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General framework

Domestic law

Which domestic laws and regulations govern the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in your jurisdiction?

In the Bahamas, the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments are principally governed by the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act 1924 under Chapter 77 of the Statute Law of the Bahamas. The act only enables the recognition and enforcement of judgments from a relatively small number of jurisdictions, including:

  • Australia;
  • Barbados;
  • Belize;
  • Bermuda;
  • British Guiana;
  • Jamaica;
  • Leeward Islands;
  • St Lucia and Trinidad; and
  • the United Kingdom.

Where a judgment is obtained from a jurisdiction to which the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act is not applicable, it is necessary to utilise the foreign judgment as a cause of action to commence fresh proceedings within the Bahamas.

International conventions

Which international conventions and bilateral treaties relating to the recognition and enforcement of judgments apply in your jurisdiction?

There are no international conventions and bilateral treaties applicable in the Bahamas in respect to the recognition and enforcement of judgments.

Competent courts

Which courts are competent to hear cases on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?

Cases related to the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments are heard by the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas at first instance.  

Distinction between recognition and enforcement

Is there a legal distinction between the recognition and enforcement of a judgment?

Under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act, there is a requirement for the registration of a judgment before its enforcement. In order for a judgment to be enforced it must first be registered.

With respect to jurisdictions to which the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act does not apply, before enforcement there must first be a successful action within the Bahamas based on the foreign judgment.

Ease of enforcement

In general, how easy is it to secure recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in your jurisdiction?

With either having a judgment recognised under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act or successfully pursuing a fresh action within the Bahamas on a foreign judgment, the process is relatively simple.

In the case of the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act, Section 3(2) sets out essentially, a comprehensive list of grounds which would prevent the registration of a judgment from one of the relevant jurisdictions. These grounds can be summarised as follows:

  • the original court acted without jurisdiction;
  • the judgment debtor, being a person not ordinarily resident or carrying on business in the relevant jurisdiction, did not voluntarily submit to the jurisdiction of the foreign court;
  • the judgment debtor was not duly served with notice of the foreign proceedings;
  • the judgment was obtained by fraud;
  • the judgment is not final or conclusive (usually due to a pending appeal);
  • the judgment should not be registered as it is of a kind which could not have been obtained in the Bahamas due to public policy reasons.

Subject to the above exceptions, there is no basis for declining to have a foreign judgment registered under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act.

With respect to proceedings in relation to foreign judgments for countries in relation to which the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act does not apply, a summary judgment application will almost certainly be successful unless one of the considerations set out above in relation to the countries covered by the act arises.

Reform

Are any reforms to the framework on recognition and enforcement of judgments envisioned or underway?

There are currently no reforms planned for the framework on the recognition and enforcement of judgments.

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)?

While there are no judgments which are expressly excluded under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act, it is generally considered that only monetary judgments (including arbitral awards) can be registered. However, the definition of ‘judgment’ as set out under Section 2 of the act is described as:

Any judgment or order given or made by a court in any civil proceedings whether before or after the passing of this Act and includes an award in proceedings on an arbitration if the award has, in pursuance of the law in force in the place where it was made, become enforceable in the same manner as a judgment given by a court in that place.”

 

This definition is rather broad and the position in this regard is not entirely settled. A default judgment which has not been challenged and is therefore final and conclusive can be registered under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act. On the other hand, it may be difficult to register a judgment in relation to punitive damages as the courts in the Bahamas tend not to award them and therefore such a judgment may fall within the exceptions under Section 3(2) of the act.

The same considerations would be applicable in relation to fresh actions commenced in relation to judgments from jurisdictions in relation to which the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act does not apply.

How are foreign judgments subject to appeal treated?

Foreign judgments that are subject to appeal will not be enforced in the Bahamas. Section 3(2)(e) of the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act provides that a judgment debtor of a foreign judgment should not be exposed to its registration where there was a right of appeal against that judgment. Therefore, a judgment should not be registered until it is final and conclusive.

In relation to judgments from jurisdictions in relation to which the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act does not apply the same consideration would be applicable and a defendant to proceedings could seek to stay such proceedings pending the outcome of the appeal.

