European Commission > EJN > Jurisdiction of the courts > France

Last update: 10-05-2005
Printable version Bookmark this page

Jurisdiction of the courts - France

EJN logo

This page is now obsolete. The original language version has been updated and moved to the European e-Justice Portal.


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. Should one contact an ordinary or specialised court? A.
B. If the ordinary courts have jurisdiction, how can I identify the one with jurisdiction over my case? B.
I. Is there a distinction between “lower” and “higher” civil courts of first instance? If so, which court has jurisdiction over my case? I.
II. Territorial jurisdiction (is it the court of town A or that of town B that has jurisdiction over my case? II.
1. The general rule of territorial jurisdiction 1.
2. Exceptions to the general rule 2.
a) When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant is domiciled (courtdetermined by the general rule) and another court? a)
b) When am I obliged to choose a court other than the one based where the defendant is domiciled (court determined by the general rule)? b)
c) Is it possible for the parties involved to appoint a court that would not normally have jurisdiction? c)
C. If a specialised court has jurisdiction, how can I identify the court that has jurisdiction over my case? C.

 

A. Should one contact an ordinary or specialised court?

Specialised courts consist of :

  • The commercial court, with jurisdiction over disputes between traders and commercial dealings between persons, disputes between partners in companies and firms and financial difficulties experienced by commercial enterprises (liquidation, receivership, etc.),
  • The social security court, which has jurisdiction over disputes arising from the application of legislation and regulations regarding social security and agricultural provident schemes,
  • The industrial tribunal, which has jurisdiction over all disputes arising from individual employment contracts,
  • The agricultural rent tribunal, which is competent to deal with disputes between agricultural lessors and lessees (farm tenancies, share-cropping, etc.),
  • The court dealing with contentious matters regarding incapacity, which deals with disputes relative to the state or degree of invalidity, the state of permanent incapacity and unfitness for work,
  • The départemental pensions court, which deals with disputes relating to military pensions.

B. If the ordinary courts have jurisdiction, how can I identify the one with jurisdiction over my case?

I. Is there a distinction between “lower” and “higher” civil courts of first instance? If so, which court has jurisdiction over my case?

There are higher courts, courts of first instance, and local courts.

TopTop

  • Local courts are competent to give a ruling, at the request of a private individual, on disputes involving less than 1500 euros.
  • Courts of first instance are competent to give a ruling on a dispute involving no more than 7600 euros, and without limit on disputes over certain matters such as the right of consumption, guardianship cases, and leases on dwellings.
  • Higher courts have jurisdiction in all other civil disputes that do not fall within other jurisdictions, and in particular in cases involving the family.

II. Territorial jurisdiction (is it the court of town A or that of town B that has jurisdiction over my case?

1. The general rule of territorial jurisdiction

In principle, the competent court is that of the place where the defendant is resident. This rule is explained by the wish to protect the latter, it being presumed that he will more easily defend himself before the court nearest his home.

If the defendant is a natural person, it is the court of the place where he is domiciled or resident. For an artificial person (company, association, etc.), it is the place where it is based, generally the place where it has its head office. It may be that the main premises known are distinct from the head office; in this case, it is possible to refer the matter to the court in the place where the main premises are located. For major companies with several branches, the matter may be referred to the court in the place where one of these branches is located.

2. Exceptions to the general rule
a) When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant is domiciled (courtdetermined by the general rule) and another court?
  • With regard to contracts: the plaintiff may bring the matter before the court in either the place where the defendant is domiciled, or, according to the nature of the contract, the place where the goods were delivered or the service provided.
  • With regard to tort actions or proceedings involving a civil claim as part of criminal proceedings: the claim must be brought before the court in the place where the defendant is resident, or that of the place where the damage was suffered or the harmful event took place.
  • In a matter involving property: the plaintiff may bring the matter before the court in the place where the property is situated.
  • In a matter involving alimony, the plaintiff has the choice between the court in the place where the defendant is resident and that where the creditor lives; in other words, the plaintiff’s own court.
b) When am I obliged to choose a court other than the one based where the defendant is domiciled (court determined by the general rule)?

In a case involving a dispute over alimony or compensatory benefit, the competent court is that of the place of residence of the spouse to whom the money is owed or of the parent assuming main responsibility for the children, even for majors.

TopTop

In a matter of divorce: the competent court is that of the place where the family is resident. If the spouses have separate residences, the competent court is that of the place where the children are resident. If the spouses have no children, the competent court is that of the place where the defendant is resident.

In a matter involving inheritance, the competent court is that of the last domicile of the deceased.

In matters involving leases, the competent court is that of the place where the property is located.

c) Is it possible for the parties involved to appoint a court that would not normally have jurisdiction?
  • All specialised courts have exclusive jurisdiction and lack of jurisdiction must be automatically raised by the court. The sole possibility of bringing a case before a court that would not normally have jurisdiction exists between a higher court and a court of first instance, for matters in which they do not have exclusive jurisdiction.
  • In principle, any clause of a contract that departs from the rules of territorial or substantive jurisdiction is null and void, except for contracts concluded between two traders, on condition that this clause is specified in a highly visible manner.

C. If a specialised court has jurisdiction, how can I identify the court that has jurisdiction over my case?

  • Before the commercial court: in principle, the competent court is that of the place where the defendant is resident. In a case of tort, the competent court is that of the place where the harmful event occurred or that in whose jurisdiction the damage was suffered.
  • Before the industrial tribunal: the employee can always bring his case before the industrial tribunal in the place where the employment contract was concluded. The competent industrial tribunal that of the jurisdiction in which is situated the establishment where the employee works. When his work takes place outside any establishment, the case must be referred to the industrial tribunal of the place where the employee is resident.
  • The agricultural rent tribunal: the competent court is that of the place where the property is situated
  • The social affairs court: in principle, the competent court is that within whose jurisdiction the beneficiary is domiciled or the employer concerned is based, or where the head office of the defendant organisation is located in a case involving a dispute between organisations whose head offices are within the jurisdiction of different courts.

Further information

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

TopTop

Last update: 10-05-2005

 
  • Community law
  • International law

  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Estonia
  • Ireland
  • Greece
  • Spain
  • France
  • Italy
  • Cyprus
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Hungary
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Austria
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Slovenia
  • Slovakia
  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom