This country-specific Q&A provides an overview of Litigation that may occur in Slovakia.
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-second-edition/
Published June 2019
What are the main methods of resolving commercial disputes in your jurisdiction?
The Slovak law offers two main methods of resolving commercial disputes, either in a dispute before general court or in arbitration proceedings. Mediation is also an alternative.
What are the main procedural rules governing commercial litigation?
Civil procedure law – including commercial litigation – is governed in particular by the following Acts:
- Act No. 160/2015 Coll., Rules of Civil Contentious Procedure (“RCCP”);
- Act No. 161/2015 Coll., Rules of Civil Non-contentious Procedure (“RCNP);
- Act No. 244/2002 Coll. on arbitration proceedings that regulates proceedings held by courts of arbitration;
- Act No. 233/1995 Coll. on court bailiffs and execution (Rules of Distraint Procedure) that regulates enforcement of court decisions.
Civil procedure is divided into two basic categories:
- contentious proceedings regulated by RCCP; and
- non-contentious proceedings regulated by RCNP (e.g. proceedings in matters concerning the Register of Companies and proceedings in certain matters of legal entities – e.g. proceedings on dissolution of a legal entity or proceedings on a defunct business company).
What is the structure and organisation of local courts dealing with commercial claims? What is the final court of appeal?
The system of general courts in Slovakia consists of district courts that are the courts of first instance, regional courts that are the courts of appeals against decisions of the courts of first instance, and the Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic that is the appellate review court. Unlike an appeal, an appellate review is an extraordinary remedial measure admissible only against valid decisions of lower courts and should rectify most serious errors.
For completeness we point out that the Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic may be a court of appeals in certain cases if a regional court is the court of first instance – e.g. in the case of proceedings on abstract control in consumer matters.
The Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic stands outside the general courts system and decides on constitutional matters.
How long does it typically take from commencing proceedings to get to trial?
The law does not stipulate a specific period within which the court should schedule a preliminary hearing or first trial. The first trial is usually scheduled within 3 to 9 months of the action filing date, in dependence upon the workload of the court and the type of claim.
According to the statistics of the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic, the average duration of civil proceedings in 2017 was 20.8 months in civil matters and 21.6 months in business matters.
Are hearings held in public and are documents filed at court available to the public? Are there any exceptions?
In principle, hearings are public, however, certain exceptions apply. The public may be excluded from the entire hearing or a part thereof only where a public hearing would pose risk to the protection of classified information, sensitive information and information protected by a special regulation (e.g. business or bank secrecy) or an important interest of a party or witness.
Documents on file of the court are accessible only to the parties to proceedings and their representatives. Other persons may examine the file only if they have good reason and rights of the parties will remain thereby unaffected.
What, if any, are the relevant limitation periods in your jurisdiction?
Limitation periods and the moment from which they start to run are stipulated by law.
In commercial relationships, the general limitation period is 4 years and it starts to run from the date when the claim could have been exercised in a court for the first time unless otherwise set out by the law.
The commercial law regulates the start of the limitation period differently, e.g.
- in the case of claims arising out of a breach of obligations, the limitation period starts to run on the date of the breach;
- in the case of damages claims, the limitation period starts to run on the date when the aggrieved party has learned or could have learned about damage and about who is liable for damage;
- in the case of rights arising out of total damage or a loss of shipment, the limitation period starts to run on the date when the shipment was to be delivered to the recipient, in other cases on the date of the shipment receipt.
The Slovak commercial law recognizes also a special limitation period – e.g. the right to compensation for damage passes if it has not been exercised for ten years of the date of the breach of obligations disregard of when the aggrieved party has learned about damage and about who is liable for damage. Rights arising out of damage to delivered objects and of belated shipment/mail delivery vis-à-vis the sender and carrier pass after one year of the limitation period start.
In civil law the limitation period is three years and starts to run from the moment when the right could have been exercised for the first time.
What, if any, are the pre-action conduct requirements in your jurisdiction and what, if any, are the consequences of non-compliance?
Slovak law does not set out any procedural formality with which the plaintiff must comply prior to filing a petition.
However, in practice the creditor gives a payment notice to the borrower with an additional period for rectification before going to the court.
How are commercial proceedings commenced? Is service necessary and, if so, is this done by the court (or its agent) or by the parties?
In contentious proceedings, the proceeding commences when a petition or motion for an interim injunction or freezing order is filed in court.
The court then serves the action on the adverse party for the adverse party’s statement of defence to the action (or the resolution on the commencement of proceedings to all the parties to the proceedings) electronically or by mail. A document is deemed served on the addressee’s confirmation of delivery.
If the addressee fails to confirm delivery (in the case of certified mail, such as the case of a petition being served on the defendant for the statement of defence) or collect the mail, the document is deemed delivered under RCCP after a certain period of time, which also applies if the addressee does not learn about the mail – the so-called deemed service applies.
