Legal proceedings before the Dutch civil courts


How do you commence civil court proceedings in the Netherlands?

Most court proceedings in the Netherlands are initiated when a writ of summons (dagvaarding) is served by a Dutch bailiff on a defendant. This is called a service of process. This writ states that the defendant is summoned to appear in the Dutch court on a specific time and date. The bailiff or advocate of the plaintiff then registers the writ with the court according to the date specified in the writ.

For defendants residing in the Netherlands, the bailiff delivers the summons to him. In case the defendant is a legal entity, the writ can be served at the registered offices or to any of its directors.


How does service of process to foreign defendants take place in the Netherlands?

For defendants residing outside the Netherlands or for defendants who have no know residence in the Netherlands, the process and rules differs depending on whether the defendant resides in:

  1. a state to which the EC Service Regulation applies, or
  2. a state which is a party to The Hague Service Convention 1965, or the 1954 Hague Convention (CCP), or
  3. another state.

What is the minimum time period under Dutch law to be summonsed in court?

The minimum period of time that must have elapsed between serving a writ on a defendant and an appearance in court depends on where the defendant resides, and if this is outside the Netherlands.

If the defendant resides in the Netherlands or if the defendant has chosen domicile in the Netherlands, there is a minimum period of 1 week before appearance in court.

If the defendant resides in a state to which the EC Service Regulation applies, the time period is 4 weeks.

If the defendant resides in another state, the time period is 3 months.


Which written statements are filed in Dutch legal proceedings?

Parties set out their cases to the court by use of written statements. Both parties can submit (at least) one written statement. The claimant submits the writ of summons, and the defendant submits a statement of defense (in Dutch: conclusive van antwoord).

The writ of summons (filed by the claimant) must set out:

  1. the nature of the dispute and all relevant facts of the case
  2. the relief sought (e.g. specific performance or damages)
  3. the cause of action
  4. the documentary evidence and witnesses that the claimant will rely on to support his claim
  5. the competent court
  6. the day of the first formal appearance in court
  7. the arguments that the defense has brought forward (in so far as known).

The statement of defense (filed by the defendant) must set out (a.o.):

  1. all relevant facts
  2. a well-argued rebuttal of the claimants claims
  3. the evidence and witnesses that the defendant will rely on to support his defense.

The claimant and defendant can only submit other statements (statement of reply and statement of rejoinder) if permitted by the court.


When are parties ordered to appear personally in a Dutch court?

Generally, after the statement of defense is submitted, the Dutch court orders the parties to appear in court. During that hearing a commissioned judge can determine whether the case can be settled or how the proceedings should ensue. In the case of settlement, directors or other company representatives are usually required to submit proof that they have the competence to represent the company.

In situations where there is no required order to appear in court, the parties are usually granted a request for closing (written) arguments.


When is a judgment handed down by a Dutch civil court?

The judgment date is usually set to 6 weeks after the court hearing or the filing of the last closing arguments. The judgment will either be an interim or a final judgment. Interim judgments are given when actions need to take place before the final judgment is delivered. Final judgments conclude the court dispute, and have binding force on the parties.

The judgment of a Dutch court will be enforceable immediately after this is handed down. If, an appeal is lodged, the judgment is no longer enforceable. However, parties can prevent this suspension of enforceability by requesting the court to declare its judgment provisionally enforceable notwithstanding an appeal.


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