Litigation and Enforcement

We offer dispute resolution services in Spain to international clients and are ready to provide full support for court procedures, arbitration and mediation (ADR). Our team can protect your interests in civil, criminal, corporate & commercial, labour and administrative law cases. We can also assist you with enforcement of judgements and arbitral awards in Spain.

Court litigation remains the main method of dispute resolution although arbitration is growing steadily, even for domestic cases. Are you thinking about the convenience of starting a dispute resolution in Spain? Let us advise you on the most convenient strategy for dispute resolution.

Civil and commercial claims are generally brought to First Instance Courts (Juzgados de Primera Instancia). However, since a reform in 2003, certain disputes regarding bankruptcy, maritime issues, competition, corporations, IP, transport, assistance to arbitration proceedings and general contractual conditions may be brought to specialized Commercial Courts (Juzgados de lo Mercantil).

First Instance and Commercial Courts have similar structures: they are served by a single judge and a secretariat.

Regarding appeals, all matters are challenged before the Provincial Court of Appeals (Audiencia Provincial), where three magistrates manage the appeals.

Some cases can be brought in exceptional circumstances to the Spanish Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo).

Spain follows an inquisitorial system of law where the Examining Magistrates Court (Juzgado de Instrucción) carries out investigations into allegation of criminality and arranges prosecutions.

Once the investigation is completed the case is sent for trial to the Criminal Courts (Juzgados de lo Penal) or to the corresponding Provincial Court (Audiencia Provincial) for crimes where imprisonment excedes 5 years.

Regarding appeals, all matters derived from Criminal Courts are challenged before the Provincial Court, while all matters derived from the Provincial Court as first instance are challenged before the Superior Court of Justice of the Autonomous Community (Tribunal Superior de Justicia de la Comunidades Autónomas).

Spain has also several specific courts such as the Juvenile Courts (Juzgados de Menores) and Courts dealing with Violence Against Women (Juzgados de Violencia Sobre la Mujer). Additionally, the National High Court (Audiencia Nacional) has jurisdiction over some specific crimes such as, but not limited to, terrorism, large drug trafficking or nation-wide economic crimes.

Some cases can be brought in exceptional circumstances to the Spanish Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo). Access to the Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional) is only granted for those cases where fundamental rights have been violated.

The current Spanish Arbitration Act 60/2003 came into force on 26 March 2004. It opts for uniform regulation of domestic and international arbitration, is governed by non-formalistic criteria, provides for arbitration in law (as opposed to arbitration in equity) unless express agreement on the contrary and provides freedom to decide the number of arbitrators.

The arbitration agreement must be made in writing in a document signed by the parties. An exchange of electronic correspondence or other means of telecommunication that provides a record of such agreement would be deemed valid.

A valid arbitration agreement obliges the parties to comply with the agreement and prevents the courts from hearing disputes on matters relating to or submitted to arbitral proceedings.

The courts would have an assistance role for obtaining evidence, application of interim measures and enforcement of the arbitral award.

Apart from arbitration, mediation is the most common alternative dispute resolution (ADR) method. The Spanish Mediation Act for Civil and Commercial Issues 5/2012 regulates the exercise of mediation procedures establishing a framework for this dispute resolution method.

Administrative law disputes usually arising where an Administrative body issues an act or resolution damaging the rights of natural or legal persons such as, fines, concession of licences, tax inspection, expropriation, town planning, etc.

Any act or decision of the Administration must be appealed within the Administration before resorting to court assistance.

If the dispute is not settled within the Administration, the affected party has the right to present lawsuit against the Administration for judicially contesting the act or resolution.

This lawsuit is usually presented to the Administrative Court (Juzgado de lo Contencioso-Administrativo).

Administrative Courts are in charge of jurisdictional supervision of the duties and activities of the Administration.

The Labour Courts (Juzgados de lo Social) are in charge of resolving any dispute between employees and their employers as well as any pretension against the Social Security system.

The most usual cases are related to disagreement on terms of the employment agreement, specially on the causes and conditions of termination of employment relationship.

After presenting the lawsuit a preliminary conciliation is conducted to try to reach an amicable settlement. If the conciliation fails, the issue will be taken to court hearing.

Litigation is the pursuit of practical ends, not a game of chess.Felix Frankfurter, US Supreme Court Justice (1882-1965)