Small claims - Estonia
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 Existence of a specific small claims procedure
- According to Section 403 of the Code of Civil Procedure (tsiviilkohtumenetluse seadustik), the court may, with the consent of the parties, adjudicate on a matter without hearing it in a court session.
- According to Section 404 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the court may make a ruling on the conduct of written proceedings in a matter of a monetarily appraisable action if the value of the action does not exceed an amount which corresponds to EUR 3 200 on the main claim and to EUR 6 400 together with collateral claims.
- According to Section 405 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the court adjudicates on an action by way of simplified proceedings at the discretion of the court, taking account of only the general procedural principles provided by the Code of Civil Procedure.
- Documentary proceedings for hearing an action for payment of money arising from a bill of exchange or cheque, or an action for compulsory enforcement arising from a mortgage or maritime mortgage or registered security over movables.
1.1 Scope of procedure, threshold
- Independent of the type and value of a civil matter, the court may make a ruling on the conduct of written proceedings with the consent of the parties.
- The court may make a ruling on the conduct of written proceedings without the consent of the parties in a matter of a monetarily appraisable action if the value of the action does not exceed an amount which corresponds to EUR 3 200 on the main claim and to EUR 6 400 together with collateral claims.
- Simplified proceedings can be applied if the action concerns a proprietary claim and the value of the action does not exceed an amount which corresponds to EUR 2 000 on the main claim and to EUR 4 000 together with collateral claims.
- In the case of an action for payment of money arising from a bill of exchange or cheque, or an action for compulsory enforcement arising from a mortgage or maritime mortgage or registered security over movables, documentary proceedings can be applied. There is no threshold in the event of documentary proceedings.
1.2 Application of procedure
1.1. When applying written proceedings with the consent of the parties in accordance with Section 403 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the court sets, as soon as possible, a term during which petitions and documents may be submitted and the time for making the judgment public, and notifies the participants in the proceedings accordingly. The parties have the right to withdraw the consent specified in subsection (1) of this Section only if significant changes in the procedural situation occur. If a party fails to inform the court of whether the party consents to written proceedings, it is presumed that the party wishes to have the matter heard in a court session.
1.2. If a court makes a ruling on conducting written proceedings in the matter of a monetarily appraisable action in accordance with Section 404 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the court sets a due date for submission of petitions and documents, determines the time for announcing the judgment, and notifies the participants in the proceedings accordingly. The court may change the due date if this is necessary because changes have occurred in the procedural situation. The court cancels written proceedings if, in the opinion of the court, the personal appearance of the parties is essential for ascertaining the circumstances that constitute the cause of the action or if the party due to whom the written proceedings were ordered applies for adjudication of the matter in a court session. At the request of the other party, that party will be heard regardless of whether or not written proceedings have been ordered.
1.3. Under Section 405(3) of the Code of Civil Procedure, the court may conduct proceedings in a matter by way of simplified proceedings without the need to make a separate ruling on the matter. The participants in the proceedings must still be notified of their right to be heard by the court. Simplified proceedings must allow for more simple matters to be heard in a less formal way. Simplifying and accelerating the proceedings must result in more efficient administration of justice. If an action concerns a small proprietary claim, the court may conduct the proceedings in a flexible manner. Simplification of proceedings is an option available to the court, not an obligation on it. The provisions concerning the simplified proceedings, including the filing of appeals against decisions made in such proceedings, also apply to the adjudication of a civil matter under Regulation (EC) No 861/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a European Small Claims Procedure (OJ L 199, 31.07.2007, pp. 1–22), to the extent that it is not regulated by that Regulation. Under that Regulation, a matter may be adjudicated on by the competent county court according to jurisdiction.
1.4. Documentary proceedings are applied at the request of the plaintiff if all the facts in support of the claim can be supported by documentary evidence and all necessary documents are appended to the action or if the plaintiff submits them to the court before the specified deadline.
There are no standard forms used nationally for simplified proceedings.
Legal aid is granted in accordance with the procedure set out in the State Legal Aid Act (riigi õigusabi seadus). The granting of state legal aid is decided on the basis of individual applications.
An application for state legal aid as a party to judicial proceedings in a civil case is submitted to the court conducting proceedings in the case or the court that would be competent to conduct proceedings in the case.
A natural person may receive state legal aid if they are unable to pay for competent legal services due to their financial situation at the time they require legal assistance or if they are able to pay for the legal services only in part or in instalments or if their financial situation does not enable them to meet their basic subsistence needs after paying for the legal services.
