Expatica news

Court costs to be reformed

9 September 2004

BRUSSELS –  People who lose a civil lawsuit in Belgium could soon have to pay the legal costs of the person who won the case as well as their own, it emerged on Thursday.

La Libre Belgique newspaper reported that a 2 September decision taken by Belgum’s highest appeals court, the Cour de Cassation, will totally overhaul the way legal costs are paid in civil cases.

Until now, lawyers fees were not viewed as part of the compensation paid to the victim even though many judges believed they should have been.

“This is a turning point for jurisprudence,” said Bertrand De Coninck, an assistant at the Catholic University of Leuven (UCL).

“Before this decree, we were practising an old jurisprudence from the 1950s that excluded the lawyers fees from the owed damages.”

Although the courts were moving gradually away from this position, this situation is now “very clear,” added De Coninck.

“The court has taken a decision of principle that means lawyers fees paid by the victim can be included as part of the damages to be paid back.”

But the decision still has its limits.

It will be related to the direct costs incurred by the victim as a result of the wrongdoing he or she was a victim of.

For example, if someone chooses to make use of three lawyers when one would be enough, then their costs would not be reimbursed in full.

The ruling will also only apply to civil cases where the fault has been proven by a court of law.

Thirdly, it mainly focuses on cases where a contract exists between the two parties.

This could apply, for example, to a contractual relationship between a landlord and tenant in the case of non-payment of rent.

“The decision could still be applied to non-contractual cases,” explained De Coninck.

“Today the rules that apply to contractual responsibility and those that concern extra-contractual responsibility are very close, which allows scope for the court ruling to apply to both cases.”

The decision would also cover fees for any experts that were needed to fight the case.

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news