ICLG - Legal Guide To Litigation And Dispute Resolution 2016

Author:Mr Matthew Reiter and Simone Fuchs
Profession:Bär & Karrer

1 Preliminaries

1.1 What type of legal system has your jurisdiction got? Are there any rules that govern civil procedure in your jurisdiction?

Switzerland is a civil law jurisdiction. Accordingly, the primary sources of legal authority are written codes and statutes, whereas case law is of less importance than in common law jurisdictions.

Civil procedure in Switzerland is primarily governed by the Swiss Code of Civil Procedure ("SCCP"). The SCCP comprehensively governs civil procedure in Switzerland and domestic arbitration proceedings. Further important sources of civil procedure are the Swiss Federal Act on Private International Law ("PILA") and the Lugano Convention on Jurisdiction and the Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters of 30 October 2007 ("Lugano Convention") dealing with the question of jurisdiction in cross-border matters. Moreover, The PILA regulates international arbitrations with a seat in Switzerland.

1.2 How is the civil court system in your jurisdiction structured? What are the various levels of appeal and are there any specialist courts?

Generally speaking, the Swiss court system consists of three layers of instances: the courts of first instance (at a cantonal level); the upper courts (second instance; also at a cantonal level); and the Swiss Federal Supreme Court as the third and last instance. In exceptional cases, however, a single instance (e.g. the upper court or a specialist court) decides a dispute on the cantonal level (with the possibility to appeal to the Federal Supreme Court). The structure of the (first and second instance) civil court system varies from canton to canton.

In general, cantonal courts have jurisdiction in all areas of the law, including federal law. Cantons are, however, free to have specialist courts such as a court for labour law matters, a court for landlords and tenants, and specialised commercial courts. While most cantons have specialist courts for labour and tenant law matters, only Zurich, Bern, St. Gallen and Aargau have a commercial court. In addition, the Federal Patent Court decides all civil law disputes concerning patents on a first instance level.

The Federal Supreme Court, as Switzerland's highest court, safeguards the application of federal and constitutional law. Proceedings before the Swiss Federal Supreme Court are governed by the Swiss Federal Tribunal Act.

1.3 What are the main stages in civil proceedings in your...

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