Before we attempt to elaborate on the issue of Litigation, and how it is practiced and/or applied in Cyprus, it is necessary to give the definition (as far as possible) of the subject per se.
Litigation can be defined as an action brought in Court to enforce a particular right. It is the act or process of bringing a lawsuit in and of itself.
The Cyprus Republic is a relatively newly founded Republic, having been a British Colony until the 1960, it has ‘borrowed’ its core Constitution and Legal System from the United Kingdom.
The Courts in Cyprus are divided into six Jurisdictions and every case is tried depended upon the matter at hand at the appropriate Jurisdiction. The six Jurisdictions or divisions of Courts in Cyprus are the District Courts (Civil Courts), the Family Courts, Assize Courts (Criminal Courts), Rent Control Courts, the Industrial and/or Labor Dispute Courts and lastly the Military Courts.
In Cyprus the process of Litigation is regulated by the Civil Procedure rules. In order to initiate civil proceedings, one must first submit a Writ of Summons (used in the vast majority of Civil and Common law actions), an Application for Originating Summons (in instances where the core question is one of Law and not of fact) or a Petition (in cases of Bankruptcy or the winding up of a Company)
In most cases before a Lawsuit is filed, the person who is contemplating to submit such a Lawsuit (called the Plaintiff or Complainant), typically demands, via a warning letter which is usually drafted and subsequently served (with a private bailiff)and which is addressed to the wrongdoer and/or offender, so that the said person that caused the alleged injury and/or wrongdoing (called the Defendant) performs certain action(s) that will resolve the alleged wrongdoing and/or injury. (i.e. if it concerns a payment of debt, so that the Defendant repays such debt within a set timeframe)
If the demand is denied and/or ignored by the side of the Defendant, the Plaintiff may start the Lawsuit by drafting (via his Lawyer) and subsequently serving (though a private Bailiff which is instructed by his Lawyer) a copy of the writ of summons and/or other claim and/or therapy (the written form of the claim of the Plaintiff) which is firstly filed to the appropriate Registrar of the Court. The writ of summons (the actual Lawsuit) must state the alleged injuries and/or wrongdoing and attribute them to the Defendant, and also demand and/or request damages and/or equitable relief.
Upon service of the Lawsuit and/or procedure, what follows is basically a sequence of exchange of documentation which must always firstly be filed to the appropriate Registrar of the Court (depended upon the Jurisdiction of the Court) and then disclosed to the other party. This stage is called the Pleadings stage. It includes the filing of the relevant proceedings, an appearance from the other side and a subsequent filing of defense and then an optional answer to the filing of the defense by the party who initiates the proceedings. All exchanges of pleadings must be submitted and disclosed to the other side within specific timeframes. It should be noted that the Defendant can counterclaim the Plaintiff by submitting together with his defense a counterclaim and then the Plaintiff must submit his defense to the counterclaim with the same rules and timeframes applying as if the claim was brought initially by the Defendant himself.
After the completion of the pleadings, the Plaintiff within 30 days must submit a relevant application to the appropriate Registrar of the Court to set the case for directions in front of the Judge that will pass Judgment upon the particular case. If the Plaintiff fails to do so within the aforementioned timeframe the Defendant can apply to the Court to have the case rejected for lack of intention to proceed with the case by the Plaintiff.
Upon setting the case for directions, the parties must agree to points that will limit/or restrict the issues and/or points that will be tried, i.e. disclosure and/or inspection of documentation, any admittances, witnesses that will be present at trial, etc.
As soon as the case has been set for directions, and the issues that will limit the points and/or issues to be tried are finalized, the case is subsequently set for hearing.
Although the process described above can, and in most instances is, completed in a matter of months, the actual hearing of the case will not start until the passing of several years. This is due to the high volume of cases which flood our Courts yearly, and the limited number of Judges and Court facilities we have in every district. Consequently all cases which are set for hearing are postponed and reset for hearing until they gain priority to be tried.
Recently, the Cyprus Parliament by voting and passing the new Civil Procedure Order No. 30, is attempting to solve and/or at least mitigate this problem, but whether it will succeed it is a still a matter to be seen, as the new legislation has taken effect on the 1st of January 2015 and it still being applied,its results and/or effectsare still waiting to be experienced.
As to the issue of the expenses of bringing a Lawsuit, we must mention in prior that the litigation expenses are depended upon the claim that is brought. More specifically Lawsuits are divided into different scales of expenses. For example if a Bank appoints a Lawyer to bring a Lawsuit on their behalf for a borrower that is failing to keep with their repayment terms, and their claim is for a loan of €5000,00, then their expenses will be calculated upon the scale of €2000 – €10.000 of expenses. If the Lawyer agrees to be paid according to the scale of expenses which is set by the Bar Association then he/she cannot charge his/her client with any amount exceeding that which is set by the Bar Association which is as mentioned depended upon the scale of expenses of the particular case.
Nevertheless the parties (Lawyer – Client) can come to any agreement between them in regards to the Lawyers fees, and usually the Lawyer which adopts such a policy will have a specific Lawyer/client agreement which will specify and/or regulate the expenses in detail and also all the rights and obligations of each party.
Below are shown the scales of expenses for Civil Cases as per Bar Association:
a) Claims not exceeding €500,00(Starting indicative Lawyers fee/charge€160,00*)
b) Claims between €500,00 – €2000,00 (Starting indicative Lawyers fee/charge €292,00*)
c) Claims between €2.000,00 – €10.000,00 (Starting indicative Lawyers fee/charge €516,00*)
d) Claims between €10.000,00 – €50.000,00 (Starting indicative Lawyers fee/charge €719,00*)
e) Claims between €50.000,00 – €100.000,00 (Starting indicative Lawyers fee/charge €936,00*)
f) Claims between €100.000,00 – €500.000,00 (Starting indicative Lawyers fee/charge €1326,00*)
g) Claims between €500.000,00 – €2.000.000,00 (Starting indicative Lawyers fee/charge €1751,00*)
h) Claims exceeding €2.000.000,00 (Starting indicative Lawyers fee/charge €2363,00*)
In the Family Court Jurisdiction and specifically for divorce, the scale of expenses which is applied is the one for Claims between €2.000,00 – €10.000,00 in Civil Cases. For marital Property disputes which must be resolved parallel to the divorce proceedings the scales of Civil Cases fully apply, depending uponhow much is the Property claim estimated.
The same principle applies for the Rent Control and Labor and/or Industrial Court Jurisdictions.
This article provides a basic outline in relation to the Litigation process as it is applied in Cyprus and thus provides by no means an exhaustive and complete description of the said process. Therefore it is given with all rights reserved and without prejudice.
*If the case is not burden with further trial expenses and your Lawyer proceeds ex-parte (i.e.without the involvement of the other side) and issues a decision in your favor