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two different jurisdictions for civil disputes in
Employment courts have jurisdiction only in respect of civil disputes which are so closely connected with an employment relationship that the employment relationship largely determines them. Sections 2, 2a and 3 of the German Employment Courts Act (Arbeitsgerichtsgesetz) contain an enumerative list of the jurisdictions of the employment courts.
All other civil disputes come within the jurisdiction of the civil courts.
The ordinary civil courts are the Amtsgerichte (District Courts) and the Landgerichte (Regional Courts).
District Courts in principle have jurisdiction in civil disputes if the value
of the dispute does not exceed EUR 5 000 and if the
The District Courts also have exclusive jurisdiction in the following cases, regardless of the value of the disputed subject-matter (see Sections 23, 23(a) GVG):
The District Courts have jurisdiction to hear disputes regarding claims arising from a residential lease or regarding the existence of such a lease (Section 23(2a) GVG).
Additionally, the District Courts have jurisdiction at first instance in family cases (Section 23(a) GVG). These include the following:
The exclusive jurisdictions of the District Court arise from Section 23(2) (b) - (h) GVG).
2. The Regional Courts have jurisdiction in respect of all civil disputes which are not allocated to the District Courts. These are in particular disputes with a disputed value of more than EUR 5 000.
The Regional Courts may have commercial divisions. These have jurisdiction inter alia in respect of civil claims against merchants and in respect of disputes under the law governing cheques and bills of exchange. Section 95 GVG contains a conclusive list of the jurisdictions of the commercial divisions. The plaintiff must apply in the statement of claim for the matter to be heard before the commercial division.
The principle which
For certain types of claims, the plaintiff has the possibility of choosing a different jurisdiction than that of where the defendant lives (special, not exclusive jurisdictions). Examples of this are as follows:
Where an Act specifically designates a jurisdiction as being exclusive, it takes precedence over all other jurisdictions, i.e. the proceedings can (admissibly) only be initiated within the exclusive jurisdiction. Exclusive jurisdictions arise in particular from special Acts:
If the proceedings relate to land or to a right equivalent to land (e.g. hereditary building right), sole jurisdiction in particular cases lies with the court in whose district the subject matter is located; this relates to proceedings arising from ownership or from a charge on real property, disputes relating to freedom from a charge on real property, possessory actions, boundary dispute actions and actions for a partition (Section 24 ZPO).
In the case of disputes arising from leases or tenancies in respect of premises or the existence of such a relationship, sole jurisdiction lies with the court in whose district the leased or tenanted premises are located (Section 29(a)(1) ZPO). The provision does not however apply to leases of residential premises for temporary use (holiday homes, hotel rooms etc.), furnished premises for individual tenants, houses and premises for official duties (Section 29(a)(2) ZPO). In the case of proceedings against the owner of a plant located in Germany, in which compensation is claimed for a loss caused by an environmental effect, sole jurisdiction lies with the court in whose district the environmental effect arose from the plant (section 32a ZPO).
In debt collection proceedings, sole jurisdiction lies with the District Court where the applicant has his general jurisdiction, in other words usually his residence or registered office (Section 689(2) ZPO).
In compulsory enforcement proceedings, sole jurisdiction lies with the District Court, as the enforcement court, in whose district the enforcement action is to take place or has taken place (Section 764(2), Section 802 ZPO). In the case of compulsory sale by auction or compulsory administration of land, sole territorial jurisdiction lies with the District Court, as enforcement court, in whose district the land is located (Section 1(1), Section 146 of the German Compulsory Auction Act (Zwangsversteigerungsgesetz), Sections 802, 869 ZPO).
The possibility of jurisdiction agreements exists in German procedural law. Under Section 38(1) ZPO, a first-instance court which is not competent per se can become competent as a result of an express or tacit agreement by the parties. This agreement may only be entered into if the parties are merchants, legal entities under public law or public-law special funds. In those cases, a first-instance court which is otherwise incompetent can become competent as a result of an express or tacit jurisdiction agreement.
competence of a court at first instance may also be agreed if at least one of
the contracting parties has no general jurisdiction within
Under Section 38(3), a jurisdiction agreement is also only admissible if it has, expressly and in writing, been entered into after the dispute arose or to cover the possibility of the future defendant moving his address or habitual residence abroad after the contract is made or of his address or habitual residence not being known at the time of the commencement of proceedings.
It is a constant requirement for a jurisdiction agreement for it to relate to a particular legal relationship and the legal disputes arising from it; otherwise it is invalid (Section 40(1) ZPO). A jurisdiction agreement is also inadmissible if it deals with claims other than financial claims, which are allocated to the District Court regardless of the value of the disputed subject matter. A jurisdiction agreement is also impossible if an exclusive jurisdiction is established according to law (Section 40(2) ZPO).
Where the written form is required for a jurisdiction agreement to be entered into, general terms of business and form contracts may also satisfy this form.
A valid jurisdiction agreement is binding on the courts; whether the exclusivity of the jurisdiction is agreed depends on the content of the agreement.
bb) Undisputed hearing
The jurisdiction of a first-instance court is also established by the defendant making oral submissions in the main action without asserting lack of jurisdiction (Section 39 ZPO). In proceedings before the District Court, this legal result only arises if the court has given a corresponding indication.
However, jurisdiction cannot be established by making submissions without dispute in the main action where a jurisdiction agreement would be inadmissible (see above, this concerns cases of non-financial disputes and exclusive jurisdictions).
The peculiarity of the special jurisdiction of the employment courts exists solely in respect of substantive jurisdiction. With regard to issues of territorial jurisdiction and the possibility of a jurisdiction agreement, the general rules apply, as set out under B.Top
Last update: 20-04-2006