At present, civil court hearings may only be held if it is urgently necessary to avert danger to life and physical integrity, or to prevent irreparable harm. This is a part of the measures restricting freedom of movement and socialcontact in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is not presently known how long such measures will continue to be in place. Nevertheless, oral hearings are scheduled to take place again, beginning in May, 2020 – even if it is necessary to proceed without the physical presence of the parties. For this reason, the Austrian Parliament adopted new regulations on 28.4.2020 regarding oral hearings conducted via video conference. The law has not yet entered into force because it must first be confirmed by the second chamber of the Parliament (which will probably occur on May 7). However, we expect that the current version will come into force without any changes (see https://www.parlament.gv.at/PAKT/VHG/XXVII/A/A_00436/index.shtml).
These are the regulation’s key points:
- Civil court hearings, including taking evidence, can be held as video conferences by order of the court, if the parties agree.
- Video hearings will – according to the explanatory remarks – be called at the courtroom and the courtroom will be accessible to the public, provided the viewers comply with the security rules (distance rules, masks, etc).
- Parties, witnesses and other participants (experts, interpreters) may request a video conference if they belong to a risk group or are in necessary (professional or private) contact with someone from a risk group.
- Cost statements must be sent by WebERV or e-mail by the end of the next working day after the video conference.
- Hearings, creditors’ meetings and creditors’ committee meetings under the Insolvency Act may be held by video conference even without the consent of the parties, provided that the parties have the necessary technical means.
- Technical problems must not be detrimental to the parties; in particular, they must not be interpreted as delay.
For further information please contact Judith Schacherreiter.