Thursday, September 12, 2013

My day in Dutch court (1)

DSC00034 (1200x899)I suppose that it’s something of a milestone as an expat to be bringing an action in Dutch court against an American company.  Not what I wanted to be doing, but as a business owner, I have to run my business.

‘even if it means a day in the Rechtbank.

A bit of background: My company, Stone Bridge Biomedical BV, has been directing work for a US company among Dutch and US subcontractors.  When the US company ran out of money, we waited a month, then suspended work here.  Still, there were lagging costs in shutting everyone down that now total over half a million dollars.  I’ve used my company’s resources and took additional bridge loans to cover the bills, but after six months with no resolution have needed to initiate collection proceedings in the Netherlands.

Hans BosThe Writ of Summons went out in August, and the court date was today: I retained an Amsterdam attorney, Hans Bos, recommended by my accountants.  The US folks announced that they would appear in Limburg to contest the action, so the work and expenses ratcheted up for us both.  Hans and I spent the week combing emails and documents to prepare simple Pleitnotities and Exhibits for the court, anticipating arguments that the other side could make.

The courthouse lies just outside of Maastricht: I put on my suit, rattled over on my bike, and passed through security for the 11:30 am hearing.  There is a large central atrium with benches where clients sit with their lawyers, conferring.  Dozens of Zittenzaal (hearing rooms) surround the space, incongruously adorned with original art of the King and Queen (for sale).  Hans arrived and checked out his robe from the desk and asked about my translator.  Dutch lawyers Dutch lawyerappear in court wearing a simple black robe with a band, a precursor of the necktie consisting of two pleated white panels.  The judge wears a similar band, but over a fancier robe.

We reviewed the pleading and exhibits, Hans introduced himself to the opposing counsel, and my translator arrived (in a black t-shirt).  We reviewed court etiquette (Stay seated, address the judge as “Your Honor”, keep answers short and to the point), the order of events and circumstances where I could confer with Hans or needed to answer the judge directly.  It all seemed similar to US procedures (consistent with traffic court and television dramas, at least).

At 11:45, they announced our case and room and off we went.

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