1.1 What type of legal system has your jurisdiction got? Are there any rules that govern civil procedure in your jurisdiction?
Cyprus has a quasi-common law jurisdiction which has been influenced by English and Greek law. Section 29(1)(c) of Courts of Justice Law introduces and endorses common law in the Cypriot legal system.
The courts are bound by the doctrine of precedent, according to which the superior courts' decisions bind subordinate courts. Civil procedure in Cyprus is regulated by the 1954 Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) which have been amended from time to time.
1.2 How is the civil court system in your jurisdiction structured? What are the various levels of appeal and are there any specialist courts?
Cyprus has five districts which act as courts of first instance and one Supreme Court. Each district court has jurisdiction to try civil cases which fall within their territorial jurisdiction, except for specific civil matters which fall within the jurisdiction of specialised courts. Namely, the:
- family court;
- rent control court;
- industrial disputes court; and
- military court.
All first instance court judgments are subject to appeal before the Supreme Court, whose judgments are final unless overturned by the European Court of Human Rights or the Court of Justice of the European Union.
1.3 What are the main stages in civil proceedings in your jurisdiction? What is their underlying timeframe (please include a brief description of any expedited trial procedures)?
The main stages in civil proceedings are:
- filing of a writ of summons or originating summons;
- service of judicial documents on defendants (leave of the court must be obtained only if defendants reside out of the jurisdiction);
- exchange of pleadings;
- summons for directions whereby parties can request, inter alia, disclosure and inspection of documents, further and better particulars;
- trial; and
- assessment of costs.
The CPR prescribes specific timeframes for each stage which can be extended with leave of the court. The average time at first instance is about four to five years from the date of filing depending on the complexity of the case and the court's caseload.
There are two forms of expedited proceedings: (a) claims under €3,000 are subject to a fast-track procedure (see question 8.1); and (b) a summary judgment (see question 6.5).
1.4 What is your jurisdiction's local judiciary's approach to exclusive jurisdiction clauses?
Courts strictly respect exclusive jurisdiction clauses and have the power to (a) stay proceedings initiated in breach of an exclusive jurisdiction clause, or (b) issue an anti-suit injunction if proceedings have been initiated in a country outside the European Union and jurisdiction is prescribed in favour of the Cyprus courts.
1.5 What are the costs of civil court proceedings in your jurisdiction? Who bears these costs? Are there any rules on costs budgeting?
The costs will depend on the economic scale and complexity of the case and include the costs ofthe proceedings(i.e. filings, applications, hearing, appearances, witnesses, etc.). The awarding of costs lies in the court's discretion, but these are generally awarded to the successful litigant in whole or in part (i.e. costs follow the event). A successful party in a complex legal matter may only be awarded part of the costs.
Costs are assessed by the court registrar and approved by the court, unless otherwise agreed between the parties. Pre-trial offers to settle do not have any effect on cost orders unless they are in the form of payment to the court (see question 10.1).
1.6 Are there any particular rules about funding litigation in your jurisdiction? Are contingency fee/ conditional fee arrangements permissible?
Funding of litigation is usually provided by the parties to the legal proceedings.
Contingency fee agreements are prohibited as they offend the equitable principle against champerty, which aims to restrict the funding and selling of litigation.
Third-party funding is not expressly prohibited, although its legality has yet to be considered by courts.
Legal aid can only be granted in cases of specific violations of human rights, cross-border disputes and family and matrimonial law disputes.
1.7 Are there any constraints to assigning a claim or cause of action in your jurisdiction? Is it permissible for a non-party to litigation proceedings to finance those proceedings?
The law expressly prohibits the assignment of claims arising from tortious conduct. Assignment of any other cause of action could potentially go against the principle of champerty andmaintenance.
1.8 Can a party obtain security for/a guarantee over its legal costs?
A defendant can apply for security for costs to ensure that it will be able to recover litigation costs from an unsuccessful claimant. The conditions that must be satisfied in order for a security for costs order to be made are as follows:
- the claimant or counterclaimant must be domiciled outside the jurisdiction of Cyprus in a non-EU state; and
- the claimant or counterclaimant must not have sufficient assets within the jurisdiction to satisfy any order that may be made against it in relation to litigation costs.
