On 23 November 2015 the Rotterdam District Court – Private Law Division announced it is ready to accept the usage of English as the working language in proceedings on the merits in the areas of maritime and transport law as well as the international sale of goods. Provided only professional parties are involved counsel to the plaintiff and defendant may agree to apply for conducting legal proceedings in the English language. The court will then follow the parties’ choice whereby certain rules of procedure have been developed to ensure smooth proceedings. Although the submissions filed and the hearings will be in English, decisions will always be rendered in Dutch.

Dutch procedural law is contained in the Dutch Code of Civil Procedure (“DCCP”) and in addition to this statute law there is also a set of National Procedure Regulations (in Dutch: “Landelijk Procesrecht”). The Procedure Rules for conducting legal proceedings in English are in fact an amendment of the procedure as referred to in Clause 1.4 of the National Procedural Regulations. The Procedure Rules address the usage of English as the working language in proceedings initiated on the Civil Calender in the period 1st January 2016 to 1st July 2017.

Application of the Procedure Rules will boil down to the following:

  • Application of the Procedure Rules does not in any way affect the Court’s application of the DCCP.
  • A choice in favor of application of the Procedure Rules does not imply acceptance of the jurisdiction or competence of the Rotterdam District Court.
  • If application of the Procedure Rules has been agreed before service of the writ of summons, the claim and the grounds for it shall be written in English, while the Dutch language shall be used in the heading (date, parties’ names, formal notices, etc.) and in the concluding section (the claim, signature and costs). The claim shall therefore be stated in both Dutch and English.
  • If application of the Procedure Rules has been agreed upon after service of the writ of summons, a Statement of Claim shall be filed on the first day of appearance in the court’s calendar and the claim and the grounds relied upon to support the claim shall be written in the English language.
  • The court will base the decision on the English texts of the claim and the grounds for the claim. If a counterclaim is filed or an amendment to the claim is submitted, these shall be both in Dutch and English.
  • Case law and legal doctrine drawn up in the Dutch language may be submitted without translation. Where statutes or other rules and regulations are quoted, these quotes shall always be in the English language followed, if felt to be required, by the quote in the original language of the statutes or rules and regulations concerned.
  • At hearings and in correspondence with the court the working language shall be English.
  • In the event a party calls a witness or an expert that party shall arrange and initially pay for the assistance of an interpreter at the hearing should the witness or the expert have insufficient command of the English language.
  • Notwithstanding the above, the parties may agree that certain or all Dutch-speaking witnesses or experts shall be heard in the Dutch language and the court shall be notified thereof at least 7 days prior to the hearing concerned. In that case the court will follow the parties’ decision and the statements shall be included in the official record of the court hearing in the Dutch language.
  • The official record of a hearing will be written in the English language, however. If other parties take part or get involved in the proceedings after the case has been brought before the court (third-party action, joinder or third-party intervention) the court shall, after consultation with counsel of all parties and taking into account certain guidelines, determine the language in which the proceedings and any related proceedings shall be conducted.
  • The Procedure Rules only cover the proceedings in the first instance. Decisions rendered under the Procedure Rules may be appealed in the usual manner provided in the DCCP. The Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court may request that one or more of the English-language procedural documents from the first instance is translation into Dutch.