Imagine a situation in which you are in dispute with a company, a professional person, your employer, a member of your family or somebody else in your own country or abroad. Once the efforts at settling the dispute amicably have failed, you may want to bring a court action against the other party. But how do you know which court in which Member State to turn to?
If your case has a national dimension, you just have to define the competent court or, in other words, a court that has jurisdiction. If you use the wrong court or if there is a dispute over the question of jurisdiction you run the risk of a considerable delay in the proceedings or even of a dismissal of your case because of a lack of jurisdiction.
All the Member States have different rules of jurisdiction that determine the distribution of competence among the courts on their territory.
If your court case has an international or crossborder dimension, you have to define both: which Member State and which court are competent (has jurisdiction). The answer to these questions might have significant consequences. If you have to litigate abroad you may have to face additional inconveniences and costs, for example because of the necessity to translate your statements, to hire a lawyer in the Member State where proceedings take place or to travel to court hearings.
To help you identify the competent court for a specific case, visit the search tool at the European Judicial Atlas in civil matters. It contains the names and addresses of all courts in the Member States competent in civil and commercial matters (courts of first instance, court of appeals, etc.) and geographical areas in which they have jurisdiction.
See also other sections on:
Having defined the competent Member State and court you can bring a case to court – to this end see the How to proceed? section.
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Last update: 26/01/2015