Litigation is the most strongest way to solve a legal dispute: a judge will give a final decision, which must be followed. Litigation differs from arbitration in publicity and choice of decision-maker, trial is usually public and decision-maker is a professional judge whereas in arbitration, the procedure is confidential and the parties have a possibility to influence the procedure and the choice of an arbitrator. Unlike in negotiation and mediation, the decision-making power has been entirely transferred from the parties to an impartial judge.
NOTE! There are many articles on litigation, thus this section is only an introduction highlighting the aspects of the method, which are relevant to be able to compare all the dispute resolution methods.
The law is applied by independent courts in Finland. Here is a general outline of progress of commercial law issues in various courts. If the case goes further than the lower courts, the procedure will likely take years before the final resolution.
Civil cases are heard by a district court and appeals to these judgments are heard by a court of appeal. The last resort is the Supreme Court of Finland. In practice, a judgment by a district court will be the final decision unless court of appeal allows the case go further and hears it.Again, in practice this requires that at least one of three justice panel in the court of appeal thinks there is a reason to hear the case. After years of litigation, it is possible to get a case to the Supreme Court, however, it is very unlikely. Sometimes it might be strategically wise to appeal straight to the Supreme Court from a district court, however, the other party has to agree to it.
When considering commercial law, the most relevant speciality court is the Market Court, which considers cases relating to competition and control, procurement, market law and intellectual property. Depending on the nature of the case, a decision may be appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court or the Supreme Court.
Administrative cases involve state, municipalities or other public institutions as an important party to the procedure. The most common cases relating to corporates are administrative decisions by administrative authorities and other administrative disputes. Generally administrative disputes are resolved in an administrative court and can be appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court, however, the ways to appeal to a decision should always be check as the ways may vary.
2. Benefits and disadvantages
Judgment is always the end of dispute
When a judgment by a court has become res judicata, the judgment is final. A court will always give the final resolution to a dispute. The judges have a responsibility to render a judgment, which means they have to solve the case according to the Finnish law.
Long processing times
Unavoidably, the cases take time to be handled in the courts and unfortunately, it is difficult to assess the duration of the proceedings in advance.
A case won will not help if the other party does not have money to pay
What is not always taken into account, when choosing litigation as the dispute settlement method, is the other party’s financial situation. The trial and preparation process requires several hours of work from professionals with hourly charges moving in hundreds of euros. Costs are usually paid by the loser, so in such cases the loser pays both the fees of the lawyers and what the court decides.
If the other party can not afford to pay, the winning party may apply for enforcement of the judgment or, at worst, ask the court to declare the other party to bankruptcy. Usually, a winning party tries to avoid the bankruptcy option because the dividends in bankruptcy are likely to be lower than if the debt is levied by other means or by negotiating the payment plan. If the other party can not afford to pay in full, then it may take some time to receive the debt or not receive it at all.
3. Pleading a civil case
A retired member of the Supreme Court Pertti Välimäki has written a comprehensive presentation of how civilian issues should be plead in court (in Finnish). The presentation is very detailed and covers the successful argumentation technique starting from the lower courts.
The reason for a failure of the pleading is rarely stumbling in the last instance. The most common thing is that a lawyer has already stumbled in the very beginning of the road when they have received the case or in the lower courts. – Välimäki
With regard to successful pleading, Välimäki points out two main topics: