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Conditions for recognition and enforcement

Enforceable judgments

Which types of judgment (eg, monetary judgments, mandatory or prohibitory orders) are enforceable in your jurisdiction and which (if any) are explicitly excluded from recognition and enforcement (eg, default judgments, judgments granting punitive damages)?

The recast EU Brussels Regulation (1215/2012), the EU Brussels Regulation (44/2001) and the Lugano Convention 2007 define a 'judgment' as any judgment by a court or tribunal of an EU member state, whatever the judgment may be called (eg, decree, order, decision or writ of execution), as well as a decision on the determination of costs or expenses by an officer of the court. However, the term does not apply to the status or legal capacity of natural persons, matrimonial matters, wills and succession, social security matters, arbitration or bankruptcy or winding-up proceedings.

With respect to non-EU judgments, the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure provides that any judgment delivered by a competent court outside Malta, and constituting a res judicata, may be enforced by the competent court in Malta as long as the judgment:

  • is not contrary to Maltese public policy or internal public order;
  • has not been given in default if the parties are not contumacious according to foreign law; and
  • may not be set aside on any of the grounds mentioned in Article 811 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure. 

How are foreign judgments subject to appeal treated?

EU Brussels Regulation and Lugano ConventionWith respect to judgments which fall under the scope of the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention, Maltese courts may stay proceedings if an ordinary appeal against the judgment has been sought (Article 37 of the regulation). 

Recast EU Brussels RegulationRegarding judgments which fall under the scope of the recast EU Brussels Regulation, Maltese courts may suspend the proceedings in whole or in part if the judgment is challenged in the EU member state of origin (Article 38(a)). Any interested party may also file an application requesting that the judgment’s enforcement is refused and may appeal once the decision is given. The court that hears the appeal may stay the proceedings if an ordinary appeal has been lodged against the judgment in the EU member state of origin (Article 51).

Non-EU judgmentsIn accordance with Article 826 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure, any judgment delivered by a competent court outside Malta must be a res judicata in order for enforcement to occur.

Formal requirements

What are the formal and documentary requirements for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?

EU Brussels Regulation and Lugano ConventionFor judgments which fall under the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention, the following documentation is required:

  • an application before the First Hall of the Civil Court requesting the judgment’s recognition and enforceability;
  • an authenticated copy of the judgment and an authenticated translation into English or Maltese; and
  • a certificate in the standard form found in Annex V of the regulation issued by the court of the EU member state in which the judgment was given (Article 54 of the regulation).

Recast EU Brussels RegulationA judgment made in one EU member state will be recognised in other EU member states without any special procedure being required. A party that wishes to enforce a judgment must provide the court with the following documentation:

  • a certified copy of the judgment;
  • a certificate issued by the state of origin certifying the judgment’s enforceability and outlining its details; and
  • certified translations into English or Maltese.

Non-EU judgmentsFor judgments pronounced by jurisdictions not party to the recast EU Brussels Regulation, the EU Brussels Regulation or the Lugano Convention, the following documentation is required:

  • an application filed before the court requesting the judgment’s recognition and enforceability;
  • a certified copy of the foreign judgment and a certified translation into English or Maltese;
  • certification that the judgment is a res judicata.

Substantive requirements

What substantive requirements (if any) apply to the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments? Are enforcing courts in your jurisdiction permitted to review the foreign judgment on the merits?

Maltese courts are not permitted to review foreign judgments on their merits or substance. The recast EU Brussels Regulation, the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention prohibit courts in the EU member state addressed from reviewing judgments on their substance. 

Limitation period

What is the limitation period for enforcement of a foreign judgment?

The recast EU Brussels Regulation, the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention provide no limitation period for the enforcement of a foreign judgment, but the judgment must remain enforceable in the country of origin.

As a general rule, judgments given by the First Hall of the Civil Court may be enforced within 15 years. Once this period lapses, an application must be filed requesting the court to enforce the judgment (Article 258 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure).

Grounds for refusal

On what grounds can recognition and enforcement be refused?

EU Brussels Regulation and Lugano ConventionJudgments that fall under the scope of the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention will be declared enforceable immediately on completion of the formalities stipulated in Article 53 of the regulation. According to Articles 34 and 35 of the regulation, the aggrieved parties may then file an appeal before the Court of Appeal on the following grounds:

  • the judgment is contrary to Maltese public policy;  
  • the judgment is given in default of appearance as the defendant was not served with the document instituting the proceedings;
  • the judgment is irreconcilable with a judgment given in a dispute between the same parties in Malta;
  • the judgment is irreconcilable with an earlier judgment given in another EU member state or a third state involving the same cause of action between the same parties; or
  • the judgment conflicts with jurisdictional matters relating to insurance, consumer contracts or exclusive jurisdiction as defined in the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention.

