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Last update: 17-08-2004
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Jurisdiction of the courts - Sweden

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. Should I apply to an ordinary civil court or to a specialised court? A.
B. Where the ordinary civil courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I should apply to? B.
I. Is there a distinction between lower and higher ordinary civil courts and if so which one is competent for my case? I.
II. Competent court II.
1. Basic rule of territorial jurisdiction 1.
2. Exceptions to the basic rule 2.
a) When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant lives and another court? a)
b) When do I have to choose a court other than that in the place where the defendant lives? b)
c) Can the parties themselves attribute jurisdiction to a court which would not be competent otherwise? c)
C. Where specialised courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I have to address? C.

 

A. Should I apply to an ordinary civil court or to a specialised court?

Disputes in civil law are normally heard by a general court. You should take your case to a district court that has jurisdiction.

There are two special courts which hear certain types of civil case, the Labour Court (Arbetsdomstolen) and the Market Court (Marknadsdomstolen). There are also certain district courts that handle specific types of case. The jurisdiction of these courts is dealt with under C below.

Some disputes in civil law are heard by bodies that are not real courts. Using a simplified procedure in the context of interim proceedings, the enforcement service can oblige a party to make a payment or to take other steps (see Organisation of Justice - Sweden). Decisions taken by the authorities can be challenged in a district court. Certain types of dispute involving rent or leases are heard by Rent Tribunals or Leasehold Tribunals.

B. Where the ordinary civil courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I should apply to?

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

Virtually all civil cases are first brought before the lowest court, the district court.

II. Competent court

1. Basic rule of territorial jurisdiction

According to the basic rules, a case must be brought where the defendant is resident. A natural person is considered to be resident in the place where he or she is registered. Legal persons are normally taken to be resident at the place where they have their head office.

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It may also be possible to bring a case before a Swedish court even if the person does not live in Sweden. If the defendant has no place of residence the case may be brought at the place where they are staying, or, in some cases, at the place where they last lived or stayed. In some civil disputes a case may be brought in Sweden even if the defendant is resident abroad. Of crucial importance to the grounds for such jurisdiction is the existence of property in Sweden or that an agreement has been entered into in Sweden.

In international cases it is important to remember that the Swedish rules on jurisdiction can only apply where there is Swedish jurisdiction. In most cases there is Swedish jurisdiction if a Swedish court has jurisdiction under the national rules. It is also necessary in this context to take account of international agreements that may apply. The most important of these for Sweden are the Brussels I Regulation, the Brussels Convention and the Lugano Convention, all of which govern jurisdiction if the defendant is resident in a State covered by the Regulation or the Conventions. In particular, they also point out that the grounds of jurisdiction that state that an action for liability to pay may be brought where the defendant has property may not be applied to a person who is resident in a Member State or a State party to the Convention.

2. Exceptions to the basic rule
a) When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant lives and another court?

There are a number of rules on jurisdiction that state that action can also be brought before a court other than the court in the place where the defendant lives. There are also rules on competing jurisdiction in various international agreements, such as the Brussels I Regulation and the Brussels and Lugano Conventions.

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The most important Swedish rules on competing jurisdiction are as follows:

  • Anyone who has suffered damage may bring an action at the place where the harmful act was performed or where the damage occurred. In principle, the rule does not apply in the case of breach of contract. An action for damages as a result of a criminal act can be brought in connection with a prosecution for the crime.

  • Consumers can bring a case against a company in their own court in consumer cases involving small sums.

  • Cases involving liability to pay on the basis of a contract can in some cases be brought at the place where the contract was entered into. On the other hand there is no provision in Swedish law conferring jurisdiction on the court at the place where a contract is to be performed.

  • A case against a company involving a dispute which has arisen in connection with a business activity can in some cases be brought at the place of business.

  • Actions involving child custody, housing and visiting rights are normally heard at the place where the child is resident (see also Parental responsibility - Sweden).

  • Cases involving child support are usually brought before the court where the defendant lives, but paternity suits, matrimonial cases and cases involving parental responsibility (custody of children and housing) can also be heard by another court.

b) When do I have to choose a court other than that in the place where the defendant lives?

Swedish law includes a number of rules on exclusive jurisdiction which state that action must be brought before a particular court. There are also rules on exclusive jurisdiction in various international agreements, such as the Brussels I Regulation and the Brussels and Lugano Conventions. If a case covered by any of these rules is brought before a court other than the one with exclusive jurisdiction, the court is not allowed to hear the case.

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The most important Swedish rules on exclusive jurisdiction are as follows:

  • Most land law disputes must be dealt with by the court in the place where the land is situated.

  • Some disputes involving property must be dealt with by a land court or a rent or leasehold tribunal. Again, this depends on where the property is located.

  • Cases involving inheritance laws must be heard by the court in the place where the deceased lived.

  • Disputes to do with marriage and the division of property between spouses are heard by the court in the place where one of the parties lives.

  • Where a dispute must be heard by the Labour Court or the Market Court the case cannot be brought before the general court in the defendant's place of residence.

  • For most disputes involving environmental law, maritime law, industrial and intellectual property law and family law, where there is an international dimension, there are special rules which confer jurisdiction on only one court.

  • Svea Court of Appeal has exclusive jurisdiction to hear certain petitions involving the enforcement of decisions of foreign courts.

c) Can the parties themselves attribute jurisdiction to a court which would not be competent otherwise?

The parties can enter into an agreement whereby a dispute may or must be heard by a certain court. This agreement must be in writing. The agreement can stipulate that a single court has exclusive jurisdiction. It is also possible to agree that a court other than the one provided for by the normal rules will have jurisdiction. The parties can also assign jurisdiction to more than one court.

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In principle, the court designated by the parties as having jurisdiction is bound to accept a case brought before it. However, this does not apply if the agreement contravenes one of the rules on exclusive jurisdiction. If one of the parties lodges an objection that the agreement designating a certain court is invalid, the court must also examine the objection, with the result that it may not have jurisdiction.

A court which would not otherwise have jurisdiction can have jurisdiction if the defendant does not object that the case is being heard by the wrong court (so called "tacit prorogation"). This is not the case, however, if rules on exclusive jurisdiction apply; the court must consider this question of its own accord. However, the court will not automatically examine the question of whether the case is being brought in contravention of the basic rules, the rules on competing jurisdiction or an agreement designating a certain court. Any objection that the court does not have jurisdiction must be made the first time the parties make statements in the case. However, if the defendant does not make any statement at all and the court has to issue a default judgment, the court must examine the question of whether it has jurisdiction.

C. Where specialised courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I have to address?

There are two special courts that deal with civil disputes. The Labour Court hears industrial relations disputes, i.e. disputes concerning the relationship between an employer and an employee, and the Market Court hears disputes involving competition law and marketing.

Certain district courts deal with particular types of civil cases. Of Sweden's district courts, 25 are also land courts. These courts deal with cases involving expropriation and land parcelling. Cases covered by the Environmental Code are dealt with by five district courts which are also environmental courts. Disputes under maritime law are heard by seven district courts which are maritime law courts. There are special rules for disputes under industrial and intellectual property law, especially patents, which give Stockholm district court sole jurisdiction. Similar provisions apply to various family law matters involving an international dimension.

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

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Last update: 17-08-2004

 
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