Act CXXX of 2016 on Civil Procedures (CPA) will apply to all lawsuits that start after 1 January 2018 in labour and civil cases (other than public administration cases, which will be subject to Act I of 2017 on Public Administration Procedure, also taking effect on 1 January 2018).
One of the main objectives of the CPA is to give effect to the principle of focused process, where the essence of the dispute between the parties is discovered and established, and the evidence required to make a judgment is available, as soon as possible in a predictable and efficient process.
The new legislation includes stricter requirements for litigants and courts alike: only litigants are entitled to take action in order to enforce their rights in a lawsuit and to determine the scope of the procedure (the principle of litigant autonomy), but they are also obliged to present all documents and other evidence in a manner that facilitates the speedy conclusion of the lawsuit. Litigants are responsible for how they conduct their actions in the lawsuit and for any omissions (the obligation to provide assistance in the procedure and the obligation of veracity). Courts will have stronger control over lawsuits but they will also be required to actively participate in the clarification of the facts required to make a judgment.
The new CPA divides first-instance procedures into two separate phases that have distinct functions: the fact-finding phase and the trial phase. The objective of having a two-phase procedure is to ensure that the essence of the dispute and the scope of the proceedings are determined in the fact-finding phase, and once this phase is complete, the court can focus on examining the evidence on the basis of the motions made by the parties in the fact-finding phase and then adopt its judgment. In the second phase, the parties can only change their claims or defence, submit new evidence or make a motion for the discovery of new evidence in exceptional cases (basically on the grounds of reasons that are beyond their control).
The rules pertaining to jurisdiction reflect the four-tiered structure of the Hungarian court system and grant general jurisdiction to county courts. County courts have jurisdiction in all lawsuits that are not expressly delegated to local courts. Lawsuits that must be filed with county courts include lawsuits involving claims of HUF 30 million and above, lawsuits involving certain claims regardless of value (e.g. damage caused by a regulatory authority or court, copyright-related matters, and lawsuits associated with company establishment and other corporate issues), and lawsuits concerning the enforcement of rights in personam, regardless of the value. On the other hand, lawsuits with claims of less than HUF 30 million, claims where the value cannot be determined (e.g. protection against interference with rights held in real property, the issue of deeds or disputing the validity of a condominium resolution), claims associated with personal status (e.g. divorce, paternity, child custody, guardianship cases) and debt collection claims must be filed with local courts. In an important change, monetary claims of less than HUF 3 million can only be enforced in statutory demand procedures conducted by public notaries.
Legal representation is mandatory in all proceedings before county courts and appeals courts. Legal counsels and corporate entities are required to file all documents electronically. Parties that proceed without a legal counsel must file their petition by filling out a standard form, and they may submit the petition and other documents on paper, either by mail or in person.