If legal documents are to be served in the EU Member States, the EU regulations apply. If documents are to be served outside the EU, the relevant authority of the country is served a request for service under the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters.
If the country is not a signatory to any multilateral international treaty, the courts proceed according to a bilateral or convention arrangement, and where existing arrangements such as a bilateral or convention arrangement do not exist, diplomatic channels are used under Act No. 97/1963 Coll. on international private and procedural law.
How does the court determine whether it has jurisdiction over a claim?
In general, Slovak general courts have jurisdiction over private disputes and other private matters that do not belong in the jurisdiction of other courts under the RCCP.
Jurisdiction of Slovak courts applies if a person against who/which a petition has been filed has primary residence or registered office in the Slovak Republic, and where property rights are involved, if such a person has property in the Slovak Republic.
Under Act No. 97/1963 Coll. on international private and procedural law (hereinafter “AoIPPL”), the court shall verify its jurisdiction ex officio before it starts the proceeding on the merits, on the basis of facts that exist at the time of the motion filing. If those facts subsequently change, the court’s jurisdiction remains the same.
The international procedural law stipulates further manners of jurisdiction determination – e.g. if a claim involves real property situated in the Slovak Republic, the Slovak courts have exclusive jurisdiction.
In the event of international disputes, jurisdiction of the court is established:
- according to the EU regulations if the parties have their primary residence or registered office in the EU member state – in particular in accordance with Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters; or
- according to a bilateral or convention arrangement or AoIPPL (and where existing arrangements such as a bilateral or convention arrangement do not exist), if the parties do not have their primary residence or registered office in the EU member state.
However, the national and the EU laws admit also the option of choice of the country of court of competent jurisdiction by the parties.
An arbitration contract may exclude jurisdiction of a general court. If such a contract exists, the court does not verify its jurisdiction ex officio, therefore the defendant who challenges the general court’s jurisdiction needs to file a challenge in the court. Such a challenge may be filed by the defendant upon the first procedural action relating to the defendant at the latest. The court will disregard a challenge filed afterwards.
If a Slovak court is the court of competent jurisdiction, that court shall ex officio verify its factual, causal and functional jurisdiction. The court verifies its local jurisdiction only upon objection of the defendant upon the first procedural action assigned to the court.
How does the court determine what law will apply to the claims?
The general principle that “the court knows the law” applies – in other words, if a foreign element is present in a commercial relationship, the court alone is responsible for determining which law applies to a particular case, and how. The court may on its own initiative take evidence necessary to determine which law applies.
In the event of conflict of laws, the court in determination of applicable law proceeds:
- according to the EU regulations if the parties have their primary residence or registered office in the EU member state – in particular according to Regulation (EC) No 593/2008 on the law applicable to contractual obligations (Rome I) or Regulation (EC) No 864/2007 on the law applicable to non-contractual obligations (Rome II);
- according to a bilateral or convention arrangement or AoIPPL (and where existing arrangements such as a bilateral or convention arrangement do not exist), if the parties do not have their primary residence or registered office in the EU member state.
In what circumstances, if any, can claims be disposed of without a full trial?
The court may issue a payment order or an European payment order if it is possible to make a decision on the basis of facts stated by the plaintiff, perceived by the court as uncontested, in particular if those facts are supported by documentary evidence. If so, the court will decide without a statement of the defendant and without scheduling a hearing.
Under RCCP, a claim may be also decided on by abridged decisions, i.e.:
- default judgment – if the plaintiff or defendant is procedurally passive in proceedings for fulfilment of obligation and the conditions under RCCP have been met;
- judgment on acknowledgment of claim – if the defendant entirely or partially acknowledges the raised claim; and
- judgment on waiver of claim – if the plaintiff entirely or partially waives his/her raised claim.
We also have a partial judgment used by the court to decide on any of several claims raised or on a part of a claim raised, provided that the claim has become uncontested in the course of the proceedings, and an interim judgment used by the court to decide on the basis or reason of a raised claim.
If the court does not decide on the merits, it issues a resolution.
What, if any, are the main types of interim remedies available in your jurisdiction?
There are two pre-action interim remedies available – interim injunction and freezing order.
A motion for interim injunction should include, in addition to the mandatory information, a description of decisive facts giving grounds for the necessity of interim injunctions or concern that execution would be frustrated, a description of facts reliably confirming the grounds for and duration of the entitlement for which protection is sought, and it must be clear from the motion which interim injunction is sought by the claimant.
By freezing order, the court may order pledge of assets, rights or other property of the debtor to secure a monetary claim of the creditor if there is concern that execution may be frustrated.
After a claim has been commenced, what written documents must (or can) the parties submit and what is the usual timetable?
