Time limits on procedures

Portugal
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European Judicial Network
European Judicial Network (in civil and commercial matters)

1 What are the types of deadlines relevant for civil procedures?

Procedural time limits may be peremptory (peremptório), when their expiry extinguishes the right to carry out an act, or dilatory (dilatório), when they defer until a particular time the possibility of carrying out an act or the point at which another time limit starts to run.

Procedural time limits are subject to the rules laid down in Articles 138 to 143 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

The calculation of procedural time limits or time limits set by the courts is governed by the rules laid down in Articles 278, 279 and 296 of the Civil Code.

For time limits in civil matters, their length and effect on legal relations is governed by Articles 296 to 333 of the Civil Code.

In particular, limitation periods (prazos de prescrição) and time bars (prazos de caducidade) are governed by the rules in Articles 300 to 327 and Articles 328 to 333 of the Civil Code, respectively.

2 List of the various days envisaged as non-working days pursuant to the Regulation (EEC, Euratom) n° 1182/71 of 3 June 1971.

For this purpose, Portugal notified the European Commission of the following public holidays:

1 January; 10 April (Good Friday); 12 April (Easter Sunday); 25 April; 1 May; 10 June; 11 June (Corpus Christi); 15 August; 5 October; 1 November; 1, 8 and 25 December.

The Commission published this list in the Official Journal of the European Union No C 31, 2020, page 3, available here link.

The Member States provide this list to the Commission each year. Some of the public holidays are variable and do not always fall on the date indicated above.

3 What are the applicable general rules on time limits for the various civil procedures?

The general rule in Portuguese civil procedural law is that in the absence of any specific provision, the time limit is 10 days for the parties to apply for any act or judicial proceeding, plead nullity, file an incidental plea or exercise any other procedural right; the time limit is also 10 days for the party to respond to the other party's claim (Article 149 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

4 When an act or a formality has to be carried out within a given period, what is the starting time?

As a rule, the time limit for any response always starts to run from the service of the act in question (Article 149(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure).

Service on the parties during proceedings is made to their legal representatives.

When the service is intended to summon a party to appear in person, in addition to service on the representative, a registered notice will also be sent by post to the party itself, indicating the date, place and purpose of the appearance.

Service on representatives is by email (see Implementing Order (Portaria) No 280/13 of 26 August 2013, at http://www.pgdlisboa.pt/leis/lei_mostra_articulado.php?nid=1967&tabela=leis&so_miolo=S), and the computer system will certify the date on which the service was made, with notification presumed to have taken place on the third subsequent day or, if that day is not a working day on the first working day after that.

Summons by recorded delivery letter, with advice of receipt, ‘is deemed to have taken place on the day on which the advice of receipt is signed and to have been effected by the person summoned even if the advice of receipt was signed by a third person, assuming, unless there is evidence to the contrary, that the letter was promptly delivered to the recipient’ (Article 230(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure).

In the case of proceedings to fulfil pecuniary obligations arising from contracts in writing in which the parties have chosen their address for service, the summons is sent by post to the chosen address, providing that the value of proceedings does not exceed €30 000.00 or, in the event that it does exceed that amount, the obligation towards the continued supply of goods or services. If the person summoned refuses to sign the advice of receipt or to receive the letter, the postman makes a record of the incident before returning the letter, and the summons is deemed to have been effected on the basis of the record of the incident. The relevant event from which the period starts to run is the date of the record of the incident (Article 229 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

If the letter is returned because the addressee has not collected it from the post office within the statutory time limit or because a person other than the person being summoned refuses to sign the advice of receipt or to receive the letter, the summons is repeated by sending another registered letter with advice of receipt. In this case, the letter itself - on an officially approved form - is left containing a copy of all the compulsory information. The postman must record the date and exact place where he left the letter and immediately forward the certificate to the court.

If it is not possible to post the letter through the letterbox of the person being summoned, the postman leaves a notice. In this situation, the summons is deemed to have been effected on the date recorded by the postman or, if a notice has been left, on the eighth day after that date (the person summoned being advised of this in the most recent letter sent to them). It is at that point that the procedural time limit initiated by the summons begins to run.

When the summons is effected by the legal representative, a court bailiff or a court clerk contacting the person summoned, the time limit begins to run from when that person signs the record of service.

Civil procedural law provides for a dilatory time limit to reflect the geographical distance between the place of summons and the court where the case is being heard or the fact that the person being summoned was not contacted personally. In these circumstances the dilatory time limit is added to the peremptory one and the two periods count as one.

Summons by publication due to uncertainty as to the whereabouts of the person being summoned is done by posting a notice followed by an announcement on a publicly accessible webpage (Article 24 of Implementing Order No 280/13 of 26 August 2013). In this context, the summons is deemed to have been effected on the day on which the announcement is published. The dilatory time limit begins from the date of service. The deadline for submitting a defence begins to runs from the end of this minimum time limit.

5 Can the starting time be affected or modified by the method of transmission or service of documents (personal service by a huissier or postal service)?

Yes. See the answer to the previous question.

6 If the occurrence of an event sets the time running, is the day when the event occurred taken into account in the calculation of the time period?

The actual date of the act, event, decision, summons or service does not count (Article 279(b) of the Civil Code).

7 When a time limit is expressed in days, does the indicated number of days include calendar days or working days?

Where the time limit for carrying out a procedural act ends on a day on which the courts are closed, the period is extended to the next working day (Article 138(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure).

