers

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