Recast EU Brussels RegulationFor judgments that fall within the scope of the recast EU Brussels Regulation, any interested party may file an application requesting the refusal of recognition or enforcement based on any of the grounds mentioned above (Article 45). In addition to the abovementioned grounds, the recast EU Brussels Regulation also provides a ground when the judgment conflicts with jurisdictional matters relating to employment contracts when an employee is the defendant.

Non-EU judgmentsNon-EU judgments may be refused recognition and enforcement if they fall within any of the following scenarios stipulated in Article 827 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure:

  • the judgment was given in default of appearance where the parties were not contumacious according to foreign law;
  • the judgment is contrary to public policy or Malta’s internal public law;
  • the foreign judgment can be set aside based on any of the following grounds mentioned in Article 811 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure:
    • the judgment was obtained by fraud by one party to the prejudice of another;
    • the application was not served on the party cast, provided that, notwithstanding such an omission, said party did not appear at the trial;
    • any of the parties to the suit was under a legal disability to sue or be sued, provided that no plea had been raised and determined;
    • the judgment was delivered by a court having no jurisdiction;
    • the judgment contained an incorrect application of the law;
    • judgment was given on any matter not included in the demand;
    • judgment was given in excess of the demand;
    • the judgment conflicts with a previous judgment given in a suit on the same subject matter and between the same parties and constitutes a res judicata, provided no plea of res judicata has been raised and determined;
    • the judgment contains contradictory dispositions;
    • the judgment was based on evidence which, in a subsequent judgment, was declared to be false or which was so declared in a previous judgment, but the party cast was not aware of such fact;
    • after the judgment, some conclusive document was obtained, of which the party producing it had no knowledge, or which, with the means provided by law, it could not have produced, before the judgment; or
    • the judgment was the effect of an error resulting from the proceedings or documents of the cause.

Service of process

To what extent does the enforcing court review the service of process in the original foreign proceedings?

In accordance with the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention, Maltese first-instance courts have no right to review. Only where a defendant files an appeal will the Court of Appeal look into the service of process in foreign proceedings (should this be the ground of appeal) and it must be clear from the documentation that the defendant was not served with the document which instituted the foreign proceedings. 

Under the recast EU Brussels Regulation, any interested party may file an application requesting the refusal of enforcement where the judgment was given in default of appearance if the defendant was not served with the document which instituted the proceedings in sufficient time and in such a way as to enable them to arrange for their defence, unless the defendant failed to commence proceedings to challenge the judgment when it was possible for them to do so (Article 45(1)(b)).

Regarding non-EU judgments, the Maltese courts have the right to review the service of process under Article 827 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure. 

Public policy

What public policy issues are considered in the court’s decision to grant recognition and enforcement? Is there any notable case law in this regard?

The public policy issues considered by the Maltese courts include:

  • cases where interest rates exceed that permitted by Maltese law (ie, 8%) (vide judgment in Avukat Edward Debono noe v Jean Pierre sive Jean Borg, Court of Appeal, 16 September 2016);  
  • cases where the foreign procedure is fundamentally contrary to principles of natural justice as applied in Malta; and
  • matters that constitute a criminal offence in Malta.

Jurisdiction

What is the extent of the enforcing court’s power to review the personal and subject-matter jurisdiction of the foreign court that issued the judgment?

In accordance with the EU Brussels Regulation and Article 35 of the Lugano Convention, Maltese courts may review and refuse to recognise a judgment only if it conflicts with the rules on jurisdiction in relation to:

  • insurance matters;
  • consumer contracts; and
  • claims which are particularly close to the EU member state in which the object of the claim is made (eg, rights relating to immovable property).

These conditions are also found in the recast EU Brussels Regulation with the addition of individual contracts of employment.

Regarding non-EU judgments, Maltese courts have the right to review the personal and subject-matter jurisdiction of the foreign court under Article 827 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure (Grounds for refusal).

Concurrent proceedings and conflicting judgments

How do the courts in your jurisdiction address applications for recognition and enforcement where there are concurrent proceedings (foreign or domestic) or conflicting judgments involving the same parties/dispute?

EU Brussels Regulation and Lugano ConventionFor judgments which fall under the EU Brussels Regulation and the Lugano Convention, it is clear from Article 41 that a judgment shall be declared enforceable immediately on completion of the formalities found in Article 53 of the regulation. The decision on the application for a declaration of enforceability may be appealed and the Court of Appeal will refuse or revoke a declaration of enforceability if it is irreconcilable with a judgment given in a dispute between the same parties in the EU member state in which recognition is sought.

Recast EU Brussels RegulationFor judgments that fall within the scope of the recast EU Brussels Recast Regulation, any interested party may file an application requesting the refusal of recognition based on the ground mentioned above (Article 45).

Non-EU judgments

Non-EU judgments may be refused recognition and enforcement where a judgment conflicts with a previous judgment given in a suit on the same subject matter and between the same parties, and constitutes a res judicata, provided no plea of res judicata had been raised and determined.