Judicial vacations run from 22 December to 3 January, from Palm Sunday to Easter Monday and from 16 July to 31 August.

The court may, by reasoned order and after hearing the parties, suspend the procedural time limit, in accordance with Article 269(1)(c) of the Code of Civil Procedure.

8 When such a period is expressed in weeks, in months or in years?

The calculation of any time limit does not include the day – nor the hour, if the time limit is expressed in hours – on which the event occurred from which the period begins to run, in accordance with Article 279(b) of the Code of Civil Procedure.

9 When does the deadline expire if expressed in weeks, in months or in years?

A period expressed in weeks, months or years and starting from a certain date ends at 24.00 of the corresponding day in the last week, month or year; if the corresponding day does not exist in the last month, the period ends on the last day of that month (Article 279(c) of the Civil Code).

10 If the deadline expires on a Saturday, Sunday or a public holiday or non-working day, is it extended until the first following working day?

As the courts are only open on working days, and Sundays and public holidays are treated as judicial vacations, periods that end on Sundays or public holidays are extended to the first working day if the act in question has to be carried out in court.

The rule for calculating all procedural time limits is that the end of the period for carrying out the procedural act is extended to the following working day if it falls on a date when the courts are closed (Article 138(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure).

11 Are there certain circumstances under which deadlines are extended? What are the conditions for benefiting from such extensions?

The procedural time limit established by law can be extended in the cases provided for.

With the parties’ agreement, the time limit can be extended once and for the same length of time (Article 141 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

Non-observance of the time limit may be allowed because of a justified impediment, where an event not attributable to the party or its representatives prevents a given act from being carried out in good time (Article 140 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

Moreover, Article 139 of the Code of Civil Procedure states that, regardless of the existence of a justified impediment, the act may be carried out within the first three working days following the deadline, subject to immediate payment of a fine set as follows:

a) if the act is carried out on the first day, the fine is set at 10% of the court fee corresponding to the procedure or act, up to a maximum of a 1/2 unit of account;

b) if the act is carried out on the second day, the fine is set at 25% of the court fee corresponding to the procedure or act, up to a maximum of a 3 units of account;

c) if the act is carried out on the third day, the fine is set at 40% of the court fee corresponding to the procedure or act, up to a maximum of 7 units of account.

12 What are the time limits for appeals?

The deadline for lodging an appeal is 30 days to be counted from service of the decision (Article 638 of the Code of Civil Procedure), and 15 days in urgent cases and in the cases laid down in Article 644(2) and Article 677 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

If the party is in default and need not be notified in accordance with Article 249 of the Code of Civil Procedure, the time limit for lodging an appeal begins when the decision is published unless the party ceases to be in default before the end of the period, in which case they must be served the judgment or order and the period starts from the date of service.

In the case of oral orders or judgments reproduced in the procedure, the time limit starts from the day they were handed down provided the party was present or served notice to attend.

Where, apart from the aforementioned situations, service does not have to take place, the time limit starts from the day on which the person became aware of the decision.

Within the same time limit as for lodging an appeal, the respondent may respond to the appellant's arguments.

In the response, the respondent may challenge the admissibility or timeliness of the appeal, as well as the locus standi of the appellant.

If the purpose of the appeal is to obtain a review of recorded evidence, the time limit for lodging the appeal and for the response is increased by 10 days.

If the respondent requests that the scope of the appeal be widened, the appellant can respond within 15 days of service of the application.

If there are several appellants or several respondents, even if they are represented by different lawyers, each of their claims has its own time limit. The Registry is responsible for ensuring that all their cases are heard during the time limits they enjoy.

13 Can courts modify time limits, in particular the appearance time limits or fix a special date for appearance?

Statutory procedural time limits cannot be shortened.

14 When an act intended for a party resident in a place where he/she would benefit from an extension of a time limit is notified in a place where those who reside there do not benefit from such an extension, does this person lose the benefit of such a time limit?

The time limit for lodging a defence accorded to a person summoned to contest a given civil action may be extended when the summons was served outside the district where the court seised has its seat.

Extension of this time limit depends on the summons being served outside the district where the seised court has its seat, and not on the place of residence of the person summoned - Article 245 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

15 What are the consequences of non-observance of the deadlines?

The expiry of the mandatory time limit extinguishes the right to carry out the act. However, the act may be carried out outside the time limit in the event of a justified impediment and, regardless of this, it may also be carried out within the first three working days following the deadline, subject to immediate payment of a fine (Article 139 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

16 If the deadline expires, what remedies are available to those who have missed the deadlines, i.e. the defaulting parties?

The act can be carried out after the time limit in cases of justified impediment, as referred to in points 11 and 15.

In accordance with Article 140 of the Code of Civil Procedure, a justified impediment is deemed to be an event not attributable to the party or its representatives or authorised agents which prevents a given act from being carried out in good time. In this case, the party that claims the justified impediment must immediately provide supporting evidence.

Regardless of justified impediment, the act can be carried out within the first three working days following the end of the time limit, subject to payment of a fine, as noted above, and the court may, exceptionally, decide to reduce or waive the fine in cases of clear financial hardship or when the amount is deemed manifestly disproportionate, particularly in actions that do not require a legal representative to be appointed and where the act has been committed by the party themselves.

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Last update: 19/11/2020

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