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Last update: 16-12-2008
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Jurisdiction of the courts - Denmark

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. Do I have to apply to an ordinary court or to a specialised court? A.
B. Which ordinary court must I apply to? B.
I. Is there a distinction between lower and higher ordinary courts and if so which one is competent for my case? I.
II. The competent court II.
1. The basic rule as to which court is competent 1.
2. Exceptions to the basic rule 2.
a) When can I choose between the defendant's competent court and another court? a)
b) When must I opt for a court other than the defendant's competent court? b)
c) Can the parties themselves choose a court that would not be competent otherwise? c)
C. How can I find out which court is competent? C.

 

A. Do I have to apply to an ordinary court or to a specialised court?

Civil disputes are normally brought before an ordinary court. The case must be brought before a court that is competent to hear it, see B below.

Ordinary courts comprise district courts, the High Courts and the Supreme Court. There are also three specialised courts which deal with civil cases: the Maritime and Commercial Court, the Industrial Tribunal and the Rent Tribunal. These courts' jurisdictions are described in greater detail under point C.

B. Which ordinary court must I apply to?

I. Is there a distinction between lower and higher ordinary courts and if so which one is competent for my case? 

The ordinary courts are organised at three levels. The lowest level is made up of district courts, followed by the High Courts, with the Supreme Court at the highest level.

All civil cases must be brought before district courts. However, certain cases relating to business can be brought before the Maritime and Commercial Court.

II. The competent court

1. The basic rule as to which court is competent

The basic rule is that the case must be brought before the defendant's competent court. The competent court for natural persons is the district court whose jurisdiction covers their place of residence. The competent court for legal persons such as companies and associations is the district court whose jurisdiction covers the place where the head office is located.

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There are a number of situations in which a case can be brought before a Danish court even if the defendant is not resident in Denmark. Certain  civil cases can be brought before a Danish court even if the defendant's competent court is in a foreign country. Examples include cases relating to immovable property in Denmark or cases concerning contracts to be executed in this country. If the defendant is not resident here, the case can be brought in the place where the party concerned is currently located or, where appropriate, where that party was last resident or located.

As far as international cases are concerned, Denmark has acceded to the Brussels Convention and the Lugano Convention. Moreover, the European Community and Denmark have entered into a parallel agreement under which the rules set out in the Brussels I Regulation with effect from 1 July 2007 are applicable between Denmark and the other Member States.

2. Exceptions to the basic rule
a) When can I choose between the defendant's competent court and another court?

There are a number of rules on jurisdiction under which cases can also be brought before a court other than the defendant's competent court. In addition, there are rules on alternative judicial venues in a number of international conventions and agreements to which Denmark is a party, namely the Brussels Convention, the Lugano Convention and the Brussels I Regulation (cf. the parallel agreement on the subject).

The main rules on alternative legal venues that are applicable in Denmark are listed below:

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  • Cases against persons pursuing a business activity which relate to that activity can be brought before the court in the place where the activity is carried out.
  • Cases relating to rights over immovable property can be brought before the court in the place where the property is located.
  • Cases concerning contracts can be brought before the court in the place where the obligation on which the case is based is met or has to be met.
  • Cases relating to non-contractual liability can be brought before the court in the place where the action causing damage took place.
  • In cases concerning consumer agreements, the consumer can bring an action against the operator before his own competent court, provided that the parties did not enter into the consumer agreement at the consumer's own request and at the operator's permanent business address.
b) When must I opt for a court other than the defendant's competent court?

Danish law contains a number of rules on exclusive jurisdiction which stipulate that certain civil cases must be brought before a particular court. There are also rules on exclusive jurisdiction in a number of international conventions and agreements to which Denmark has acceded, namely the Brussels Convention, the Lugano Convention and the Brussels I Regulation (cf. the parallel agreement on the subject). If a case is brought before a court other than that which has exclusive jurisdiction under the above rules, that court cannot deal with the case. The court will either refer the case to the appropriate court or reject it, if referral is impossible.

The principal rules on exclusive jurisdiction in Denmark are listed below:

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  • Parental custody cases must be brought before the court in the place where the child concerned resides.
  • Paternity suits must be brought before the court in the place where the mother's competent court is located.
  • Divorce cases must be brought before the court in the spouses' place of residence. If they are not resident in the same jurisdiction, the divorce is to be pronounced by the court in the place where they last had a joint residence, provided that one of them is still resident in that jurisdiction.
c) Can the parties themselves choose a court that would not be competent otherwise?

The parties can enter into an agreement (an agreement on a judicial venue) to the effect that a case can or must be brought before a court  (district court) other than the one dictated by the ordinary rules on jurisdiction. There are no formal requirements as regards agreements on judicial venues, such as that they must be in writing. However, previous agreements on judicial venues – that is, agreements entered into before the dispute arose – are not binding on consumers in cases concerning consumer agreements. It is possible to enter into a tacit agreement on the judicial venue, if, for instance, the defendant does not contest the court's jurisdiction in his statement of defence.

The court ensures, on its own initiative, that the case has not been brought in contravention of national or international rules on exclusive jurisdiction. However, it will not check on its own initiative whether the case has been brought in contravention of the general rule concerning the defendant's competent court, the rules on an alternative judicial venue or an agreement on the judicial venue. Objections to the court's jurisdiction must be set out in the defendant's statement of defence.

C. How can I find out which court is competent?

There are three specialised courts which deal with civil cases:

  • The Maritime and Commercial Court deals with certain commercial cases (those encompassing international commercial cases), a number of cases on incorporeal matters and civil competition cases, as well as commercial cases involving matters of principle referred by the district court.
  • The Industrial Tribunal deals with certain types of cases concerning the breach and the interpretation of collective agreements.
  • The Rent Tribunals deal with cases concerning houses or dwellings covered by the laws on rented accommodation.

« Jurisdiction of the courts - General information | Denmark - General information »

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Last update: 16-12-2008

 
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