State legal aid is granted to a natural person whose place of residence at the time of submitting the application for legal aid is in the Republic of Estonia or another Member State of the European Union or who is a citizen of the Republic of Estonia or another Member State of the European Union. The place of residence is determined on the basis of Article 59 of Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (Article 62 of Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council). Other natural persons are granted legal aid only in cases where this arises from an international agreement.
1.5 Rules concerning the taking of evidence
In simplified proceedings, conducted in accordance with Section 405 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the court may also take evidence on its own initiative. The court may deviate from the provisions of law concerning the formal requirements for providing and taking evidence and also recognise as evidence other means of proof not provided for by law, including a statement by a participant in the proceedings which is not given under oath.
In documentary proceedings, only documents submitted by the parties and statements given under oath by the parties are accepted as evidence. Only an action for the payment of money arising from a bill of exchange or cheque or an action for compulsory enforcement arising from a mortgage or maritime mortgage, and the authenticity or falsification of a document may be proved. Other documents and objections are not accepted. No other claims or counterclaims may be filed in documentary proceedings. In order to prove a collateral claim arising from a bill of exchange or cheque, it is sufficient to substantiate the claim.
The rules for taking evidence are laid down in Chapter 25 of the Code of Civil Procedure. In actions, each party is required to prove the facts on which their claims and objections are based, unless otherwise provided for by law. Unless otherwise prescribed by law, the parties may agree on a division of the burden of proof different from that provided for by law, and agree on the nature of the evidence needed to prove a certain fact. Evidence is submitted by the participants in the proceedings. The court may propose to the participants in the proceedings that they submit additional evidence. If a participant in the proceedings wishes to provide evidence but is unable to do so, they may request that the court take the evidence. A participant in the proceedings who provides evidence or requests that evidence be taken must substantiate which facts relevant to the matter they wish to prove by providing the evidence or requesting that evidence be taken. A request for evidence to be taken should also set out any necessary information in order for the evidence to be taken. In the course of pre-trial proceedings, the court sets the participants in the proceedings a deadline for providing evidence and requesting that evidence be taken. If the request of a participant in the proceedings for the evidence to be taken is denied due to the failure of the participant to pay the costs related to the evidence being taken in advance notwithstanding the demand of the court, the participant does not have the right to request that the evidence be taken later if this would result in the hearing of the matter being deferred.
If it is necessary to collect evidence from outside the territorial jurisdiction of the court conducting proceedings in a matter, the court hearing the matter may make a ruling for performance, by letter of request, of a procedural act by the court within whose territorial jurisdiction the evidence can be taken. A letter of request is complied with pursuant to the procedure established for performance of the procedural act applied for in the letter. The participants in the proceedings are notified of the time and place of the procedural act; however, the absence of a participant in the proceedings does not prevent the letter of request from being complied with. Minutes of procedural acts and evidence taken on compliance with a letter of request are sent promptly to the court hearing the matter. If the court conducting proceedings takes evidence in a matter on the basis of a letter of request and consequently a dispute arises which cannot be settled by that court but needs to be settled in order for evidence to continue to be taken, the court conducting the proceedings in the main case settles the dispute. If the court complying with a letter of request finds that, in order to better adjudicate on the matter, it would be reasonable to transfer the duty of taking evidence to another court, the court submits a request to this effect to the other court and informs the participants in the proceedings of this.
Evidence taken in a foreign state pursuant to the legislation of that state may be used in civil proceedings conducted in Estonia unless the procedural acts performed in order to obtain the evidence are in conflict with the principles of Estonian civil procedure. The panel of the court that requested the taking of evidence pursuant to the procedure provided by Council Regulation (EC) No 1206/2001 on co-operation between the courts of the Member States in the taking of evidence in civil or commercial matters or a judge acting on the basis of an order may, in accordance with that Regulation, be present at and participate in the taking of evidence by a foreign court. The participants in the proceedings, their representatives and experts may participate in the taking of evidence to the same extent as they may participate in the taking of evidence in Estonia. The court panel adjudicating the matter, a judge acting on the basis of an order or an expert appointed by the court may participate in such direct taking of evidence by an Estonian court in another Member State of the European Union as is permitted by Article 17.3 of the above-mentioned Regulation.
For the taking of evidence elsewhere than in a Member State of the European Union, the court requests that it be taken through a competent authority pursuant to the Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters. The court may also take evidence in a foreign state by intermediation of the ambassador representing the Republic of Estonia in that state or a competent consular official, unless this is prohibited under the laws of that state.
The party providing evidence or requesting that it be taken may waive and withdraw evidence only with the consent of the opposing party, unless otherwise provided for by law.
