The Courts may be faced with a situation whether it would be best to wait for the outcome of another case. However, this is not provided in the law and is used in exceptional cases. This was held in No Deposit Cars Malta Limited -v- Ina Gherghel and Gosmin Paul Gherghel decided on 1 November 2021 by the Magistrates Court presided by Magistrate Dr Rachel Montebello.
In this case the applicant company No Deposits Cars Malta Limited filed a debt recovery case against the defendants for the sum of €13,260, which sum represented a hire purchase of a vehicle.
The Defendants filed a statement of defence and amongst a number of pleas, they held that they had instituted an action before the First Hall of the Civil Court, asking the court to rescind the hire purchase agreement. The Defendants asked the court to first wait for the outcome the validity of the agreement. In fact, the Magistrates Court dealt with this plea first.
The company argued that the suspension of a court case which is waiting for the outcome of another case is not contemplated in the law and there are not exceptional circumstances that allow this.
The Court quoted from a superior courts’ judgement Doris Catania -v- Evelyn Farrugia decided on 9 December 2015, which held that the suspension of one case for another may be allowed in exceptional circumstances when both cases cannot be heard at the same time.
For example, in constitutional cases, the ordinary courts may suspend proceedings until the constitutional court gives its judgement. This is not found in the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure. It is for this reason the Court has the discretion to allow this to take place only if there is a valid reason.
In another judgement Integrated Capabilities (Malta) Limited et -v- Crowd Shout Holdings Limited et decided on 31 October 2016, the Court held that a case would be suspended until another is decided when the outcome of one case depends on the other case.
Such suspension is only used if it assists in the better administration of justice.
Magistrate Montebello held that the case instituted by the Defendants in May 2021, and therefore before that of the applicant company, No Deposits Cars Malta Limited had filed this case in June 2021.
In the former case the Gherghel are trying to annul the hire purchase agreement on the ground that their consent was vitiated by fraud.
In this case, No Deposit Cars Malta Limited are asking the court to condemn the defendants to pay the debt arising from the same hire purchase agreement. Therefore, it is essential that before, the courts decides whether the Defendants in this case owe money to the company, the court decides whether the hire purchase agreement is valid at law. Therefore, one case depends on the outcome of the other case.
The Court disagreed with the Applicant company, which argued that this plea was in fact based on lis alibi pendens (a lawsuit pending elsewhere), since the two court cases do not have the same object. One is for the payment of a debt, while the other is to annul a private writing.
Neither is the case concerning the connection of actions as regulated in Article 793 of the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedure, since the actions were filed in two different courts. One was presented before the Magistrates’ Court, while the other was presented before the First Hall of the Civil Courts.
The Court concluded that it would be correct for it to wait for the outcome of the other case filed and deferred the case without a date.
Av Malcolm Mifsud
Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates
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