Challenging Judgments by Default: New Law Brings Limitation

On 24 July 2017, the Belgian Official Journal published a law that once more provides for various changes to Belgium's judicial system (Wet van 6 juli 2017 houdende vereenvoudiging, harmonisering, informatisering en modernisering van bepalingen van burgerlijk recht en van burgerlijk procesrecht alsook van het notariaat, en houdende diverse bepalingen inzake justitie/Loi du 6 juillet 2017 portant simplification, harmonisation, informatisation et modernisation de dispositions de droit civil et de procédure civile ainsi que du notariat, et portant diverses mesures en matière de justice) (the "Law Pot-Pourri V").

Although the Law Pot-Pourri V mainly deals with issues unrelated to corporate litigation (such as family law and adoption), it also provides for an important limitation to the possibilities of challenging a judgment by default.

Prior to the Law Pot-Pourri V and pursuant to Article 1047 of the Judicial Code (Gerechtelijk Wetboek/Code Judiciaire), a defendant who had failed to show up in court had the option either to lodge an appeal against the judgment given by default or object to this judgment ("Verzet"/"Opposition" procedure). This last option was particularly beneficial to defendants since it resulted in the case being reheard by the same judge who had initially heard the case. In addition, the defendant remained entitled to appeal the second judgment issued by the first instance judge if this judgment again found against him.

Since the entry into force of the Law Pot-Pourri V, an objection against a judgment by default is no longer possible if the judgment is appealable. Consequently, a defendant who failed to appear before the first instance judge will only be in a position to lodge an appeal and will no longer have the possibility of objecting to the judgment by default issued by the first instance judge.

For judgments which are not subject to appeal, objection proceedings remain available.

The new rule entered into force on 3 August 2017.