What To Do If You Are Sued Abroad? First Of All: Critical Examination Of The Right To Refuse To Accept Judicial And Extrajudicial Documents Written In A Foreign Language

Author:Dr. Kerstin Aust
Profession:SKW Schwarz
 
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Companies may face judicial proceedings not only in the country in which they are headquartered. When operating across borders, they may, under certain conditions, also be sued before a court in another (in particular: EU Member) State.

Respondents are notified of the start of judicial proceedings by the service of a judicial document. The transmission of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters for service between EU Member States is governed by Regulation No. 1393/2007 on the service of documents (Service Regulation).

The document to be transmitted must be accompanied by a standard form to be completed in the official language or one of the official languages of the place where service is to be effected. The document to be transmitted itself may be written in another language, at least initially.

The form states that the addressee may refuse to accept the document to be served at the time of service or by returning it to the receiving agency within one week if it is not written in a language which the addressee understands or in the official language or one of the official languages of the place where service is to be effected.

Cross-border companies are strongly advised against prematurely refusing acceptance, however, on the grounds that the document to be transmitted is not written in one of the official languages of the place where service is to be effected, i.e., regularly at the company's headquarters. Although French, for example, is not an official language in Germany, not every company based in Germany may claim that French was not understood there. If acceptance is refused without justification, service nevertheless be deemed to have been effected. Using the example of lawsuits against Facebook, a clear line on the right to refuse to accept judicial and extrajudicial documents written in a foreign language has now been established in Germany (e.g., Cologne Higher Regional Court, May 09, 2019, Case 15 W 70/18, Stuttgart Regional Court, August 29...

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