How can I Enforce a Foreign Judgment in the Bahamas?

How can I Enforce a Foreign Judgment in the Bahamas?

An increasing number of businesses and individuals need to enforce foreign judgments in their favor in the Bahamas, reflecting the truly global nature of business today.  The specialist litigation lawyers at Bahamas law firm ParrisWhittaker are highly experienced litigators in international disputes.

The legal system in the Bahamas is based on English common law, and any foreign judgment from a competent jurisdiction can be enforced here. However, there are exceptions: some judgments will not be enforced if they are considered to contravene ‘natural justice’, or in the case of a judgment obtained through fraud, or it involve actions which would be incompatible with fundamental principles of Bahamian law, for instance, it would suppress free speech, or involved a breach of some other human right.

What’s the process of enforcing a foreign judgment?

The first stage of enforcement involves the act of recognition by the Bahamian court that it accepts the judicial decision of the foreign court. The governing law is the Reciprocal of Enforcement of Judgments Act 1924, chapter 67 of the Statute Laws of the Bahamas (the ‘REJA’). Under section 3 (1):

“Where a judgment has been obtained in a superior court outside The Bahamas, the person awarded judgment may apply to the Supreme Court, at any time within twelve months after the date of the judgment, or such longer period as may be allowed by the court, to have the judgment registered in the court, and on any such application the court may, if in all the circumstances of the case it thinks it is just and convenient that the judgment should be enforced in The Bahamas and subject to the provisions of this section, order the judgment to be registered accordingly.”

The REJA sets out a simplified procedure, including various provisions for the registration and enforcement of the judgment which apply within the first 12 months after the original judgment was made.   A ‘judgment’ includes an arbitration award following arbitration proceedings if the award has become enforceable in the same manner as a judgment given by a court in the place of origin.

The judgment or order must have been given by the Court in civil proceedings, and it must be final and conclusive and for a fixed judgment sum. Importantly, the defendant/debtor must not have appealed, or expressed a wish to appeal – or even have the right to appeal the judgment.

Once the foreign judgment is registered, it can then be enforced in the same way as an order of the Bahamian court.

What if the judgment was made in a jurisdiction not party to the REJA?

The courts in the Bahamas will consider various factors when deciding if the judgment can be registered and enforced, including:

• Whether the foreign court has full personal jurisdiction over the defendant
• Whether the defendant was properly served with notice of the original proceedings, and given proper time to prepare and respond
• Whether the original judgment conformed to internationally accepted standards of justice, and
• Whether or not the original case was carried out with due process, or was tainted by fraud or corruption

Typically, the foreign judgment to be enforced will relate to financial or business matters, such as debt and asset recovery, where those assets are already located in the Bahamas – in which case, Bahamian law will help in assisting you recover those assets.

How can we help?

Award-winning Bahamas law firm Parris Whittaker represents the highest standards of commercial litigation.  Our lawyers have acted in numerous cases requiring the application of foreign judgments and arbitral awards originating from jurisdictions worldwide. Contact us for specialist advice on how we at ParrisWhittaker can successfully help enforce a foreign judgment quickly and effectively.