Preparation of a civil case
In the preparation of a case, the person in charge of the dossier peruses the application for a summons and, if necessary, requests additional information.
After having perused the application for a summons, he or she issues a summons, where the defendant is requested to respond to the demands in writing before a deadline. The summons contains information on the matters that are to be included in a written response. The district court serves the summons on the defendant by telephone, by post or by a process server.
If the defendant submits a written response and opposes the action, the proceedings continue in written or oral preparation. The purpose of the preparation is to establish what kind of demands the parties have and what they are based on, which matters they disagree on, what evidence will be presented and what is the purpose of each piece of evidence, and whether there are any possibilities for a settlement in the case.
In the written preparation, a district court can request a party to submit a written statement on a specific question to the court. In some situations, even a disputed case can be decided immediately after the written preparation. The prerequisite is that the parties consent to this and it would be manifestly unnecessary to hold a main hearing, for example because no witnesses are to be heard in the case.
Oral preparation takes place in a preparatory hearing, where the parties are summoned to. The purpose of the preparatory hearing is to establish the matters that the parties disagree on. Any possibilities of a settlement are also explored. If a settlement is reached in the hearing, the district court will confirm the settlement and the case is closed. If there is no settlement, the oral preparation is concluded and the matter is referred to a main hearing.
The parties should prepare carefully for the preparatory hearing. The parties should bring along all written evidence they intend to invoke. They should also know who they want to call as witnesses and the contact details of these witnesses. The questions asked at the hearing are often very detailed and the parties need to be prepared to be able to answer them. If the hearing has to be adjourned because of a neglect on the part of a party, he or she may be obliged to pay the costs incurred.
An oral preparation can also be arranged by way of a conference call, for example if the parties reside far away from the court.
In some situations, the oral preparation may be skipped and the written preparation is immediately followed by a main hearing.
If there is no response, the district court will decide the case without continuing the preparation. In this event, the decision is called a default judgment; it is issued at the registry of the court without the plaintiff or the defendant being summoned to a hearing. A default judgement is immediately enforceable and may be submitted to an enforcement officer by the creditor. The district court is not responsible for the enforcement of the judgment, but the creditor himself or herself must contact the defendant and the enforcement authorities.
A defendant against whom a default judgment has been issued has the right to appeal against the decision within 30 days of being served with it. The relevant procedure is called application for re-trial.