Speak up! Litigation in English before Rotterdam District Court

25 November 2015

The Rotterdam District Court is going to allow parties to litigate in English as of 1 January 2016. For now, this pilot project is limited to certain types of civil cases. The cases that will qualify involve maritime law, transport law and international sale of goods.

The Rotterdam harbour is a European mainport. It attracts international and global businesses. Their lingua franca is English. Bustling with economic activity, of course, disputes may arise. The Maritime Chamber of the Rotterdam District Court is specialised in a number of these procedures. Recently, the Dutch judges of the Maritime Chamber have agreed to a pilot project, allowing for the use of English as its working language.

The Rotterdam District Court explains the ratio behind this move:

The main goal of the pilot is to ascertain whether proceedings held in English fulfil a need that exists in international trade. The pilot will last one and a half years.  Since last October the Rotterdam District Court has started publishing summaries in English of civil court rulings issued by its Maritime Chamber. Many of these rulings are in the fields of maritime law, transport law and international trade. These cases are of international significance. By providing summaries in English, the court also enables foreign corporations, legal researchers and lawyers to inform themselves about relevant court rulings.

Please note that because this is still a pilot project, there are strict limitations:

  • It must concern legal proceedings on the merits that were initiated by means of a Writ of Summons (Statement of Claim)
  • In material terms, the dispute must relate to maritime and transport law or international sale of goods
  • The dispute must be (exclusively) between professional parties, that all agree and request the use of English (instead of Dutch or Frysian).
  • They must be represented by members of the Dutch bar
  •  At the moment, the Rotterdam District Court (Private Law Division) is the only Dutch court that allows for litigation in English.
  • The case must be initiated in the period from 1 January 2016 to 1 July 2017

The Rotterdam District Court published special Procedure Rules when opting to conduct legal proceedings in English (amended procedure as referred to in Clause 1.4 of the National Procedural Regulations). These are available both in Dutch and in English. The Procedure Rules explain under which circumstances one may use Dutch, or resort to the use of English.

It will be interesting to find out if this pilot project becomes a success. Given that in The Netherlands, the Rotterdam District Court is also the designated court to hear certain competition law appeals, which also commonly involve international parties, it is possible the pilot project will be extended both in time and to include other types of cases (e.g. competition law litigation).

Questions about litigation in English before Dutch courts?

Please feel free to contact our lawyers, including Adriaan Buyserd (contact details, LinkedIn)