Litigation In Cyprus

COURT PROCEDURE

There are two levels of courts in Cyprus:

  1. First instance courts that include District Courts and specialised courts/tribunals (such as the Military and Family courts) which hear all commercial and civil disputes as well as first instance criminal matters.
  2. The Supreme Court as the final appellate court as well as a court of first instance in relation to Admiralty cases.

Section 19(a) of the Courts of Justice Law stipulates that Cyprus Admiralty jurisdiction is exercised by the Supreme Court of Cyprusacting as a first instance court. However, under an amendment to the Courts of Justices Law the Supreme Court may refer a claim to a District Court if the subject matter relates to “to loss of life or personal damage caused as a result of a defect in the vessel or its equipment…” or where the claim is for less than EUR 17,086.01 and the subject matter relates to:

  1. goods supplied to the vessel for its maintenance;
  2. loss or damage to goods carried on board the vessel;
  3. construction, repair or supply of the vessel;
  4. crew wages; and
  5. expenses incurred on behalf of the vessel by her captain or any other supplier.

Where a party wishes to commence an action in relation to a maritime claim, an originating process (Writ of Summons or Originating Summons) is filed in the Supreme Court. The process for serving all court documents and the exchange of pleadings is governed by the Civil Procedure Rules. The key timelines that must be adhered to by the parties are:

  1. Defendant must file a Notice of Appearance within 10 (ten) days from the service of the Writ;
  2. Defendant must file a Statement of Defence within 14(fourteen) days from the filing of the Notice of Appearance;
  3. Plaintiff may file a reply within 7 (seven) days but this is not mandatory unless a counter-claim has been made in the Defendant’s Statement of Defence, in which case the Plaintiff must file a Defence to the counter-claim within 14 (fourteen) days.
  4. Once the pleadings close, either party may apply to the court for a hearing date. The Registrar will fix the matter for directions, and the judge will determin a date for hearing the matter.

Key timelines for an appeal against a decision of a single judge of the Supreme court in an admiralty matter or of a District court where the maritime claim has been referred are as follows:

  1. A notice of appeal must be filed within: (i) 6 (six) weeks of the date of a judgment on the merits of the case (unless an extension is granted by the court); or (ii) 14 (fourteen) days of the date of an interim judgment.

ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION

Dispute resolution in Cyprus occurs most commonly through judicial proceedings; however, the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is increasing. The three main forms of ADR in Cyprus are mediation, conciliation and arbitration. The most common form of ADR in relation to maritime claims is arbitration. An arbitration agreement is binding under (section 3, Arbitration Law 1944 (Cap. 4) where it is in writing and may be enforced by the registration of an arbitration award as a court judgment. Courts may also refer matters to arbitration at their discretion if it is in the interests of justice to do so.

International arbitration in Cyprus is governed by the International Commercial Arbitration Law of 1987 (Law 101/87) that incorporates the provisions of the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards which Cyprus ratified in 1980.

PROS AND CONS OF LITIGATION IN CYPRUS

Costs: The costs of a matter brought before a court of Cyprus will depend on the complexity of the case and the legal counsel involved. The Advocates Law (Cap 6) provides general criteria for legal charges, and statutory requirements for minimum charges depend on the scale of the matter.

Any award for the costs of proceedings is at the sole discretion of the court; however, as a general rule costs follow the result and the successful party may claim costs from the other party. The court, in its costs order, will direct whether the costs are assessed or taxed by the Registrar of the court in which the proceedings have taken place.

Enforcement of judgments/awards: Domestic judgments may be enforced by several methods including but not limited to:

  1. seizure and sale of movable property,
  2. sale or registration of charges over immovable property,
  3. attachment and sequestration,
  4.  attachment of debt or property,
  5.  committal for breach of an order or undertaking,

or any other method considered appropriate in light of the particular circumstances of the case.

Time: A maritime claim whether brought at the District court level or the Supreme Court as a first instance court exercising its admiralty jurisdiction may take from two to three (2-3) years to reach trial as the courts’ heavy case load may lead to court adjournments of matters or either party may request adjournments for various reasons, which can cause delays.

However, the independence of the Cypriot judicial system, the transparency of proceedings, the increasing use of arbitration in relation to technically complex cases as well as the courts’ common sense approach to dispute resolution make the Cypriot court system a respected and efficient forum for the resolution of any dispute.

This publication has been written in general terms and should be seen as broad guidance only. The publication cannot be relied upon to cover specific situations and you should not act, or refrain from acting, upon the information contained herein without obtaining professional advice. This information should not be relied upon as a substitute for such advice.For more information please contact us at info@oxfordmaritime.com; +357 25 823 593