If an order for security for costs is not satisfied within the time directed by the court, the action may be dismissed.
2 Before Commencing Proceedings
2.1 Is there any particular formality with which you must comply before you initiate proceedings?
There are no pre-action procedures that must be followed before the filing of an action, unless there is a court order affecting any of the parties' rights.
2.2 What limitation periods apply to different classes of claim for the bringing of proceedings before your civil courts? How are they calculated? Are time limits treated as a substantive or procedural law issue?
The Cypriot laws of limitation are quite complex as a result of historical reasons. In 1963, Parliament decided to suspend the limitation periods (subject to various provisions and laws enacted from time to time). Today, the Limitation of Actionable Rights Law of 2012, Law 66(I)/2012 (Limitations Law), which was enacted as of 01/07/2012 but came into full effect on 01/01/2016, regulates the limitation periods applicable to civil and commercial claims.
In general, the limitation period for a claim is triggered on the day of completion of the cause of action; however, for most causes of actions and in virtue of the Limitations Law, limitation periods count from 01/01/2016 as opposed to the date on which the cause of action accrued.
The Limitations Law provides for different limitation periods depending on the nature of the cause of action, and provides for a general limitation period of 10 years where there is no specific provision made. Indicatively:
- Civil wrongs: general limitation period of six years. Nevertheless, if the cause of action accrued before 01/07/2012, actions are subject to a three-year time bar (pursuant to section 68 of the Civil Wrongs Law, Cap. 148), while if the cause of action accrued after 01/07/2012 then the limitation period begins running from 01/01/2016.
- Negligence, nuisance or breach of a statutory duty: three years.
- Defamation or malicious falsehood: one year.
- Contract: six years.
- Contract or to a quasi-contract in relation to an agreed or reasonable remuneration of independent professionals: three years.
3 Commencing Proceedings
3.1 How are civil proceedings commenced (issued and served) in your jurisdiction? What various means of service are there? What is the deemed date of service? How is service effected outside your jurisdiction? Is there a preferred method of service of foreign proceedings in your jurisdiction?
Civil proceedings are initiated by the filing of a writ of summons or an originating summons, which must be in turn served to the defendants.
Service of judicial documents is effected through a private process server to the defendant in person or at his/her house or usual place of employment. Service on a corporate entity is effected either (i) at its registered office on a person who is authorised to accept service, or (ii) on the company's directors or secretary.
If service cannot be effected in the manner prescribed by the CPR, a party can request leave from the court for substituted service.
The writ of summons must be served within 12 months and this may be renewed by the court before the time expires, given that the court is satisfied that reasonable efforts for service have been made.
If a defendant resides outside the jurisdiction, leave of the court must be obtained before the claim is served. The method of service depends on any existing treaty or agreement between Cyprus and the country in which the defendant resides.
Service to defendants residing in the European Union is carried out pursuant to Council Regulation (EC) No. 1393/2007 on the service in the Member States of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters, which provides for the following means of service:
- direct service (if permitted by the state's domestic law);
- diplomatic or consular agents; and
- transmitting and receiving agencies designated by the state. In Cyprus, the Ministry of Justice and Public Order has been designated as the receiving agency.
If the country in which the defendant resides is a signatory to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil and Commercial Matters 1965, the following means are also available:
- postal channels, directly to persons abroad;
- designated judicial officers;
- by post (if there is no objection to this); and
- in accordance with any bilateral agreement concluded between the signatory parties.
Cyprus has entered into bilateral agreements with a number of countries on the service of documents, pursuant to which service can be effected accordingly.
3.2 Are any pre-action interim remedies available in your jurisdiction? How do you apply for them? What are the main criteria for obtaining these?
There are no pre-action interim remedies available in Cyprus. The courts do not have jurisdiction to issue a self-standing injunction, hence there must be some kind of originating application pending before the Cypriot court, which usually takes the form of a civil action.
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Originally published by ICLG
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.