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Last update: 02-11-2006
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Simplified and accelerated procedures - Portugal

 

Small claims procedures

1. Existence of a specific small claims procedure. Does a small claims procedure exist (i.e. a special procedure that is simpler than the ordinary procedure and applies in cases where the amount at stake is below a certain monetary threshold or, for certain types of litigation, regardless of any monetary threshold)?

Yes, there is a special simplified procedure that applies in the cases referred to in the question.

1.1. Scope of procedure

The scope of the special procedure for enforcing pecuniary obligations of low value or arising from commercial transactions is subject to a threshold of €14 963.94.

1.2. Application of procedure

The procedure is entirely optional.

There are no legal provisions for any transfer of procedure.

However, the claimant may withdraw from the proceedings and - if withdrawal is approved - subsequently bring an appropriate ordinary action.

1.3. Forms

No forms exist in the Portuguese legal system for declaratory action in relation to small claims.

1.4. Assistance

In cases where the amount at stake does not exceed €3 740.98 and the parties have not appointed a representative or that representative has not appeared at the hearing, the judge will examine the witnesses, thereby assisting the claimant and defendant in taking evidence.

1.5. Rules concerning the taking of evidence

The rules on the taking of evidence under this procedure are more streamlined and flexible than those applied in the ordinary declaratory procedure.

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This concern to make the procedure less demanding and more streamlined is reflected in the following rules for examination of cases:

  1. Evidence is presented at the hearing. Parties may call on only three witnesses if the amount at stake does not exceed €3 740.98, or five in other cases. However, they may produce no more than three witnesses regarding each of the facts they propose to prove, not counting witnesses who have stated that they have no knowledge of that fact.
  2. The hearing takes place within thirty days. If the amount at stake in the case is less than €3 740.98, there is no need to set a date in agreement with any legal representatives that have been appointed.
  3. Failure by any of the parties to appear, even where justified, does not constitute grounds for deferral. Similarly, the absence of representatives, even where justified, does not constitute grounds for deferral if the amount at stake is less than €3 740.98.
  4. If the amount at stake is higher and the case is deferred, the hearing takes place within thirty days, no second deferral being allowed.
  5. “If the judge considers that certain action must be taken in order to arrive at a sound verdict in the case, the hearing shall be suspended at the time deemed most convenient, and a date shall then be set immediately for its resumption; in this case judgment must be concluded within thirty days.” (Article 4 of Decree-Law No 269/98).
  6. Expert evidence is always produced by a single expert.
  7. Once evidence has been taken, each representative may make a brief oral statement.

1.6. Written or oral procedure

Like the other procedures, this is an oral procedure.

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Any representatives of the parties must be given the opportunity to make a brief oral statement.

Witnesses will be examined and oral testimony and explanatory statements taken at the hearing, save where such forms of evidence are not specified by the parties or undertaken on the judge’s initiative.

1.7. Content of judgment

The rules on the content of the judgment are more flexible, as the grounds must merely be succinct, i.e. short and concise.

Moreover, the judge is not required to write down the judgment, but dictates it directly for the official record.

The judicial decision to be handed down in cases not contested by a defendant who is served in person is also simple in structure: the person judging the case must simply confer enforceable status on the request, i.e. acknowledge its content.

Mention will be made of exceptions that cause delays (procedural flaws that are so significant that the judge cannot consider the request, absolving the defendant instead) or the rejection of the applicant’s claim as manifestly unfounded only insofar as such issues are clearly apparent.

1.8. Reimbursement of costs

There are no specific restrictions on reimbursement of the party’s costs, which include in particular advance costs, court fees paid, prosecution fees (intended among other things to offset expenditure on legal representatives) and amounts deposited to meet expenses and expenditure.

Under a general rule (rather than any rule specific to this type of procedure), court fees equal to or less than €44.5 are not returned.

1.9. Possibility to appeal

Since there are no specific rules on appeals for this procedure, there are no exceptions or specific limits to the possibility of appeal.

Further information

Further information can be obtained at the following websites:

  • http://www.stj.pt/- Supreme Court of Justice;
  • http://www.conselhosuperiordamagistratura.pt/ - Higher Council of the Judiciary;
  • http://www.mj.gov.pt/- Ministry of Justice;
  • http://trl.pt/ português - Court of Appeal at Lisbon;
  • http://www.trc.pt/ português - Court of Appeal at Coimbra;
  • http://www.tre.pt/ - Court of Appeal at Évora;
  • http://www.trp.pt português - Court of Appeal at Oporto;
  • http://dre.pt/ português - online legislation;
  • http://www.itij.mj.pt português - legal database;
  • http://www.dagj.mj.pt/ - Directorate-General for the Administration of Justice (providing information inter alia on the contact details and geographical jurisdiction of the courts and access to the court officials’ website);
  • http://www.tribunaisnet.mj.pt/ português - web portal where you can find the application form for an order for payment;
  • http://www.gplp.mj.pt - Legal Policy and Planning Office, Ministry of Justice;
  • http://www.asjp.pt/ português - professional association of Portuguese judges;
  • http://www.smmp.pt/ português - professional association of officers of the public prosecutor’s office;
  • http://www.oa.pt/ português - lawyers’ association.

« Simplified and accelerated procedures - General information | Portugal - General information »

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Last update: 02-11-2006

 
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