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Last week H.H Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued Judicial Department Chairman’s Decision No. 20 of 2020, which approved the establishment of a Small Claims Court in Abu Dhabi with jurisdiction over certain civil, commercial and labour disputes. This article provides an overview of the legal requirements for commencing proceedings before the newly formed Small Claims Court and what this development will mean for claimants in Abu Dhabi.
Decision No. 20 of 2020 introduces a fast-track mechanism in Abu Dhabi for lower value claims which incorporates: (i) the appointment of experts; (ii) the issuance of judgments and (iii) the right of appeal. We set our below a summary of these key provisions.
The effect of Decision No. 20 of 2020 is that it is now possible in Abu Dhabi for a claim under AED 500,000 to be filed, adjudicated on and finally appealed all within the same calendar month. This is hugely significant to claimants who are seeking a quick resolution of lower value claims which might otherwise have been uneconomic to pursue due to lengthy and costly court proceedings. In particular, claimants with trade credit debts of below AED 500,000 will be able to use the fast track procedure to recover debts and improve their balance sheets in a cost-effective manner.
Further, the availability of court appointed experts under a ‘fast track’ procedure ensures that claimants who bring proceedings in the Small Claims Court are not disadvantaged in circumstances in which technical expertise are required, but also have the benefit of avoiding many months of expert meetings and submissions of memoranda – often a key factor in the prolongation of court proceedings.
The establishment of the Small Claims Court is the latest development in a wave of modernisation moving through the Abu Dhabi judicial system and follows on from the bilingual court project, which aims to provide foreign litigants with access to case files in English rather than Arabic, and the drive to increase efficiency by holding approximately 80% of court sessions online by the end of 2021.
Small claims courts are an intrinsic component of established global judicial systems. It is clear that Abu Dhabi is at the forefront of judicial innovation within the region and is making great strides to ensure access to justice for all litigants.