🇭🇺 Hungary

9         HUNGARY

9.1         LEGAL FRAMEWORK

Though the field of criminal and civil law procedures are not fully harmonized within the European Union, the Hungarian legal system shows considerable similarities with German and Austrian systems because of historical reasons.

9.2         MAIN PRINCIPLES

The main principles of civil procedures can be summarized as the following:

  1. Civil Law procedure is currently governed by Act III of 1952 on Civil Procedures (hereinafter Code on Civil Procedures, CCP)[16] . In Hungary the civil court system has four tiers. The local courts are the first instance courts in minor cases. In certain cases the county courts (in Hungarian: Törvényszék) proceed on the first instance, furthermore they also handle appeals filed against the decisions of local courts. The five Courts of Appeals (in Hungarian: Ítélőtábla) handle the appeals filed against the decisions of the county courts. The highest instance of judicial forum is the Supreme Court (in Hungarian: Kúria).
  2. Hungarian courts are legally not bound by previous judgments nevertheless the Supreme Court and the courts of appeals publish their judgments to provide guidance for lower courts. Moreover the Supreme Court has a constitutional duty to harmonise the administration of justice within the Hungarian judiciary mainly by means of rendering uniformity decisions.
  3. Before commencing a civil procedure sending a cease and desist letter is obligatory in all legal disputes between business entities. In cases inter alia where at least one of the parties is a private person, moreover, if a request for a preliminary injunction had been filed, no prior cease and desist letter is required. A request for preliminary injunction is therefore
  4. useful for the surprise factor. Regardless of the requirements, it is common in Hungary to send a cease and desist letter to the adverse party in order to open a dialogue.
  5. For cases of urgency, the CCP offers right holders expedited proceedings in order to seek immediate legal protection. Preliminary injunction claims are adjudged within approximately 4-6 weeks in the first instance and are immediately executable. Second instance decisions on preliminary injunctions are usually taken within 3-5 months after the appeal has been filed. Upon a request for a preliminary injunction the court may order interim measures against the infringing party. The core idea behind the institution of preliminary injunction is to ensure a quick but interim remedy prior to the final decision on the merits of the case. The court, upon request, may implement preliminary injunction ordering compliance with the claim (counterclaim), or compliance with the application requesting preliminary injunction, where this is deemed necessary (1) to prevent any imminent threat of damage, or (2) to preserve the status quo giving rise to the dispute, or (3) if it is necessary taking into consideration the special protection of the applicant’s rights, where the advantages attainable by the injunction exceed the disadvantage caused by the injunction. The court may order preliminary injunction subject to the provision of security. The facts underlying the necessity of the preliminary injunction shall be substantiated.’
  6. Under certain limited circumstances e.g. in case of extreme urgency, the court may grant interim measures ex parte.
  7. As a basic rule the parties shall justify that the court is territorially competent and has jurisdiction to adjudge the case. In some cases certain courts has exclusive jurisdiction (e.g. in industrial property cases the Metropolitan Court has an exclusive jurisdiction), in other cases (e.g. in copyright cases) the generally competent County Court has jurisdiction.

9.3         IMPORTANT MILESTONES OF A TRIAL

9.3.1        First instance procedure

Civil proceedings commence when the plaintiff submits its statement of claim to the competent court. The court must examine the case within 30 days from receipt, if the claim complies with the procedural requirements, the court schedules a hearing and delivers the statement of claim to the defendant.

The defendant must put forward the defense statement on the first oral hearing, at latest, however, in general the statement of defense is filed in writing. The parties are allowed to file further observations, responses, etc. as far as time allows, the number of submissions is not limited. Late submissions may be disregarded by the court.

Unless the law provides otherwise, the burden of proof lies with the party in the interest of which it is that the court accepts the alleged fact as true. Generally speaking, all types of evidence are admissible (witness testimony, expert opinion etc.), but in most cases evidence is presented to the court in the form of written documents.

9.3.2        Judgment

In simple cases the judgment is issued on the first oral hearing, in more complicated matters, especially if witnesses must be heard, more than one oral hearing may be necessary.

There are cases where the defendant takes no measure whatsoever to defend his case. In cases where the defendant fails to appear at the first hearing and has not presented his defence in writing, the court can, at the plaintiff’s request, issue a court order against the defendant in which all remedies shall be ordered by the court as requested by the plaintiff. The court will also order the defendant to pay the costs.

9.3.3        The Appeal

An appeal lies against the first instance judgment which is to be filed within 15 days following the delivery of the written judgment. As a general rule, new evidence and new facts may be presented only if the party submitting the appeal becomes aware such facts or evidence after the issuance of the first instance decision.

9.3.4        Revision (Supreme Court)

A request for revision can be filed with the Supreme Court (called Kúria) on points of law within 60 days after the second instance judgment has been delivered in writing. New evidence or facts are disregarded by the Supreme Court.

9.4         THE PRELIMINARY RULING QUESTION BEFORE THE EUROPEAN COURT

When a judge in a national court has doubts in connection with the interpretation of community law (e.g. in IP cases) the judge has opportunity to pose questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union. Simultaneously with requesting the preliminary opinion the court stays the proceeding. In its request, the court defines the matter for which the preliminary opinion is required, and outlines the facts, to the extent required, and the pertinent passages of the Hungarian legal system. After receiving the preliminary ruling, the Hungarian court continues the proceeding and adjudges the case on the basis of the interpretation of the European Court.

9.5         PROCEDURAL COSTS

On the basis of CCP the losing party pays all the costs of the winning party (losing party pays principle). However, the court can order the payment of only a part of the costs, where the winning party caused some of the costs, or the costs are exorbitant, inequitable or unjustified.

As for the official costs, the official duty is 6 % of the damages claimed, if no damages are claimed, the official duty is 36000 HUF, app. 120 EUR) in the first instance. The official duty is 8% of the damages claimed in appeal (48000 HUF, app. 160 EUR if no damages claimed) and 10% of the damages claimed in revision proceedings (70000 HUF, app. 230 EUR if no damages claimed). Attorney’s fees can vary depending on the complexity of the actual case and the activity of the parties.

9.6         CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS

The criminal procedure is governed by different rules. A detailed presentation of Hungarian criminal procedure would exceed the framework of this study, however, the main characteristics criminal lawsuits can be summed up as follows.

  • Criminal proceedings commence with the investigation. The investigating authorities (Police, National Tax and Customs Office) conduct the investigation independently or upon the order of the prosecutor, therefore in most cases the complainant has no control over the criminal procedure. The task of investigating authorities include the exploration of the crime and the perpetrator, furthermore tracing and securing evidence.
  • If the evidence collected during the investigation confirms the guilt of the defendant without any doubt, the prosecutor files an indictment and represents the charge before the court.
  • The court may proceed only upon an indictment: the court may only establish the criminal liability of the person against whom the accusatory instrument was filed, and may only consider acts contained in the instrument.

[16] Hungary adopted a new Code on Civil Procedure (Act CXXX of 2016), which will enter into force on 1st January 2018. In this chapter we detail the provisions of the current code in force.

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