1.6 Written procedure
A matter heard in simplified proceedings may be resolved by way of written proceedings. The court guarantees that the fundamental rights and freedoms and the essential procedural rights of the participants in the proceedings are observed and that a participant in the proceedings is heard if they so request. A court session need not be held for this purpose. The court may waive written pre-trial proceedings or a court session.
A matter in documentary proceedings may be resolved by way of written proceedings with the consent of the parties.
1.7 Content of judgment
A judgment consists of an introduction, conclusion, descriptive part and statement of reasons. In simplified proceedings the court may make a judgment without the descriptive part and statement of reasons. If the court conducts simplified proceedings in an action, it may confine itself in the statement of reasons for the judgment to setting out only the legal reasoning and the evidence on which the conclusions of the court are based.
In a judgment made in a matter heard in simplified proceedings, a county court may set out that it grants permission to appeal against the judgment. The court grants such permission above all if, in the opinion of the county court, a decision by a court of appeal is necessary for the purpose of obtaining the position of a circuit court concerning a legal provision. The reasons for granting leave to appeal need not be stated in the judgment.
In the case of documentary proceedings, an action is also dismissed if the plaintiff fails to prove their claim with the evidence permitted in documentary proceedings. In such cases the action may be filed again in ordinary proceedings. If, regardless of the defendant’s objections, the court satisfies a claim in documentary proceedings, the court makes a judgment with a reservation whereby the defendant is granted the right to defend their interests in the future. For the purposes of filing appeals and compulsory enforcement, a judgment with a reservation is deemed to be a final judgment. If an objection is legitimately submitted in documentary proceedings and is adjudicated on by way of a judgment with a reservation, the defendant may resubmit the objection at a later date only if the judgment with a reservation is annulled or amended.
1.8 Reimbursement of costs
- The costs of an action are to be covered by the party against whom the court rules.
- Amongst other obligations, the party against whom the court rules is required to compensate the other party for any necessary extra-judicial costs arising as a result of the court proceedings. A party is reimbursed for any extra-judicial costs, including compensation for loss of wages or any other permanent income on equal grounds and to the same extent as witnesses are compensated for their costs.
- The procedural expenses of any appointed legal representative of a party are reimbursed pursuant to the same procedure as the party’s procedural expenses.
- In cases where ordering the party against whom the court rules to pay the opposing party’s costs would be extremely unfair or unreasonable, the court may decide that the costs should be covered, in part or in full, by the parties themselves.
- In cases where an action is satisfied in part, the parties cover the procedural expenses in equal parts unless the court divides the procedural expenses in proportion to the extent to which the action was satisfied or decides that the procedural expenses should be covered, in part or in full, by the parties themselves.
1.9 Possibility to appeal
In the conclusion of a judgment made in simplified proceedings, the court also sets out the procedure and deadline for appealing against the judgment. A judgment made in simplified proceedings can be appealed against through the ordinary procedure. A circuit or district court (ringkonnakohus) may adjudicate on an appeal concerning a matter heard in simplified proceedings irrespective of the permission of the county court (maakohus), and an appeal may be filed irrespective of the permission of the county court. A circuit court may not refuse to admit an appeal for the sole reason that it is a matter adjudicated on by way of simplified proceedings.
A judgment made in documentary proceedings can be appealed against through the ordinary procedure.
A judgment of a court of first instance may be subject to appeal by the parties, and by third parties with independent claims. A third party without an independent claim may file an appeal on the conditions set out in the Code of Civil Procedure.
An appeal cannot be filed if both parties have submitted a petition to the court waiving their right to file appeals.
An appeal may be filed within 30 days of the judgment being served on the appellant but no later than five months after the date when the judgment of the court of first instance was made public.
If a supplemental judgment is made in a matter during the period for appeal, the period for appeal begins to run as of the date on which the supplemental judgment is handed down, including with regard to the initial judgment. In cases where the omitted part is added to a judgment made without the descriptive part or statement of reasons, the period for appeal begins to run anew as of the date on which the full judgment is handed down.
If the parties reach an agreement to this effect and inform the court, the period for appeal may be reduced, or it may be increased to up to five months as of the judgment being made public.
A participant in appeal proceedings may file an appeal in cassation with the Supreme Court (Riigikohus) against a judgment of a circuit court, if the circuit court has materially violated a provision of procedural law or incorrectly applied a provision of substantive law. A third party without an independent claim may file an appeal in cassation under the conditions set out in the Code of Civil Procedure.
An appeal in cassation cannot be filed if both parties have submitted a petition to the court waiving their right to file appeals.
An appeal in cassation may be filed within 30 days of the date on which the judgment was served on the appellant in cassation but no later than five months after the date on which the judgment of the circuit court was made public.
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Last update: 13/05/2014