Formal requirements

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

Under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act, a judgment creditor must make an application to have the judgment registered before it can be enforced. An application under the act for the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments is made ex parte or by summons to a judge of the Supreme Court. The application must be supported by an affidavit setting out the relevant facts and exhibiting the judgment. Within the affidavit, the affiant must verify that the judgment creditor is entitled to enforce the judgment and that the judgment does not fall within any of the cases under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act in which a judgment cannot properly be ordered to be registered. Supporting evidence should also be exhibited to the affidavit.

In cases where the order is made on a summons, the order registering the judgment should be served on the judgment debtor. Once the foreign judgment is registered, it will have the same force and effect as a judgment issued by the Supreme Court.

Where a judgment has been obtained in the Supreme Court, the court will issue to the judgment creditor a certified copy of the judgment. The judgment creditor is required to serve a notice of registration on the judgment debtor. The notice of registration is required to contain the right of the judgment debtor to apply for an order setting aside the registration and the number of days for applying to set aside the registration.

A plaintiff seeking to enforce a foreign judgment from a country not listed under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act, can enforce the judgment as a debt by issuing fresh legal proceedings. Such proceedings will be commenced by a writ of summons which must be served on the judgment debtor. Thereafter, where a defendant does not enter an appearance to the proceedings a judgment in default of appearance may be filed. Otherwise, where an appearance is entered, a summons, supported by an affidavit should be filed seeking summary judgment. Within the affidavit the relevant facts should be set out along with a copy of the judgment and an averment from the affiant that the judgment debtor has no defence to the claim.

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?

In the Bahamas, the courts will not look at the merits of the case unless it can be established by the judgment debtor that:

  • the foreign judgment was not final and conclusive;
  • the foreign court did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter;
  • the foreign judgment was obtained by fraud;
  • the foreign proceedings were opposed to natural justice; or
  • there is some public policy reason for not enforcing the judgment.

Limitation period

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

Under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act the limitation period for the enforcement of a foreign judgment in the Bahamas is 12 months after the date of the judgment unless the Bahamian court grants a longer period on the basis that it is just and convenient to do so.

In relation to judgments from jurisdictions in relation to which the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act does not apply the limitation period would be six years.

Grounds for refusal

On what grounds can recognition and enforcement be refused?

As set out above under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act, an enforcement may be refused on one of the following grounds:

  • the original court acted without jurisdiction;
  • the judgment debtor, being a person not ordinarily resident or carrying on business in the relevant jurisdiction, did not voluntarily submit to the jurisdiction of the foreign court;
  • the judgment debtor was not duly served with notice of the foreign proceedings;
  • the judgment was obtained by fraud;
  • the judgment is not final or conclusive (usually due to a pending appeal);
  • the judgment should not be registered as it is of a kind which could not have been obtained in the Bahamas due to public policy reasons.

In relation to judgments from jurisdictions where the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act does not apply, similar considerations will prevail.

 

Service of process

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

Foreign judgments will not be registered under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act if the judgment debtor was not duly served and did not appear in the original foreign proceedings. In such a case where the judgment debtor is not served with the process in the foreign court, the courts in the Bahamas will refuse to recognise and enforce the judgment.

In relation to judgments from jurisdictions in relation to which the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act does not apply a fresh action on the debt will not be successful where there has been a breach of the rules of natural justice. This would arise where the judgment debtor did not have proper notice of the original proceedings or was not afforded an opportunity to be heard.

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?

Where the judgment is contrary to public policy the foreign judgment will not be enforced by the courts in the Bahamas. For example, a foreign judgment will be contrary to public policy and will not be enforced if it was obtained for:

  • taxes, fines or penalties; or
  • in breach of an anti-suit injunction.

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?

The foreign court must have had jurisdiction to grant the judgment, in order for the judgment to be registered and enforced in the Bahamas or for a fresh action to be successful.

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?

In the Bahamas, the courts will refuse an application for recognition and enforcement and a fresh action will not be successful if it is determined that the judgment is not conclusive.

Opposition

Defences

What defences are available to the losing party to a foreign judgment that is sought to be recognised and enforced in your jurisdiction?

