This guide gives a summary of the civil claims court procedure in Cyprus. Civil claims are those in which the Court does not order the imprisonment of a person but has the power (amongst other) to issue judgments for money and orders that the parties take or refrain from the taking of an action. Civil claims for example include claims for breach of contract, breach of intellectual property rights and shareholder disputes.
Starting a case in Cyprus
A case in Cyprus starts with lodging the Writ of Summons, which is a document describing the parties and the remedies the claimant seeks. Together with the Writ of Summons or within 10 days afterwards, the Claimant must file the Statement of Claim, which is a document containing the facts and details in support of the claim. The Writ of Summons and the Statement of Claim must then be served to Defendant. If the Defendant is not in Cyprus then the Court must give its permission to (i) seal the writ of summons and (ii) serve the documents abroad. If the Defendant is in the EU, then service is regulated by the provisions of EU Regulations 1215/12 (Brussels Regulation recast) and 1393/07. If the defendant is situated in a non-EU Country then the service is regulated by the national rules and treaties signed between the country of the defendant’s residence and Cyprus.
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Appearance and defence by the Defendant
When the defendant is served with the Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim, he/ she has 10 days to file an appearance and 14 days to file a Statement of Defence, where he/ she states the facts that base his/ her denial of the Claim and give details of any counterclaim. If the Defendant fails to either (a) file an appearance or (b) file a defence within the prescribed time limits, then the Claimant has a right to apply for a judgment in default. Then either:
-The Defendant will file its appearance and statement of defence prior to the trial of the application and the Court will ask the claimant to withdraw the application and be awarded with the expenses; or , A judgment will be issued. A judgment issued by reason of the defendant’s default of appearance or defence may be set aside (after an application by the Defendant) if the Defendant can prove that (1) a good reason for not appearing or filing a defence and (2) a prima-facie defence.
If the application to set aside the issued judgment is successful then proceedings will re-start. If on the other hand the application to set aside the issued judgment is rejected, then that is the end of the matter unless an appeal is filed.
Summons for directions and discovery
After the statement of claim and statement of defence are filed, the Court will set the case for directions (after an application by the Claimant or the Defendant). At this stage, the Court usually gives an order that the Parties exchange the lists of documents on which they will rely at the hearing stage to prove the matters disclosed in their Statement of Claim or Defence respectively. This process is referred to as “discovery”. The Parties must provide an affidavit (a sworn statement) containing the list of documents they will rely on within the dates prescribed by the Court. Then each party shall have a right to inspect the documents disclosed by the other party. The parties must disclose any document that is in favour or against their case.
After the directions and discovery stages are finished, the case is set for hearing. At the moment, hearings for cases in Cyprus start approximately 3-6 years after lodging the case (unless the claim is exceptionally clear, not requiring a normal trial, and a summary judgment is given). At the hearing the Claimant starts first by calling his/ her witnesses to provide evidence. After each of the Claimant’s witnesses gives their main evidence, the Defendant’s lawyer cross-examines them. Then, the Defendant puts forward his witnesses to testify and the Claimant’s lawyer cross-examines them. After the testimonies of the witnesses are over the lawyers of the parties advocate in favour of their clients with written or oral legal arguments.
Each party may make its own arrangements with their lawyers as to their fees. When the case ends, the normal rule of costs is that the winner gets paid his costs by the loser. As a result, the loser of the case will have to pay both his own lawyer and reimburse the winner of his lawyer costs according to the Cyprus Bar Association rules (and not any other specific agreement made with its lawyer for legal fees).
The costs payable by the loser are decided by the Court registrar in his discretion according to the aforementioned guidelines of the Cyprus Bar Association. As it is a discretionary process, the registrar may not award 100% of the money paid by the winning party to its lawyer.
Enforcement of judgments in Cyprus
Everyone must comply with a Court order issued against him/ her. If an order by the Court is not obeyed by the party against whom it is made, then that person is liable for contempt of Court. Contempt of Court is a quasi-criminal process under which the person may be fined or imprisoned. If, however, the person against whom the order is made does not have money to pay the amount ordered, then there are several mechanisms to enforce the judgment such as paying in monthly instalments and selling his/ her movable and immovable assets (except those necessary for living). Judgments issued in Cyprus may also be enforced against the assets of a defendant abroad. Under the Brussels Regulation (Recast) 1215/12, EU member states must recognise the judgments issued in another Member State without any special procedure and such judgments are then readily enforceable as if they were judgments of the Court where recognition is sought.
Note. This guide contains information for general guidance and does not substitute professional advice which must be sought prior to taking any actions.