Resolution of legal disputes

It is possible to resolve legal disputes by extrajudicial or judicial means. You are able to involve specialists (lawyers, attorneys-at-law, notaries public, etc.) who have knowledge of the Estonian legal system in both cases.

Extrajudicial dispute resolution

If mutual negotiations and seeking an agreement did not bear fruit, you may involve lawyers or attorneys-at-law in the process. They have comprehensive knowledge of the legal system, help protect your interests and find the required compromise. You may additionally agree on extrajudicial resolution of the dispute with the other party either by means of conciliation or arbitral tribunal.

Extrajudicial notarial agreement subject to compulsory execution

If you have entered into a notarially certified contract and the other party to the contract has become a debtor, they must provide separate agreement after the due date of the payment of the debt that they agree to be subject to immediate compulsory execution. If the contract has been entered into before 31.12.2005 and the debtor has granted their approval for compulsory execution in the contract, separate approval need not be sought and a bailiff may be immediately addressed. The approval of the debtor is also not required if being subject to immediate compulsory execution has been entered in the Land Register next to the mortgage entry.

Conciliation

Conciliation is an extrajudicial method of dispute resolution where the parties choose a conciliator or address a conciliation body. The conciliator may be a notary public, attorney-at-law or another person appointed by the parties to the dispute.

A conciliation body is a body at the state or local government level, e.g. the Copyright Committee, Consumer Complaint Committee, the Rental Disputes Committee, etc. A conciliator is an impartial person who supports the communication of the parties for finding a resolution to the dispute. Conciliators may also, as advisers, provide their resolution proposals, but the final power of decision lies with the parties.

Conciliation is also suitable for resolving insurance disputes. An insurance conciliation body operates at the Estonian Insurance Association through which impartial insurance conciliators act. The members of the Estonian Insurance Association have granted their approval to participate in conciliation upon an insurance dispute. Persons addressing any conciliation body are able to choose the conciliator to commence conciliation for the parties. Resolution of a dispute by means of conciliation with the help of an insurance conciliator is free of charge.

The decision made in conciliation is binding and obligatory for the parties. If a party to conciliation refuses to perform their obligation, the other party may have recourse to the court.

Arbitral court proceedings

Arbitral court proceedings are also an alternative method for resolving disputes. As the panel of the arbitral court is determined by the parties, they can be certain of the knowledge, experience and neutrality of the arbitrators. The parties additionally have the right to choose the language used in the proceedings, the applicable law and rules for the proceedings. An arbitral court may be formed for a single case or operate on a permanent basis. The Arbitration

Court of the Chamber of Notaries and the Court of Arbitration of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry are some examples of permanent arbitration courts. The Court of Arbitration of the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is often used for resolving disputes arising from international economic relationships. A judgement rendered by an arbitral court is final and binding for the parties, i.e. the dispute cannot be further resolved in court.

Advantages of conciliation and arbitral court proceedings

Unlike public judicial proceedings, resolving disputes by way of conciliation or in arbitral court is closed and confidential. The proceedings are quicker – for example, an arbitral court must render a judgement within 6 months as of the delivery of the materials for the dispute at the latest. In most cases, the arbitral court shall render a judgement within 3-5 months. The expenses are also several times lower compared to general judicial proceedings.

Judicial proceedings

If the parties do not wish extrajudicial resolution of a dispute, it is possible to have recourse to the courts with a claim. Estonia has a three-level court system:

  • County courts resolve civil, criminal and misdemeanour cases as courts of first instance. Administrative courts resolve administrative cases as courts of first instance.
  • Circuit courts are courts of second instance that review the judgements of courts of first instance by way of appeal.
  • The Supreme Court is the highest court that reviews judgements by way of cassation. The Supreme Court is also the court of constitutional review.

The required documents must be filed with the court and the state fee must be paid. In civil and administrative proceedings, the judicial proceedings can be commenced and the procedural documents can be filed with the court in any type of proceedings electronically via the E-toimik portal. A petition for application of expedited procedure in a matter of a payment order (for a debt up to 6,400 euros) can only be filed electronically via the E-toimik portal. The portal can be entered by means of ID card or Mobile ID and the petition to be submitted must be digitally signed.

The E-toimik has the following functions:

  • commencing judicial proceedings in civil and administrative cases;
  • paying state fees on procedural acts;
  • viewing the proceedings and procedural documents related to the viewer, including court judgements;
  • submitting procedural documents to the court in all types of proceedings;
  • accepting the documents submitted by the body conducting proceedings, including summons and judgements;
  • filing appeals against judgements;
  • viewing the courts of the proceedings related to the viewer.

Upon the resolution of court action, you may choose to represent yourself or have a representative (e.g. a lawyer or attorney-at-law) do it. If you have chosen a representative, he or she may participate in the resolution of the matter in court alone or with you. If the court rules in your favour but the other party fails to willingly comply with the judgement, you may address a bailiff for compulsory execution. Information concerning execution proceedings and the contact details of bailiffs can be found on the website of the Estonian Chamber of Bailiffs and Trustees in Bankruptcy. The judgements rendered in Estonian courts are also valid and subject to execution in a foreign state.

Court judgements can be searched for in the Riigi Teataja portal.

Expenses

In conciliation, the parties must pay the conciliator’s fee agreed on beforehand, the expenses related to the conciliation and a state fee of 50 euros. In arbitral court proceedings, the parties must pay the arbitrator’s fees agreed on beforehand, the expenses related to the arbitral court proceedings and a state fee of 50 euros. The expenses shall be divided equally between the parties unless agreed otherwise.

The expenses of general judicial proceedings, however, depend on several circumstances: the person(s) representing you, the duration of the proceedings, the value of the action, the number of levels in the court system through which the case passes, etc. As courts generally leave the procedural expenses to be borne by the defeated party, the possible procedural expenses of both parties should be considered.

The notary fees are provided in the Notary Fees Act and the bailiff fees are provided in the Bailiffs Act. The state fees are provided in the State Fees Act.

Last amended: 30-03-2017 14:45 | Compiled by: Ministry of Justice