Instances of the Panamanian Legal System
There are multiple instances in Panamanian legal system for civil and commercial matters:
- Municipal courts have jurisdiction on cases were the value of the claim is less than US$5000.
- Circuit courts have jurisdiction on cases were the value of the claim is less than US$5000. Circuit Courts have jurisdiction over one province, with the exception of the Province of Panama which has three circuit courts.
- The Superior Tribunals of District are divided in four Judicial Districts and generally resolve appeals against decisions of the Circuit Courts. The Superior Tribunal for the First Judicial District is composed of five magistrates and the remaining tribunals are composed of three magistrates.
- The Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice, which is composed of three Magistrates, resolves appeals against decisions of the Superior Tribunals of District, though the appeal by cassation.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitation varies pursuant to the type of claim:
- The statute of limitation is 7 years to file a personal claim which does not have a special statute of limitations.
- The statute of limitation is 1 year to file damages claims for extra-contractual civil liability (torts).
- The statute of limitation is 15 years for real-estate related claims.
- The statute of limitation is 5 years to file commercial claims which do not have a special statute of limitations.
- The statute of limitation is 3 years to file a claim arising from banking contracts.
- The statute of limitation is 1 years to file a claim arising from insurance contracts.
- The statute of limitation is 5 years to file a claim for the payment of an expired lease.
- The statute of limitation is 2 years to file a claim derived from the failure to pay the fees of lawyers, notaries, experts, depositaries, doctors, engineers, surveyors, professors, among others, and failure to pay for lodging and food.
Commencement of Civil Proceedings
Proceedings commence through the filing of a complaint. Once the complaint is admitted, the Court instructs a public officer of the judiciary that the defendant be served, thus, the defendant is personally served by writing. If the defendant is a corporation, then its legal representative would be served in the name of the company.
Ordinary Civil Claim Evidence Timetable
Once the complaint has been filed, the response to the complaint must be filed within ten days after the defendant has been served.
Except for different periods that exist for special proceedings such as summary proceedings and oral proceedings, the evidence in an ordinary or common proceeding must be submitted after fifteen days have elapsed since the expiration of the term for the defendant to respond to the claim, each party has a term of 5 days to present evidence. After this 5-day term has elapsed, the parties have 3 days to present counter arguments and 3 days to object to the evidence of the opposing party.
Normally the appeal must be made within 3 days after the decision or judgement of the court has been notified (in the case of Court Orders the time to appeal is 2 days).
The appeal brief has to be filed before the first instance judge within five days of the appeal. The opposing party may oppose the appeal in the following five days, provided that such party has been previously notified of the decision.
The first instance judge will then decide if the appeal is admissible and, if so, send the appeal to the Superior Tribunal.
If the party affected by the judgment wishes to avail itself of its right to present evidence in the appeal, the procedure of the appeal may vary, since the support of the appeal will be submitted to the Superior Court after the evidence in the second instance has been examined and resolved.
Litigation Law Firm in Panama
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More information about our practice as litigation law firm in Panama, contact us.