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The system for resolving business disputes in France has undergone significant changes since the implementation of the judicial reform. The number of courts considering such disputes was reduced, but the process itself was accelerated. If you intend to start litigation in France, then in today's blog post you will learn a lot of useful things.

French judicial system

If you imagine a pyramid with 3 levels, then this is what the French civil court system looks like. The first instance level includes three main courts:

  • Judicial tribunal. Hearings on the settlement of disputes in France involving private interests are held here. Disputes of up to EUR 4,000 are referred to a free service before being considered by the court;
  • Arbitration courts deal with commercial insolvency disputes in France;
  • The Labor tribunal has exclusive jurisdiction over the settlement of labor disputes in France.

Let's take a closer look at the second level – the courts of appeal. Any decision of the first instance is automatically appealed, with the exception of judgments of less than 5,000 EUR (the appeal is filed directly with the Supreme Court of Civil and Commercial Cases).

The third, highest level of the civil court system: the Supreme Court for Civil and Commercial Cases.

 It is divided into four sections:

  • civil;
  • commercial;
  • on employment issues;
  • criminal.

Start litigation in France

When considering a court's jurisdiction over a claim, two criteria must be considered. First, it is necessary to consider whether the legal proceedings should be considered in a specialized court. Secondly, it is necessary to apply the rules of territoriality, the features of which have been changed by the judicial reform.

The most important specialized jurisdictions are commercial courts for resolving business disputes in France and tribunals for resolving labor disputes in France. The parties should be mindful of the existence of near-judicial bodies empowered to decide questions concerning:

  • Competition (Competition Council);
  • Securities (Financial Markets Department).

Preliminary hearing

If you choose to initiate a legal proceeding in France, please note that the court manages the written phase, which begins with the organizational hearing.

Purpose of the hearing: to establish a timetable for the hearing after discussion with a solicitor.

NOTE:

 

In French courts, oral evidence is considered less reliable than documentary evidence.

Those who intend to start a trial in France should take into account that expert opinions in the process play an extremely important role. As a rule, an expert opinion is considered as an argument in favor of certain arguments of the participants in the trial. However, sometimes this kind of evidence, on the contrary, "plays into the hands" of the procedural opponent. In such a situation, what can the plaintiff or defendant do to defend himself? Find flaws in the presented conclusion, both formal and factual. 

The examination may be rejected by the court due to the incompleteness of the presented arguments and a repeated examination may be ordered. Therefore, it is very important for the parties to the proceedings and their legal advisors to properly structure the work with the experts even before the start of the hearings.

The parties may request an investigation of the facts when resolving a commercial law dispute in France under the supervision of a court prior to the commencement of formal proceedings.

Certain safeguards can be obtained in order to protect the assets of the defendant. One such measure is arrest. The application must be filed with the court where the defendant lives or the assets to be seized are located. The application must state the grounds for the arrest.

The decisions of the court are always announced in open session and come into force from the day they are announced. The judgment must be enforced within six months of the receipt of the original by the parties to the proceedings.

Appealing a court decision in France

If a party wishes to appeal the decision of the court of first instance, then the corresponding notification must be submitted to the court of appeal within one month from the date of notification of the decision.

The decisions of the Court of Appeal (or the decisions of the lower courts of last instance) can be appealed to the Supreme Court of Civil and Commercial Cases. An appeal in cassation is submitted to the Supreme Court in a short form.

Execution of foreign judgments

A judgment rendered by a Member State in the course of the settlement of international disputes must be recognized and enforceable in all other Member States. However, the recognition and enforcement of a judgment may be challenged on the basis of French international public policy if it is incompatible with another judgment rendered by the same parties in France or with an earlier judgment rendered in another state for the same reason.

NOTE:

 

The International Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Paris deals with the resolution of international disputes, including commercial ones.

Judicial funding

Judicial funding is available to anyone in France who lacks the resources to enforce or defend their rights. It is available to non-residents, if it is provided for by an international treaty, and to commercial companies.

The process of obtaining judicial funding is quite laborious and takes several months, although in urgent cases the process can be expedited for an additional fee. It covers legal fees and costs of enforcing any judgment. Funding is also available to individuals involved in French equity disputes and settlement agreements.

To understand in detail the complex issues of legal proceedings in France, do not hesitate to sign up for a consultation on the settlement of disputes by litigation in France from the experts of our company