Litigation in The Netherlands

Minerva Advocaten is one of the best boutique-sized Dutch law firms to choose for commercial litigation. We have developed significant experience in this area and have dealt with cases as diverse as the sale and purchase of commodities, employment disputes, insurance coverage matters, brokerage commission claims, the enforceability of surety contracts and the defense of product liability claims.

As in all areas of our practice, our initial goal is to explore with the client whether a prompt and reasonable commercial solution to the problem can be achieved, without resort to litigation. However, when a negotiated solution proves impossible, or when a client’s defenses, or its ability to eventually recover, are at risk, we are prepared to move promptly to ensure that those rights are fully protected.

We assist our clients with debt collection in commercial cases, both domestic and foreign. We have extensive experience in identifying and seizing assets to either satisfy existing debts or to ensure collection of an anticipated judgment, often in conjunction with a foreign proceeding. Our longstanding relationships with a worldwide network of experienced law firms enable us to effectively pursue assets internationally, and advise on alternative locations for debt recovery if assets are moved from local jurisdictions. To give you an idea of the procedures in The Netherlands, we hereby give you some background.

Civil law country

The Kingdom of The Netherlands has a civil law, as opposed to a common-law, system and the procedure before the Dutch Courts is essentially carried out by the parties filing, through their lawyers, written submissions. Verbal hearings do take place, but play a relatively minor role in civil litigation. All cases are decided by professional judges. It is not possible to ask for a jury trial.

Court of first instance

The lower Court of first instance is the Cantonal Court, that basically deals with small claims, disputes regarding leases of residential and business premises and employment cases. The higher Court of first instance is the District Court, where parties need to be represented by a Dutch registered lawye. There are 19 District Courts in the Netherlands.


Appeals against decisions of the Courts of first instance are heard by one of five Courts of Appeal and further appeals (solely on points of law) are dealt with by the Netherlands Supreme Court in The Hague.

Initiation of proceedings

Dependent on the nature of the case, proceedings are initiated by issuing a writ of summons (which is done by a balilff) or by filing an application. In the summons procedure the case is pending from the date of the summons. The writ must be served at the office of the clerk of the court by the claimant by the last day on which the office is open prior to the cause list date indicated in the summons procedure. The clerk of the court enters the case to the cause list of a single chamber.

In an application procedure the case is pending from the moment when the application is lodged with the office of the clerk of the Court.

Recovery of legal fees

Each party initially bears its own costs. In ordinary civil cases, the losing party must bear the legal costs as fixed by the court, which is in most cases substantially lower than the actual legal costs.

Contingency Fees

Contingency Fee arrangements are forbidden. However, balanced success fees are possible.

Further information

If you have any questions regarding litigation in The Netherlands, you are welcome to contact our litigation contact person.

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