18 September 2018

Civil law proceedings (litigation) in the Netherlands

Category: Litigation

This blog gives you insight in civil law proceedings in the Netherlands. It’s a brief overview of what you may expect from a standard civil law case.

Initiating Court Proceedings in the Netherlands

Proceedings start with a writ of summons issued by a bailiff to the opposing party. This orders the opposing party to appear in court a minimum of 8 days from when the summons was served. If the defendant lives abroad, it may take up to 3 months for the first day in court to take place. Contrary to what is often believed, one does not need to appear in court. After all, this session is commonly adjourned to be resumed at a later date. If no defence is lodged at this stage of the proceedings the session is adjourned and a default judgement issued four weeks later. It is possible to rectify this default within the four week period it takes the court to issue the judgement. It is also worth noting that it is possible to take legal counsel with you.

The hearing

The court will usually schedule a hearing in order to gather information about the case and to see if the parties are willing to agree to a settlement. If from the outset it is clear that the parties wont reach a settlement, the court will inquire whether the parties want to request any witnesses or export reports. The judge may sometimes provide an indication of how he believes the case will be decide to help the parties in the negotiation of a settlement if relevant. Other judges will remain completely silent to this topic.

Court proceedings in the Netherlands

If the judge finds that the hearing has informed the court sufficiently to enable it to make judgement no further submission are allowed after the hearing phase and judgement is given. If not, the court may allow for a second round of submissions. The court proceedings may take from 6 months to a year.

Appealing the court’s decision in the Netherlands

Decisions issued by the lower courts can be appealed. Appeal procedures are limited to only one round of submissions and one hearing. It is critical to understand that the court may only review aspects of the case which have been objected to in the notice of appeal. Therefore, if you wish to challenge your opponent’s liability and the amount of damages, both these issues must be objected to. If you object to only one, the court is restricted in its review to this objection alone, this can lead to an unfavorable situation.

Appealing to the Supreme Court (cassation)

This is the highest instance a case can reached. The Supreme Court will only review points of law as opposed to facts as well. Therefore, the grounds for an appeal to the Supreme Court must only consist of either a belief that the previous court has not applied the law correctly or the reasons for the judgement are vague.

Legal representation in the Netherlands

In the Netherlands, at the district court level, it is possible to go to court yourself without legal representation, although this is not always recommended. Once you surpass this level, it is mandatory for both parties that legal counsel is present during the proceedings. Feel free to contact Blenheim, specialised in litigation and find out how he can offer the tailored assistance you need.