The new Civil Procedure rules took effect as of September 1st 2023 bringing several changes to the Cypriot legal system in an attempt to modernize the legal procedures in Cypriot Courts. Among these changes, the new concept of Pre-Action Protocols (PAPs) stands out. Pre-Action protocols provide guidance as to the pre-action conduct parties are expected to demonstrate before formal court proceedings are issued. Although following Pre-Action Protocols remains voluntary, as just an expectation, in the occasion formal court proceedings are issued, adhesion to the protocols becomes critical.
Two PAPs have for now been introduced as well as guidance as to pre action conduct in the event of PAPs not being applicable. The first PAP (Type I Protocol 1) applies to cases where only a fixed monetary claim is made whilst the second, applies to road traffic accidents and personal injury claims (Type II Protocol 2).
In brief, both protocols require the claimant to send a letter of claim containing details of the issue in dispute, to set out any damages that the proposed defendant has sustained and provide the documents to support the claim. The second protocol also dictates that the letter of claim should be sent in duplicate. This is due to the fact that the proposed defendant has an obligation to send the letter of claim to his insurance company. The claimant can send the letter of claim to the insurance company directly, in addition to the defendant, should such details be known to him.
The first protocol, sets a deadline of 14 days (except if otherwise agreed between the parties) for the proposed defendant to reply to the letter of claim stating whether he admits any liability. Whilst in the case the second protocol applies, the deadline is extended to 28 days. In either case and in the possibility the defendant denies liability, his reply will have to state in detail the reasons for denying the claim as well as attach supporting documents to that effect. Also, any admission of liability should be treated with caution as in the occasion the second protocol applies, the admission will be binding.
Although these deadlines seem tight, the legislator has left room for agreement of extension between the parties. Nevertheless, we believe that this is a main reason why not every form of personal injury claim will fall within the second PAP. Clinical negligence cases are much more complicated than road traffic accidents. Special protocols with larger and more realistic deadlines will have to be introduced to that effect. In any event, pre action conduct guidelines will be applicable in the occasion no pre action protocol seem to apply. In this occasion, the letters will still have to be exchanged as with the PAPs, with the exception that a deadline of 14 days for response to the letter of claim will apply but only for acknowledgment of receipt.
It is important to note that, parties are not obliged to implement Pre-Action protocols in situations where their claims are considered to be of an urgent nature, in instances where the claim is close to becoming time-barred or where there are sufficient reasons for a party not to implement the Pre-Action protocols.
The Court will have the power to sanction parties in relation to costs or reject their requests in the event failure to comply with the Pre-Action protocols results in unnecessary Court proceedings being issued. In addition, the Court may even postpone court proceedings until the completion of the protocol procedure.
Pre-Action protocols aim towards more substantial and meaningful pre-action communication between the parties as well as early exchange of information. The protocols will encourage early negotiation, consideration of alternative methods of dispute resolution and narrowing of issues that will inevitably result in the settlement of cases faster and at a lower cost. However, one may argue that the implementation of Pre-Action protocols may result in front-loading of costs due to the significant amount of work that will have to be made at a very early stage. Despite this being true, in the event of achieving settlement, the total amount of fees will be lower than those of a full hearing of a case before the Courts.
Pre-Action protocols seem to be a great asset in the Cypriot legal system encouraging the fast and effective settlement of disputes at a lower cost. However, the Courts' extensive powers highlight the need to seek advice if you consider that you have a claim so that the correct procedures are followed.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.