Clients and lawyers in other jurisdictions may often experience that litigations and arbitrations in Norway are conducted differently from what they are used to. Here are some main differences.
Partner Andreas Meidell and Managing Associate Henrik Møinichen both represent Norwegian and international clients broad specter of complex litigations, and domestic and international arbitrations. Thommessen's lawyers also regularly serve as mediators and arbitrators.
- Thommessen often assist in litigations and arbitrations within insurance, financial services and construction, as well as shipping and offshore. In these cases, we usually represent a foreign client who has either been sued or is going to sue in Norway, and who is curious about how this works in the Norwegian legal system, says partner Andreas Meidell.
Clients may have their own perceptions based on their home country's legal system.
- We see that the legal processes can be similar, but also different in other areas, he continues.
Thommessen has developed several tools for handling litigations and arbitrations efficiently.
- At Thommessen we focus on good project management and processes, so that we are ready well in advance to avoid rushing towards the end. We have been particularly focused on that in recent years, says Henrik.
Statutes of limitations
One thing that sets Norway apart from many other countries is the statute of limitations. The main limitation period is three years, and runs from the date on which the creditor first had the right to demand performance. For claims based on breach of contract, the limitation period starts on the day on which the breach occurred. This start date may vary, depending on the dispute and when the effect of the breach of contract occurred.
The main consequence of failing to observe a limitation period is that the creditor forfeits his or her right to performance of the claim. Therefore it's important to stay within the deadlines.
- Some clients have questions regarding what obligations and rights they have in legal proceedings in Norway, both with regard to the claims they can make and the obligations they have to present documentation, says Andreas.
Evidence may take the form of documentary evidence, witness testimony and, although more unusual, physical items and site-inspections. In principle, all forms of evidence carry equal weight.
Evidence must be submitted during the preparatory stage of the proceedings. In practice, this means that witness lists and all relevant documentary evidence must be presented and appended to the writ, the reply or any subsequent written submissions. Any evidence shall upon submission be accompanied by a brief description of what such evidence is meant to demonstrate.
- The duty to disclosure evidence is more specific and narrowed down in Norway compared to many other jurisdictions, for instance the discovery rules in most common law jurisdictions, says Henrik.
- Lastly, there is a much higher degree of orality in court, which in essence means that all pieces of evidence a party wishes to invoke must be presented to the judges during the trial, says Henrik.
Ordinarily, the parties will present oral arguments and evidence in a main hearing. Although the principle of free assessment of the evidence and the law does apply, the main rule is that a judgment may only be based on evidence that has been presented during the main hearing. The reason for this is to ensure that the parties have had ample opportunity for contradiction.
The emphasis on the oral hearing and on oral witness testimony may distinguish litigation in Norway from litigation in other jurisdictions.
- On the other hand, there is a higher degree of written submissions in arbitration. Therefore, arbitration in Norway is becoming increasingly more similar to what is done abroad, he concludes.
How to conduct litigations and arbitrations in Norway
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