Litigation

Limitation issues

What are the time limits for bringing civil claims?

The time limits within which claims must be brought before a court are currently prescribed by the Limitation of Causes of Action of 2012 (Law 66(I)/2012), which entered into force on 1 July 2012. According to article 3 of the 2012 law, the limitation period of a claim commences from the day of completion of the basis of the claim. Article 4 states that, unless otherwise provided in the law or any other law, no proceedings may be issued after 10 years have elapsed from that date. Nevertheless, the time limit may deviate depending on the nature of the claim.

For instance:

  • torts: there is a six-year limitation period from the date when the cause of action accrued except for cases of negligence, nuisance or breach of statutory duty, where there is a three-year limitation period from the date when the injured person knew of the cause of action;
  • contract: there is a six-year limitation period from the date when the cause of action accrued;
  • mortgage, pledge: there is a 12-year limitation period from the date of the accrual of the cause of action; and
  • bills of exchange, etc: there is a six-year limitation period from the date of the accrual of the cause of action.

The above limitation periods may be extended by the court by two years where the court considers this to be just and reasonable.

Parties cannot agree to suspend the time limits. Nevertheless, the time limits will be suspended if the parties fall within one of the categories provided by article 12 (eg, between cohabiting partners, between spouses during marriage, between parents and children if the children are minors).

The transitional provisions of law provide that all limitation periods will start counting from 1 January 2016.

Pre-action behaviour

Are there any pre-action considerations the parties should take into account?

Despite there not being any general pre-action protocols or procedural formalities that must be followed prior to the initiation of the proceedings in Cyprus, parties must bear in mind that in certain specialist proceedings (eg, winding-up proceedings, tenant evictions, etc), there are specific procedures that must be followed.

Courts in Cyprus may grant pre-action discovery orders, such as Norwich Pharmacal orders, to assist a party in bringing an action.

Starting proceedings

How are civil proceedings commenced? How and when are the parties to the proceedings notified of their commencement? Do the courts have the capacity to handle their caseload?

Commencement of proceedings

Civil proceedings in Cyprus are commenced by filing a writ of summons, which states the extent and nature of the claim and the remedy or relief sought, with the registrar of the district court that has jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the case. The writ of summons may be either generally endorsed and thus include merely the relief sought, or specially endorsed providing the particulars of both the relief sought and the basis upon which that relief is being sought.

The specially endorsed writ of summons has the claimant’s first pleadings included in it, and the generally endorsed writ has only a concise statement of the nature of the claim made and the relief sought.

Notification of commencement or service of claim

Notification of proceedings is done by personal service of the writ of summons. A copy of the writ is given to the person being served, via a private bailiff.

In general, the writ of summons must be served within 12 months of its filing. The 12-month limit can, however, be extended for an additional six months if the plaintiff obtains permission from the court.

If personal service is not feasible, an application can be made to the court for an order for substituted or other service (such as service through public advertisement, placing a notice on the board of the court or another method). The deemed date of service is the date on which the private bailiff served the writ of summons on the defendant.

In circumstances where the party to be served is located outside Cyprus, such service shall only be made after leave to do so has been obtained from the court. The court must be satisfied that there is a proper case for service outside Cyprus, that the plaintiff has a prima facie good cause of action against the defendant and that the defendant may be found in a particular country and place outside Cyprus. It should be noted that what is served outside the jurisdiction to a non-Cypriot defendant is not a writ of summons but a notice of a writ of summons.

With regard to the caseload of Cyprus judges, a recent amendment of the Rules of Procedure created a ‘small track’ procedure for claims under €3,000. The amendment, with a view to making the process more expedient, increased the case management options available to the judges in such cases, allowing them to give summary judgments.

The current delay for civil actions is between three and five years.

Timetable

What is the typical procedure and timetable for a civil claim?

As mentioned above, civil proceedings are initiated by filing a writ of summons that must subsequently be served on the defendants. Provided the defendant is within the jurisdiction of Cyprus, he or she is required to enter his or her appearance within 10 days from the date on which the writ of summons was served on him.

If the writ of summons is generally endorsed, the plaintiff must file and deliver to the defendant a statement of his or her claim, containing the relief or remedy which is sought, within 10 days from the defendant filing his or her appearance. Subsequently, the defence or the defence and counterclaim of the defendant must be filed and delivered within 14 days from the filing of the statement of claim.

If the plaintiff files a writ of summons specially endorsed, then the defendant must file and deliver a defence and, if desired, a counterclaim within 14 days from the filing of an appearance. In both instances, the defendant may file a reply to the defendant’s defence within seven days of delivery of the defence, or a reply to the defendant’s counterclaim within 14 days from the delivery of the defendant’s defence and counterclaim.

During the main trial of a typical proceeding, each side is allowed to present its witnesses, who may be subject to cross-examination by the other side. Once all testimony is complete, the parties will be invited to present their final submissions to the court in support of their arguments. During the proceedings, various interlocutory applications may be filed by the parties, including applications for the discovery and inspection of documents prior to trial. If such applications are opposed to by the other party, a hearing will be conducted in order for the court to determine whether to issue the requested orders or allow the applications.

Case management

Can the parties control the procedure and the timetable?

The procedure and the timetable of the claim is dictated by the court and is not under the control of the parties. Nevertheless, the timetable of a claim can be influenced by the number of interlocutory applications that may be made in the context of the proceedings by either party.

Class action

May litigants with similar claims bring a form of collective redress? In what circumstances is this permitted?

There is no system to accommodate class actions in Cyprus.

With regard to joint actions, however, where two or more actions are pending before the same court initiated by the same or different claimants against the same or different defendants, and the claims of such actions involve a common question of law or fact of such importance as to render it desirable that the actions be consolidated, the court may so order after an application from either party to the actions.

Additionally, a person may be joined in an ongoing action, as a plaintiff, in which any right to relief in respect of or arising out of the same transaction or series of transactions is alleged to exist, whether jointly, severally or in the alternative where if such person brought separate action any common question of law or fact would arise.