The defences that are available to a judgment debtor to a foreign judgment that is sought to be recognised and enforced in the Bahamas are:

  • the original court acted without jurisdiction;
  • the judgment debtor, being a person not ordinarily resident or carrying on business in the relevant jurisdiction, did not voluntarily submit to the jurisdiction of the foreign court;
  • the judgment debtor was not duly served with notice of the foreign proceedings;
  • the judgment was obtained by fraud;
  • the judgment is not final or conclusive (usually due to a pending appeal);
  • the judgment should not be registered as it is of a kind which could not have been obtained in the Bahamas due to public policy reasons.

Injunctive relief

What injunctive relief is available to defendants (eg, anti-suit injunctions)?

Where a defendant is able to satisfy the court that the judgment is subject to appeal or that there is some other basis on which it is improper for the matter to proceed, the defendant can apply for a stay of the Bahamian proceedings in the case of fresh actions. 

Recognition and enforcement procedure

Formal procedure

What is the formal procedure for seeking recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment?

Under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act the judgment creditor is required to make an application for registering the foreign judgment in the Bahamas. Notice in writing of the registration of the judgment must be served on the judgment debtor within a reasonable time after the registration. An application under the act for registering foreign judgments is made ex parte or by summons to a judge. The application is supported by an affidavit of facts exhibiting the judgment. The affiant must verify that the judgment creditor is entitled to enforce the judgment and that the judgment does not fall within any of the cases under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act in which a judgment cannot properly be ordered to be registered.

In cases where the order is made on a summons, it should be served on the judgment debtor.

The judgment debtor may at any time within the time prescribed by the order giving leave to register after service of the notice of registration of the judgment, apply by summons to a judge to set aside the registration or to suspend execution on the judgment if it can be satisfied that the case falls within one of the categories under Section 3(2) of the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act.

A judgment creditor seeking to enforce a foreign judgment from a country not listed under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act, can enforce the judgment as a debt by issuing fresh legal proceedings. Such proceedings can be commenced by a writ of summons which must be served on the judgment debtor. Thereafter, where a judgment debtor does not enter an appearance to the proceedings a judgment in default of appearance may be filed. Otherwise, where an appearance is entered, a summons, supported by an affidavit should be filed seeking summary judgment. Within the affidavit the relevant facts should be set out along with a copy of the judgment and an averment from the affiant that the judgment debtor has no defence to the claim.

Timeframe

What is the typical timeframe for the proceedings to grant recognition and enforcement?

Typically, proceedings to grant recognition and enforcement under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act may take several weeks.

In relation to judgments from jurisdictions in relation to which the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act does not apply the process is more involved as it is generally necessary to have inter partes hearings in relation to the fresh proceeding. This process, can take four to six months.

Fees

What fees apply to applications for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?

A party applying for the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments will incur filing fees of approximately US$500. The Supreme Court also has jurisdiction to order that the reasonable costs of and incidental to the registration of the judgment including the costs of obtaining a certified copy from the original court and of the application for registration will be recoverable from the judgment debtor.

In relation to judgments from jurisdictions in relation to which the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act does not apply the Supreme Court’s fee for filing writs of summons depends on the value of the claim but is generally US$500.

Security

Must the applicant for recognition and enforcement provide security for costs?

There is no requirement under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act for the applicant for recognition and enforcement to provide security for costs. However, the Supreme Court has the general power to order security for costs against a claimant who is:

  • not resident in the Bahamas;
  • has no assets within the Bahamas; or
  • a company which it can be established has no assets, on the application of the defendant to the proceedings.

Appeal

Are decisions on recognition and enforcement subject to appeal?

Yes.

Other costs

How does the enforcing court address other costs issues arising in relation to the foreign judgment (eg, calculation of interest, exchange rates)?

If interest has been awarded by the foreign court the interest will be recoverable based on the terms of the foreign judgment, subject to the discretion of the court.

With respect to exchange rates, at the time that the application for recognition is made or at the time that a fresh action is filed it is typically necessary to convert foreign currencies into the Bahamian dollar equivalent.

Enforcement against third parties

To what extent can the courts enforce a foreign judgment against third parties?

There is no mechanism or consideration under the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act for enforcing judgments against any party other than the judgment debtor. However, where a party within the Bahamas holds funds on behalf of a judgment debtor, garnishee proceedings would be available.

In relation to judgments from jurisdictions in relation to which the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act does not apply, the same principles would be applicable.

Partial recognition and enforcement

Can the courts grant partial recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?

Yes.