There is indeed a special simplified procedure which applies to the cases referred to in this question.
The special procedure for demanding compliance with monetary obligations considered to be of low value or resulting from commercial transactions applies under a monetary limit of €15 000.00.
This procedure is merely optional.
No forms exist in Portuguese law for such actions for declaratory relief.
The legal assistance scheme applies to all courts for all types of case.
In cases involving a value of € 5 000.00 or less, if the parties have not appointed counsel or counsel has not attended the hearing at which the case is discussed and judgment given, the questioning of witnesses is conducted by the judge.
This procedure has rules on the taking of evidence which are less strict and more flexible than those which govern the common declaratory procedure.
The rules which reflect this concern to make the process less demanding and more flexible are as follows:
a) Evidence is presented at a hearing. If the amount in question is less than € 5 000.00, parties may only provide three witnesses; in other cases they may provide five witnesses. However, they are not allowed to provide more than three witnesses for each of the facts they seek to prove. Those who have stated they know nothing are not included for this purpose.
b) The hearing is conducted within thirty days and if the amount of the case in question is less than €5 000.00, it is not necessary to schedule a date with the agreement of any appointed counsel.
c) Absence by either party, even if justified, is not a reason to adjourn; nor is the absence of legal counsel, even if justified, a reason to adjourn if the sum in question is less than the sum stated in the previous point.
d) If the sum is greater than that amount and adjournment takes place, the hearing must be held on one of the following thirty days. No second adjournment is allowed.
e) If the judge deems that any further inquiries are required in order to arrive at a proper decision, he suspends the hearing at the time he considers most convenient and immediately schedules a date for those inquiries. The trial must be completed within thirty days.
f) Expert evidence is always provided by a single expert.
g) When evidence is concluded, each legal counsel may give a brief statement.
Like other procedures, this procedure takes an oral form.
The rules on the content of judgment are more flexible, given that the reasoning must always be succinct, in other words, short and to the point.
Furthermore, the judge is not required to write the judgment, but may dictate it immediately for the record.
The judicial decision to be handed down in cases in which the defendant, summoned personally, does not contest the action, also has a much lighter structure, as the judge's only action, which will have the force of a judgment, will be to append an enforcement clause to the petition, unless there is a clear case for dilatory exceptions or if the request is manifestly inadmissible.
Dilatory exceptions (procedural flaws which are important enough for the judge not to assess the request and to absolve the defendant) will be allowed, or the plaintiff's claims will be rejected as manifestly inadmissible, only where there is clear evidence of such issues.
No restrictions exist.
Up to five days after the final decision, parties which are entitled to costs send the respective explanatory note to the court, for the losing party.
The explanatory note must contain the following information:
a) Name of the party, case number and name of legal counsel or enforcement officer;
b) Under a separate heading, the sums paid by the party with regard to court fees;
c) Under a separate heading, the sums paid by the party with regard to expenses;
d) Under a separate heading, the sums paid for legal counsel, except when the sums in question are greater than 50 % of the total of court fees paid by the losing party and by the winning party;
e) Indication of the amount to be received.
Costs are paid directly by the losing party to the party who is the creditor of such costs, save where provided in Article 540 of the Civil Procedure Code.
The losing party is ordered, in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code, to pay the following amounts as costs:
a) Sums relating to court fees paid by the winning party, in proportion to salary;
b) The sums paid by the winning party for expenses;
c) 50 % of the total of court fees paid by the losing party and by the winning party, as compensation for the winning party for expenses relating to legal counsel fees, whenever the abovementioned note is presented;
Appeals are not subject to specific rules and as such, no exclusion or specific limitation exists on the possibility to appeal, and appeal is admissible (or not), in accordance with the general terms.
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