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Further innovation in Abu Dhabi judicial system with Small Claims Court

  • Legal Development 4 juillet 2021 4 juillet 2021
  • Moyen-Orient

  • Litiges commerciaux

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.


Bringing proceedings in the Small Claims Court

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.

Jurisdiction

  • A claimant may commence proceedings in the Abu Dhabi Small Claims Court if their claim is a civil, commercial or labour claim and the value of the claim is less than AED 500,000. 
  • The jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court will not cover any claims in which the State is a party, summary claims and payment orders.

Experts

  • A party may still request the appointment of a technical expert in claims filed before the Small Claims Court. The deposit for expert fees will initially be 3% of the value of the claim (subject to a minimum fee of AED 2,000 and review by the court).
  • If an expert is appointed, a hearing will be scheduled no more than 3 days following receipt of the expert report.
  • Alternatively, the court may allow the expert to give his opinion orally without the need for a full written report.

Issuing a judgment

  • A session to hear the claim will be scheduled no more than 15 days from the date of filing of the statement of claim. This is subject to an extension of a similar period of time being granted by the supervising judge.
  • A judgment will be issued in the same session scheduled to hear the claim i.e. within 15 days of the date of case registration.

Appeals

  • Judgments can be appealed to the Court of Appeal if the value of the claim exceeds AED 50,000. Anything less than this and the decision of the Court of First Instance is final.
  • The Court of Appeal will issue its decision within 5 working days from the date of filing the appeal.
  • The decision of the Court of Appeal is final and there is no further right of appeal to the Court of Cassation.
     

What does this mean for claimants in Abu Dhabi?

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.

Fin

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