Norway: Litigation

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This country-specific Q&A provides an overview of Litigation in Norway.

It will cover methods of resolving disputes, details of the process and the proceedings, the court and their jurisdiction, costs and appeals and opinions on future developments.

This Q&A is part of the global guide to Litigation. For a full list of jurisdictional Q&As visit http://www.inhouselawyer.co.uk/practice-areas/litigation-dispute-resolution/

  1. What are the main methods of resolving commercial disputes?

    Most commercial disputes that are not solved amicably, are decided by the ordinary courts. All ordinary courts offer judicial mediation, which often leads to a settlement if both parties accept to try mediation. In some commercial disputes the parties have agreed on arbitration, in which case the arbitration tribunal will resolve the dispute.

  2. What are the main procedural rules governing commercial litigation?

    The purpose of the Norwegian Dispute Act is to provide a basis for hearing civil disputes in a fair, sound, swift, efficient and confidence inspiring manner through public proceedings before independent and impartial courts. The Act shall safeguard the needs of individuals to enforce their rights and resolve their disputes, and the needs of society for respect and clarification of legal rules. In addition, the Norwegian Arbitration Act provides procedure rules for disputes that the parties have agreed to settle by arbitration.

  3. What is the structure and organisation of local courts dealing with commercial claims? What is the final court of appeal?

    Formally, commercial cases have to start in a local conciliation board. However, in most commercial disputes, the case can be brought directly to one of the about 60 district courts that handle all disputes in the first instance. Judgements from the district courts can be appealed to one of six regional courts of appeal. If leave to appeal is given, the Supreme Court is the final court of appeal.

    Formally, commercial cases have to start in a local conciliation board. However, in most commercial disputes, the case can be brought directly to one of the about 60 district courts that handle all disputes in the first instance. Judgements from the district courts can be appealed to one of six regional courts of appeal. If leave to appeal is given, the Supreme Court is the final court of appeal.

  4. How long does it typically take from commencing proceedings to get to trial?

    According to the Dispute Act, the main hearing may not be held more than six months after the date of submission of the writ of summons unless special circumstances make it necessary. Most district courts are able to fulfill this requirement, but not always. However, the main hearing is very rarely held more than one year after the date of submission of the writ of summons.

  5. Are hearings held in public and are documents filed at court available to the public? Are there any exceptions?

    Hearings are held in public. The public is entitled to access to court records, records of judicial mediation, judicial rulings and statements of costs. In addition, in cases that are not heard entirely in writing, the public is also entitled to access to written closing submissions, and evidence and supporting documents that are invoked at an oral hearing. The most relevant exception from public access for commercial disputes, allows the court to refuse access to documents that contain trade or business secrets.

  6. What, if any, are the relevant limitation periods?

    According to the Limitation Act, claims become time barred three years after the date the claimant first could have claimed payment. If the claimant has not claimed payment because he or she did not have necessary knowledge of the claim or the debtor, the claim does not become time barred until one year after the claimant got or should have gotten such knowledge.

  7. What, if any, are the pre-action conduct requirements in your jurisdiction and what, if any, are the consequences of non-compliance?

    Before bringing an action to the court, the party shall give notice in writing to the person or persons against whom the action may be brought. The notice shall contain information about the claim and the basis for the claim. Non-compliance does not have any direct consequences, but may influence the court’s decision regarding legal costs.

  8. How are commercial proceedings commenced? Is service necessary and, if so, is this done by the court (or its agent) or by the parties?

    Commercial proceedings are commenced either by a complaint to the conciliation board or a writ of summons to the district court. The complaint has to be in writing, but a writ may also be sent electronically to the party gateway that most district courts are a part of. The complaint or writ is then served by the conciliation board or the district court on the defendant along with an order to give notice of intention to defend.

  9. How does the court determine whether it has jurisdiction over a claim?

    This is usually decided as part of the preparatory phase of the case based on written arguments from the parties. Jurisdiction issues may also be heard and determined at the main hearing if this is considered expedient due to their connection to the claims to be determined or other circumstances.

  10. How does the court determine what law will apply to the claims?

    This is decided based on non-statutory law. However, Norwegian courts will take into account the two Rome regulations regarding the law applicable to contractual and non-contractual obligations.

  11. In what circumstances, if any, can claims be disposed of without a full trial?

    A case may be summarily dismissed or quashed for various reasons. The most practical bases for summary dismissal in commercial disputes are that there is no legal venue in Norway, that the parties have agreed on arbitration, that the claimant does not have a genuine need to have the claim determined against the defendant or that the claimant does not show up for the main hearing.

  12. What, if any, are the main types of interim remedies available?

    There are two types of interim measures available: arrest and preliminary injunction. To secure pecuniary claims, arrest can be given in the debtor's property or assets. To secure a claim for something other than the payment of money, a preliminary injunction may be requested. A preliminary injunction can order the defendant to perform something, refrain from doing something or tolerate something, or can decide that an asset shall be taken out of the defendant's possession and taken into custody or administration.

  13. After a claim has been commenced, what written documents must (or can) the parties submit and what is the usual timetable?

    As a rule, the parties are under a duty to give access to objects etc. (including documents) that may constitute evidence in legal proceedings, subject to the limitations in the rules on prohibited evidence and immunity. The parties are usually free to submit whichever written document they want. However, if the document is not relevant for the assessment of the claim, the court may decide that the document has to be removed from the case documents. As part of the preparatory phase, the court will set a date for the completion of the preparatory phase. This wil usually be two or three weeks before the main hearing. After that date, no new documents may be submitted unless certain requirements are met.

  14. What, if any, are the rules for disclosure of documents? Are there any exceptions (e.g. on grounds of privilege, confidentiality or public interest)?