Once a petition is filed and if the process conditions are met, the court serves the action on the defendant for defendant’s statement of defense to the action. The plaintiff may then respond to the defendant’s statement of defense (the so-called replica). The defendant may then respond to the plaintiff’s response (the so-called duplica).
Those statements of the parties should provide factual statements important for the decision-making on the merits and designate evidence to prove those facts. The court might not regard later statements and evidence. Where the nature of evidence allows, evidence should be enclosed with the file – e.g. documentary evidence or expert opinions.
Power of attorney is a mandatory annex where a defendant is represented by a legal counsel.
The timetable depends on the workload of the court and complexity of the dispute. A commercial dispute can therefore continue for several years.
In the course of the proceedings, the court usually gives the parties a period of 15 days for their procedural actions (e.g. for a defendant’s statement and plaintiff’s response - replica and duplica). However, the court might take a longer time to process those actions due to overload.
What, if any, are the rules for disclosure of documents? Are there any exceptions (e.g. on grounds of privilege, confidentiality or public interest)?
“Disclosure”, as it is known in common law, is not known in Slovak law; it is therefore impossible to answer this question.
How is witness evidence dealt with in commercial litigation in your jurisdiction (and in particular, do witnesses give oral and/or written evidence and what, if any, are the rules on cross-examination)? Are depositions permitted?
In commercial litigations, the court orders examination of a witness on application of a party to the proceedings. In non-contentious procedure, the court may order examination of a witness also without a motion if the court finds it necessary to establish the factual situation.
Witnesses give only oral evidence during proceedings before a judge.
The court conducts the witness examination; the court first prompts the witness to describe everything he/she knows about the matter. During this stage the witness is not interrupted by questions. The parties to the proceeding, or with consent of the court also other attending subjects, may then pose questions to the witness.
The court conducts the witness examination by deciding on admissibility of the questions – inadmissible are questions that are not related to the subject-matter of the proceedings, captious questions or suggestive questions.
“Deposition”, as it is known in common law, is not known in Slovak law; it is therefore impossible to answer this question.
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 evidence may be taken in two ways - by a professional statement or expert report.
Expert evidence taking by a professional statement is preferred where it is necessary to ascertain facts for which professional knowledge is needed. If it is so, the court orders a professional statement of a qualified person on application of a party to the proceeding. The court assesses the qualification of such a person.
The state bears the cost of a professional statement; however, the court may order the party that filed the application for a professional statement to pay an upfront fee corresponding with the estimated cost of the professional statement.
The court may appoint an expert witness on application of a party to the proceeding if the decision-making depends on the assessment of facts for which scientific knowledge is needed and due to the complexity of the matter, a professional opinion is not enough. The expert witness then prepares an expert report that answers the questions posed by the court.
If the court appoints an expert witness, the state bears the cost, however, the party that filed the application for an expert report should pay an upfront fee corresponding with the estimated cost of the expert report.
Parties to the proceeding may also order their own expert report and pose the expert their own questions to be answered in the expert report. If the court decides that such a private expert report is admissible as evidence, it is regarded as an expert report prepared by an expert witness appointed by the court.
The party that ordered a private expert report should bear the cost of the expert report.
The winning party is awarded the costs of proceedings - including the cost of expert reports and professional statements.
An expert and/or expert witness shall be objective, independent and unbiased when answering the questions disregard of whether the expert and/or expert witness is appointed by the court or prepares an expert report ordered privately by a party to the proceeding.
Can final and interim decisions be appealed? If so, to which court(s) and within what timescale?
Final decisions and partial and interim decisions may be appealed. Appeals are decided on by courts of higher instance - e.g. if a district court is the court of first instance, a regional court is the appellate court. If a regional court is the court of first instance (in extraordinary cases – e.g. in the case of proceeding on abstract control in consumer matters), the Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic is the appellate court.
The timescale of decision on appeals depends on the complexity of the matter and the court’s overload. An appellate court usually decides on appeals within 20 months of the appeal filing.
What are the rules governing enforcement of foreign judgments in your jurisdiction?
Execution of a foreign judgment follows only after the judgment recognition, i.e. after it has been adjudicated on as having legal force in the Slovak Republic. In the event of decisions of the EU courts, capability of foreign judgments of being executed is regulated by the EU laws - in particular Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 in civil and commercial matters and Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 in family matters.
In the event of recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment issued by a third country, the AoIPPL applies where the Slovak Republic is not bound by another agreement (e.g. international treaty).
Slovak courts recognize foreign judgments only if (i) exclusive jurisdiction of Slovak authorities does not interfere with the foreign judgment recognition, (ii) the foreign judgment is capable of being executed in the country of issue, (iii) the foreign judgment is a judgment on the merits and (iv) the foreign judgment recognition does not contradict the Slovak law.
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?
