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In focus: Legal battle to recover money not paid back.

It is a Herculean task for those who use the legal system to get their money back from the defendants. There are cases where plaintiffs serve court summonses to defendants personally at their houses. This is more evident in the case of individuals who approach the court when the borrower fails to pay back money owed to them, which may not be a large amount in some cases. For example, an individual lends SR5,000 to another man. When the borrower defaults, the lender is forced to take legal action as a last resort to recover the money. Sometimes, he might have spent a huge amount of money in legal fees to get the money back. He also wastes a lot of time and energy in this respect. The court verdict only comes after several years. In certain cases, fatigued by the arduous legal battle, some plaintiffs abandon the cases midway through. There are also instances where they are threatened or even blackmailed by the defendants. There are cases where lenders are forced to accept settlements instead. A number of legal experts and eminent lawyers told Al-Riyadh newspaper about the difficulties plaintiffs face in getting their money back. Abdullah Al-Fallaj, a lawyer and legal consultant, said that normally the court official serves a summons to the defendant in private financial dispute cases. But there is also a provision in law allowing the plaintiff himself to serve a summons. "In such cases, the law stipulates that certain conditions should be adhered to when serving a summons, such as its timing.

This should be done in a way that protects the rights of the defendant also," he said. "Plaintiffs are not allowed to serve summonses before sunrise or after sunset or during the holidays. The plaintiff should provide all information concerning the defendant to the court." Al-Fallaj noted that a copy of the petition should be attached with the summons notice. "Some defendants appear before the court on the fixed date of hearing and then plead for a future date to present their arguments. In case the defendant fails to appear on a number of occasions, the judge can order his arrest," he said. Al-Fallaj urged the authorities concerned to take adequate measures to enable servers of summonses to effectively perform their duties to reduce the number of cases in which defendants fail to appear in courts. "All means, including SMS, e-mail and phone calls could be utilized to ensure the appearance of clients in courts. Stringent punitive measures should be taken against those who fail to appear before the court after they have been served summonses unless they have convincing reasons," he added. "Such punitive action should be taken only after ensuring that summonses were served properly and that the defendants deliberately failed to appear in the court or evaded servers of summonses or plaintiffs when they came to serve the notice." Commenting on the prospects of reconciliation in private financial disputes, Al-Fallaj said that this was being exploited as a way to blackmail or bargain with plaintiffs in some cases. "Generally, there are only two options in front of the plaintiff in this respect. One is relinquishing part of his claim in the name of reconciliation. The second is continuing a legal battle that may sometimes take several years," he added. Abdul Aziz Al-Zamil, another lawyer, said that there are various forms of reconciliation. "In disputes involving family properties, some members of the family settle for slightly less than what they were suing for in the first place. In other cases, the plaintiff gives concessions to the defendant on the condition that she or he writes off part of the debt. Yet in other cases, both parties agree to a future date when the defendant would settle the debt fully," he said while noting that such reconciliations take place before or after filing the case in the court. In the case of an out-of-court settlement, he noted that a written agreement would be attached to the case file at the court. Al-Zamil said the decision of some plaintiffs to relinquish part of their claim in order to escape a continuing prolonged legal battle was a personal one. "The plaintiff has the right to either settle or go ahead with a legal battle. Some people want to continue a legal battle while others prefer to settle. For example, businessmen usually prefer to settle by relinquishing one-quarter or even half of the amount they are suing for to avoid getting involved in a legal battle that may continue for several years," he said. Al-Zamil also drew attention to some out-of-court settlements where plaintiffs agree to accept the money in installments within a stipulated period of time. "Then both parties inform the judge about this. There are also other cases where the plaintiff relinquishes a portion of the money on the condition that the borrower pay the remaining amount all at once," he added.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Apr 30, 2011
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