Most legal proceedings in The Netherlands are initiated when a writ of summons (dagvaarding) by a Dutch bailiff (on behalf of the claimant) is served on a defendant (called a service of process). This writ states that the defendant is summoned to appear in the Dutch court on a specific time and date. The bailiff or solicitor of the plaintiff then registers the writ with the court according to the date specified in the writ.
For defendants residing in the Netherlands, the court bailiff delivers the summons to him. In the case corporations, the writ can be served at the company’s offices or to any of its directors.
For defendants residing outside The Netherlands or have no know residence in The Netherlands, a writ is still delivered to the defendant however the process and rules differs depending on whether the defendant resides in:
The minimum period of time that must have elapsed between serving a writ on a defendant and appearance in court depends on where the defendant resides, and if this is outside the Netherlands, what rules and regulations the state is governed by.
If the defendant resides in the Netherlands or the defendant has chosen domicile in the Netherlands, there is a minimum period of 1 week before appearance in court is necessary.
If the defendant resides in a state to which the EC Service Regulation applies, the time period is 4 weeks.
If the defendant resides in another state, which is often the case in international contracts, the time period is 3 months.
Parties set out their cases to the courts by use of written statements. Both parties can submit (at least) one written statement. The claimant submits the writ of summons, whereas the defendant submits a statement of defense (conclusive van antwoord).
Contents of the writ of summons (claimant) must a.o. contain:
Contents of the statement of defense (defendant) must a.o. contain:
The claimant and defendant can only submit other statements (statement of reply and statement of rejoinder) if permitted by the court.
Generally, after the statement of defense is submitted the Dutch court orders the parties to appear in court, where the judge can determine whether the case can be settled or how the proceedings should ensue. In the case of settlement, directors or other company representatives are usually required to submit proof that they have the competence to represent the company.
In situations where there is no required order to appear in court, the parties are usually granted a request for closing arguments.
The judgment date is usually set to 6 weeks after the order to appear in court or request for closing arguments has taken place. The judgment will either be an interim or final judgment. Interim judgments are given when actions need to take place before the final judgment is delivered. Final judgments conclude the court dispute, and have binding force on the parties.
The judgment of a Dutch court will be enforceable immediately after this is made. If however an appeal is lodged, the judgment is no longer enforceable. Parties can prevent this suspension of enforceability by requesting the court to declare its judgment provisionally enforceable not withstanding an appeal.