On 6 November 2014, the Italian Parliament approved a bill to improve the efficiency of civil proceedings. The new rules are effective from 10 November 2014.
Please see below a brief summary of the main changes:
Transfer of a pending lawsuit to arbitration. In civil proceedings pending before the lower courts and courts of appeal, the parties will be able to request jointly that the case be submitted to and adjudicated by an arbitration tribunal, unless the dispute relates to non-negotiable rights, employment matters or social security issues. The revised rules regarding arbitrators' fees will be set by a separate ministerial decree.
Assisted Dispute Resolution. Assisted Dispute Resolution is a procedure in which the parties, facilitated by one or more lawyers, agree to cooperate in good faith to resolve a dispute, thus avoiding litigation. Under the new legislation, as a necessary prelude to litigation, any party seeking compensation for damages caused by the use of vehicles and boats or other claims for less than Euro 50,000 will be required to submit a dispute resolution request to the other party, who will be free to accept or decline it. However, this requirement may be waived in the event of enforcement proceedings related to a payment order (or its opposition), settlement proceedings following appointment of a court expert (see article 696bis of the Italian Civil Procedure Code), opposition or incidental proceedings related to the enforcement of court orders issued in chamber and in the event of a civil action brought forward in the course of criminal proceedings. If a settlement is reached and duly signed by the parties and their assisting lawyers, the agreement will constitute an enforceable instrument, allowing a creditor under that agreement to record a judicial charge on the debtor's property.
Changes to the legal costs regime: the losing party to pay the winning party's costs. In an effort to discourage excessive recourse to litigation, the court will only be entitled to make no order as to costs only in the cases where a mutually unfavourable ruling is made, in the event of a recent change in jurisprudence on the matter, or if the issue under dispute has not been covered by a consolidated precedent.
Shift from ordinary to summary judgments. In disputes before an individual judge, once the complexity of the issues involved and the sort of evidence requested to rule on the case has been evaluated, he/she can issue an order, not subject to appeal, converting the proceedings from ordinary proceedings to summary proceedings.
Suspension of judicial deadlines and reduced holiday entitlement for judges. New dates for the suspension of judicial activity during the summer have been set, which will make the holiday period run from 1 August to 31 August (previously it extended until 15 September). The annual holiday entitlement for all judges, prosecutors and lawyers working for the Government legal service has also been reduced to 30 days.
Higher interest on delayed payments. Instead of the old (and lower) judicial interest rates, all late payments will be subject to interest at significantly higher rates already applicable to commercial business transactions, accruing from the date of filing of the claim.
Enforcement: attendance of third party debtors is no longer required. In the case of enforcement against a third party debtor, attendance by the latter at the enforcement hearing is no longer required. Instead of attending, the third party is still required to file a debtor's statement with the court presiding over the enforcement, but may do so by registered letter or certified e-mail.
Further changes are also expected in Family Law in relation to divorce and separation.
(1) The requirement to resort to assisted dispute resolution for all claims under € 50,000 applies regardless of the type of dispute, except those covered under article 5, paragraph 1bis of Legislative Decree no. 28/2010, according to which parties must attempt mediation (condominium-related issues, property rights, estate division, succession disputes, family pacts, tenancies, loans without consideration, business leases, damage repayments for medical liability, defamation through press or media, insurance, banking and financing agreements).
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.