In a recent client update here, we discussed the measures adopted by the Superintendent of Public Health in Malta and the unprecedented suspension of legal and judicial timeframes, which will have a significant impact on the conduct of litigation in Malta. In this update, we present FAQs that may help you think ahead as to the consequence these measures may have on any forthcoming or ongoing disputes or contractual matters affecting your business or private life.

This set of FAQs forms part of our Coronavirus online toolkit. For our employer's FAQs, see here.

I am due to attend a hearing in court this week, what happens now?

The closure of all courts will come into effect on Monday 16 March, and will remain in force until further notice. The suspension will last until seven (7) days following the lifting of the closure order. This includes all superior and inferior courts including appellate courts, irrespective of their competence and jurisdiction. However, a court may order the hearing of cases of an urgent nature, such as the issue or repeal of a warrant of prohibitory injunction, or where a matter is in the public interest. This may carry additional judicial costs implications. If you were due to appear in court, or were in the course of preparing any response, defence, or other legal act or process, your legal contact should be in touch with you to discuss changes to key deadlines and how this affects your dispute.

(Updated 16 March 2020)

Does the order apply also to hearings before tribunals?

Yes, the closure order also affects tribunals, boards, commissions, committees or other entities before which proceedings are heard which subject to legal or administrative time limits for filing any claims, defences or other acts. It also covers any court registry in Malta.

(Updated 16 March 2020)

The term on my promise of sale was due to expire, what happens now?

The suspension of legal timeframes relating to promise of sale agreements, notarial and other related matters has been ordered with effect from Monday 16 March. If the last day of the legal term (i.e. the time set out in your promise of sale agreement, by which time the buyer and seller would agree to enter into a contract of sale) set out in the promise of sale expires during the time when this order for suspension remains in place, the running of the time set out in the promise of sale shall be suspended until twenty (20) days after the day when the suspension order is repealed. There is no need for you to sign on any paperwork or enter into any formal renewals in order for the suspension of the timeframe to be extended. All matters which require participation by a notary are affected by this measure, including deeds, wills, acts and private writings by notaries are also subject to the same suspension.

(Updated 18 March 2020)

The term of my promise of sale has just expired, on a day before 16 March.What does this mean for me?

Any legal term which fell before the 16 March is not affected by the legal notice which has put into place these special measures. This means that such date remains valid, and it is very likely that the legal effects which you have discussed with your lawyer or notary remain unchanged. However, given the current climate, you may encounter difficulties with actions such as registration of documents, setting an appointment to execute a contract of sale or with your bank, and making any filings. You may wish to get in touch with your lawyer to discuss whether any tasks affected by the legal measures around coronavirus will affect you, and to understand whether it will be now necessary to agree an extension to your promise of sale.

(Updated 16 March 2020)

The term to file an appeal was due to lapse, what happens now?

The suspension of any legal and judicial times applicable to proceedings or other procedures before the said courts and tribunals will remain in force for seven (7) days following the repeal of the suspension. This means that the time period allowed at law for you to bring an appeal will remain suspended until seven (7) days from the end of the ongoing suspension of judicial activities.

(Updated 16 March 2020)

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.