    As stated in 13 above, the parties are under a duty to give access to objects etc. (including documents) that may constitute evidence in legal proceedings, subject to the limitations in the rules on prohibited evidence and immunity. A party shall also disclose the existence of important evidence of which he or she has no reason to believe that the opposite party is aware. This applies irrespective of whether such evidence favours the case of the party itself or favours the opposite party's case. There are several exceptions from the duty to disclose evidence, such as professional secrecy for certain professionals (such as attorneys, doctors and priests), duty of secrecy for civil servants, business or trade secrets, evidence of character and credibility (unless this is of material importance to the court’s decision) and improperly obtained evidence.

  15. How is witness evidence dealt with in commercial litigation (and, in particular, do witnesses give oral and/or written evidence and what, if any, are the rules on cross-examination)? Are depositions permitted?

    As a rule, witnesses shall give oral evidence during the main hearing. The parties may agree that a written statement is acceptable. However, if the parties do not agree, written statements made for the purpose of the case may only be presented as evidence if the person who has made the statement, is also offered as a witness so he or she can be cross-examined during the oral hearing. There are no specific rules on cross-examination. As a general rule the court shall ensure that the examination is conducted in a manner that is conducive to bringing out clear and truthful testimony, and that is considerate to the witness. Questions that in their content or form suggest the desired answer shall not be asked unless they are asked to test the reliability of information that the witness has previously given or other special reasons so justify. Questions that are not pertinent to the case shall be rejected.

  16. Is expert evidence permitted and how is it dealt with? Is the expert appointed by the court or the parties and what duties do they owe?

    Expert witnesses are permitted. They can either be appointed by the court or relied on as an expert witness by a party. Expert witnesses usually present a written report before the main hearing. They also usually give testimony and may be asked questions by both parties’ attorneys and the court. Before giving evidence to the court, the expert witness will be asked to confirm by way of affirmation upon his or her honour and conscience that the expert assignment has been performed and will be performed conscientiously and to the best of his or her convictions.

  17. Can final and interim decisions be appealed? If so, to which court(s) and within what timescale?

    All district court judgements and most interim decisions can be appealed to the court of appeal. The general time limit for submitting an appeal is one month.

  18. What are the rules governing enforcement of foreign judgments?

    Norway is a party to the 2007 Lugano Convention on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters. This means that judgements from countries outside the EU and EEA area as a rule can not be enforced in Norway.

  19. Can the costs of litigation (e.g. court costs, as well as the parties’ costs of instructing lawyers, experts and other professionals) be recovered from the other side?

    Yes. The main rule is that if the court finds in favour of a party in the whole or in the main, then the other party has to pay the winning party’s legal costs. Exceptions can be made if the court finds that weighty grounds justify exemption, such as that there was justifiable cause to have the case heard, a reasonable settlement offer has been rejected or the case is important to the welfare of the party and the relative strength of the parties justifies an exemption. A court may also award costs partly or in full to a party who has succeeded to a significant degree without winning. When considering such a decision, the court shall have particular regard to the extent to which the court has found in favour of the party and the proportion of the legal costs that relate to that part of the case.

  20. What, if any, are the collective redress (e.g. class action) mechanisms?

    A class action can be brought if four conditions are met: Several legal persons have claims or obligations whose factual or legal basis is identical or substantially similar, the claims can be heard by a court with the same composition and in the main pursuant to the same procedural rules, class procedure is the most appropriate way of dealing with the claims, and it is possible to nominate a class representative. A class action can be brought before a district court through a writ of summons submitted by any person who fulfils the conditions for class membership or an organization or association charged with promoting specific interests in line with the action.

  21. What, if any, are the mechanisms for joining third parties to ongoing proceedings and/or consolidating two sets of proceedings?

    Third parties can join to ongoing proceedings, typically if the third party intends to submit an independent request for relief concerning the subject matter of the dispute in the action, or to submit a claim that is so closely connected to the original claim that it ought to be heard in the action (for instance a recourse claim). A third party with a legal interest in one of the parties winning the case, may also on his or her own account join the proceedings by declaring third party intervention in support of one of the parties, without becoming a formal party. Proceedings that raise similar issues and that shall be heard by a court with the same composition and principally pursuant to the same procedural rules, may be consolidated for joint hearing and joint ruling. Cases can also be transferred from one court to another court at the same level if this is considered necessary or convenient.

  22. Are third parties allowed to fund litigation? If so, are there any restrictions on this and can third party funders be made liable for the costs incurred by the other side?

    There are no rules prohibiting third parties from funding litigation. Third party funders can not be held liable for the costs incurred by the other side, except based on general tort law
    principles in exceptional circumstances. However, in certain cases and based on non-statutory law, the representative of a party may be hold personally liable for costs incurred by the other side if the case was manifestly ill-founded and the representative knew that the party would not be able to pay costs awarded to the opposing party.

  23. What, in your opinion, is the main advantage and the main disadvantage of litigating international commercial disputes?

    The main advantage is that Norway has a well-functioning court system that has broad experience in commercial dispute resolution. The major drawback is the processing time. This is particularly the case in some of the courts of appeal. Thus, arbitration may be an option. The Nordic Offshore and Maritime Arbitration Institute (NOMA) has recently established a new framework for professional and cost effective commercial arbitrations, which is specifically adapted to international dispute resolution, and this framework may be used as basis for arbitration in Norway.

  24. What, in your opinion, is the most likely growth area for disputes for the next five years?

    In the recent past, we have seen an increase in litigation related to environmental issues, and there is reason to expect that this trend will continue.

  25. What, in your opinion, will be the impact of technology on commercial litigation in the next five years?

    The courts have already started digitalising court proceedings. Within 5 years, we expect most oral hearings to be based on electronically stored documents and not printed documents.