04 December 2017

On 1st January 2018 a new Civil Procedure Code enters into force in Hungary with the principal aim to speed up civil & business litigations, through divided litigation structure and important restrictions for the litigants. In this short article we collected the 5 most important changes which will affect you if you start a litigation in Hungary from 2018.

1. Divided litigation structure

The current first instance procedure is unified which makes the parties able to change their statements and their legal argumentation until the first instance hearing is closed. This obviously makes the procedure slower as it can happen that right before the court would like to decide, new facts come to light which require further evidence procedure.

This fundamentally changes with the new Civil Procedure. The first instance procedure will be divided into two parts:

The first part is the preparatory phase where the parties have to precise their claims, statements and submit their evidence, and their motions for evidence.

The second part is the trial phase where based on the settled frameworks of the case the evidence procedure will be pursued and the judge will decide.

2. No withholding of facts

Based on our experiences it is quite common that parties withhold facts and evidences from tactical reasons until the very last moment. This attitude makes the litigation not only harder for the opposing party but also delays the sentencing.

This will also change with the New Civil Procedure Code since the parties shall present all the relevant facts in the preparatory phase.

After the closing of the preparatory phase new facts can only be presented if the fact happened later or the party came into possession of the new fact later without his fault.  Furthermore, in this case a very short deadline will be allowed: parties can only present the new facts within 15 days as of they came into possession of the new fact.

3. Restrictions to changes in the claim

The current Civil Procedure Code allows the claimant to make changes in his claim until the first instance court hearing is closed.

However from 2018, parties shall only be able to make changes in their claims or counterclaims until the closing of the preparatory phase. After that the possibility to change the claim or counterclaim is extremely limited: it can only happen when arising of new relevant facts justify the change.

If the parties present changes in their claims or counterclaims despite the above restrictions, the court will not only dismiss the request for change but also imposes fines against the negligent party.

4. Restrictions to lay counterclaims

Another measure that will probably make the litigation faster is the strict deadlines set forth for presenting counterclaims (offsets).

We have often experienced that the defendant filed his counterclaim right before the sentencing and instead of receiving the long awaited first instance judgement, we had to continue the procedure with new witness or expert hearings.

This will come to end with the New Civil Procedure Code since as a main rule the defendant have to file his counterclaim (offset) within 45 days after he receives the statement of claim or at latest together with his statement of defence. Offsets are allowed after this deadline in limited cases: for example, if the claim of the defendant against the claimant only became due later.

5. Emerging role of private experts

Hiring private experts in civil litigation is quite common: they tend to care more about the detailed examination of the case as their court-appointed fellows thus their opinions are more likely well-founded.

However, the current situation of the private experts and the evidentiary value of private expert opinions in civil litigation is unclear: in some case the courts consider the private expert opinion only as the statement of the party and not as an expert opinion compared to the opinion of the court-appointed expert.

The New Civil Procedure Code settles this issue: the court will primarily appoint the private expert requested by the parties or one of the parties. Court-appointed expert will only be used by the judge if neither of the parties requested the appointment of a private expert or the opinion of the private expert is dubious.

Consequently, the private expert opinion will have the same evidentiary force as the opinion of the court-appointed expert.

This means that the role of private experts will be much more important both before starting the litigation and during the court procedure.