The Litigation Process in Cyprus
Litigation refers to the dispute resolution process through the courts. Having been a British colony until 1960, the Cypriot legal system and rules relating to litigation are primarily based on the English legal system. The courts are divided into six types: District Courts (civil actions); Assize Courts (criminal cases); Family Courts; Rent Control Tribunals; Industrial Dispute Tribunals and Military Court.
All are presided over by the Supreme Court which (amongst other duties) acts as an appellant court to hear the appeals from lower courts in civil and criminal matters.
The process of litigation in Cyprus is governed by the Civil Procedure Rules (Cap 12). In order to commence civil proceedings one must initially file a Writ of Summons (used in most common law actions), an Application for Originating Summons (in cases where the primary question is one of law and not one of fact) or a Petition (in a case such as bankruptcy or the winding up of a company). In each case the filed papers will commence the action by stating the type of claim being pursued and the remedy which is being sought.
The Writ of Summons is the most commonly used procedure and it may remain in force for up to 12 months, although the person suing may apply to renew the writ by application to the Court. The Writ of Summons will need to be served by the person commencing action on the other party by leaving a copy with him, or under certain circumstances with his family or at his place of work.
Once service has taken place then the next stage is essentially a correspondence of material facts as each party sees them. This stage is called “Pleadings” and exists in order to allow the parties to define the matters upon which the Court will decide.
Initially the party commencing the action will file a Statement of Claim with the Court. Within 14 days of this document being filed, the other party will need to file his defense (and counterclaim – if he intends to argue that it is in fact he who ought to have a cause of action against the first party). The party who originated the action may then also file his response to the defense (and his own defense to the counterclaim – if any) within 7 days.
In cases which are unnecessary, scandalous or frivolous then the Court will have the power to strike the claim out – in other words cease the action. Particulars (a further or better statement of the nature of the claim) may be ordered by the Court, upon application by one party.
At any stage in the proceedings, any party may give notice by pleading or otherwise by notice in writing that he admits the truth of the whole or any part of the case of the other party. Furthermore any party may call upon the other party to admit any document.
In claims related to debt or damages, the accused party may at any time (upon giving notice to the party taking action against him)pay into the court a sum of money in satisfaction of the claim. The party taking action may choose to accept the money in satisfaction of the claim or continue with his claim (if he believes that the sum does not satisfy).
In order to gain access to documentation held by another party, either party to the claim may apply to the Court for an order to the other party for discovery of documents which are or have been in his possession and which relate to the matter before the court. However, discovery will only be ordered where the Judge believes it to be just and will not be ordered where he believes it is not necessary for disposing fairly of the action or for saving costs. An application may be made for an order to inspect documents. Where a party ordered to make discovery or allow inspection fails to do so then he shall not be able to rely on such documents himself as evidence unless it is found that he had sufficient excuse for so failing.
Within a month of the close of the pleadings process, the person who commenced the action should apply to the Court for a trial date to be fixed. If the application is not made then the other party may apply to the Court himself for a date to be set or alternatively that the action be dismissed. The party at whose instance the trial date is set must give notice to the other party of the set date.
Following the trial, the Judge will enter into judgment in favor of either party and (if appropriate) in both the original claim and the counterclaim. The Judge will include a direction in his judgment as to who will be responsible for the costs of the action.
An appeal can be launched against a decision made, and must be lodged within the relevant timeframes specified by law (usually six weeks) unless the Court making the decision or the Court of Appeal itself enlarges this timeframe.
Litigation can be both expensive and time consuming and for this reason it is extremely important that the potential benefits of a favorable outcome are carefully balanced with the potential risk of an unfavorable one and with the potential time and costs involved. Before embarking upon litigation, other forms of alternative dispute resolution should be considered (please see our article Arbitration in Cyprus) and expert advice taken on its appropriateness. Where it is deemed to be an appropriate course of action, the support of an experienced legal team will maximize your chances of success and offer considered legal advice every step of the way.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.