In general, each party to the dispute bears the costs incurred by that party ‒ the costs of the proceedings. Costs of proceedings are the provable, justified and purposefully paid expenses incurred in proceedings in relation to the exercise or defense of rights in court.
In contentious procedure, the winning party is awarded the costs of proceedings proportionally to that party’s success, i.e., if the party was only partially successful, the court costs may be awarded to both parties pro rata or the court may exceptionally decide that neither party is awarded the costs of proceedings where there is good reason for that.
The opposite is true in non-contentious procedure: the courts usually do not award the costs of proceedings apart from the exceptions stipulated by the law.
The costs of legal representation are paid within the costs of proceedings in the form of tariff remuneration that is calculated according to the regulation on remuneration and reimbursement of costs and expenses of attorneys-at-law. If a party and legal counsel agree on another manner of the remuneration calculation (e.g. fixed fee or hourly rate), the adverse party is not obliged to pay such remuneration, the adverse party pays only the tariff rate.
What, if any, are the collective redress (e.g. class action) mechanisms in your jurisdiction?
Several entities (e.g. several plaintiffs) may act as one party - it is a joinder of parties. If more than 10 entities act as one party, the court may rule that only one entity should act on behalf of the joinder of parties.
A joinder of parties may be permissive, inseparable or compulsory.
In permissive joinder of parties, the subjects have separate rights and obligations and each of them acts on their own behalf and the court decides on each claim separately.
In inseparable joinder of parties, there are such joint rights or obligations that the decision on them must apply to all the defendants and plaintiffs joined in the action, which also means that a procedural action of one of the subjects is binding on all the others, that is why for some material procedural actions - e.g. amendment of the action, action withdrawal or claim recognition - consent of all the subjects joined in the action is necessary.
In compulsory joinder of parties, a special regulation makes it mandatory that some parties be joined.
What, if any, are the mechanism for joining third parties to ongoing proceedings and/or consolidating two sets of proceedings in your jurisdiction?
Third parties can be joined to ongoing proceedings in two ways: the first one is joining a third party to one of the parties to the proceedings on application of the plaintiff. That third party joins the plaintiff or defendant and has all the rights and duties arising out of that position.
The second one is intervention of an intervenor. An intervenor is a person who participates in the proceedings alongside the plaintiff or defendant and has a legal interest – arising out of substantive law – in the result of the proceedings. However, when an intervenor joins the proceedings, the legal liability of the defendant does not pass onto the intervenor and the intervenor also does not share legal liability with the defendant.
The intervenor’s legal interest consists in the following: the losing party in the proceedings may usually initiate a so-called regress claim against the intervenor, arising out of substantive law (which happens most frequently in liability insurance cases).
Intervention is excluded in non-contentious proceedings (Art. 11 of RCNP).
Two sets of proceedings may be consolidated under RCCP. The court consolidates proceedings that are factually related or related to the same parties. However, the court may consolidate only the proceedings that have commenced before the same court. If the proceedings were given to several judges of the same court, the judge that commenced the proceedings earlier should decide on the consolidation.
A party to proceedings may file a motion for consolidation; however, the court will decide on the consolidation also without such a motion of a party to proceedings.
RCNP explicitly excludes consolidation of two sets of proceedings.
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?
Although Slovak civil procedural law does not recognize a third-party funding procedure, according to the substantive principle of autonomous will, a party to proceedings may agree with a third party on dispute funding at its own discretion.
What is the main advantage and the main disadvantage of litigating international commercial disputes in your jurisdiction?
The main advantage is the ongoing electronization of the court system in the Slovak Republic and simple, and in particular fast, exercise of claims in shortened procedures by electronic court payment orders.
Among the disadvantages upon international litigations in commercial matters in Slovakia is the obligation to conduct the proceedings exclusively in Slovak language which necessitates the hiring of professional interpreters and translators and it is impossible (e.g. on agreement of the parties) to conduct the proceedings in English.
Among the disadvantages is also the average duration of civil litigations in Slovakia - it was 21.6 months in 2017. The average duration of civil litigations has been increasing since 2011.
What is the most likely growth area for disputes in your jurisdiction for the next 5 years?
The most likely growth areas for disputes are the real estate and development and public procurement sectors.
Will be the impact of technology on commercial litigation in your jurisdiction in the next 5 years?
The Slovak Republic has been implementing electronization of the system of courts since 2015. In the past 4 years, the system has significantly improved and the system use has become widely accepted.
The courts communicate with the parties - legal persons - only electronically since in the Slovak Republic, legal persons are obliged to communicate electronically via their mailboxes destined for communication with the authorities and courts. Parties to proceedings are still allowed to file documents also in hard copy, however, the current tendency is to make the entire procedure electronic.
For example execution of claims in execution proceedings is entirely electronic.
We expect that in the next 5 years the entire procedure will be fully electronic (apart from trials).