CIVIL suits in Rwanda can be filed without the assistance of an attorney. Many people prefer to handle their litigation personally so as to avoid the costs of hiring a lawyer. However, before you rush to sue your contractor, former employer, landlord or service provider, they are a number of questions you should ask yourself as enumerated below.
Is suing my best option?
Before you sue, it is advisable to first exhaust other means of settling the matter. Suing can be a stressful, money and time consuming process. Moreover, certain legal suits e.g labour suits require that you first try to settle the matter outside court before filing a suit. Therefore before you sue try to negotiate a compromise with the other party.
Am I time barred from filing a suit?
Certain law suits must be filed within a certain period of time and may be dismissed by court if filed later. For instance a labour case ought to be filed within 2 years from the date the facts giving rise to the claim occurred. It is thus important to establish whether you are time barred before you sue.
Do I have a good case?
Before you sue, seek a second opinion, talk to a lawyer or someone well versed with the law and ask them whether they think you have a good case. It is not a good idea to waste your time and money on a case which could go either way.
Is this the right court to file the suit in?
Each court has jurisdiction to hear specific matters e.g The Commercial court hears matters relating to company law, commercial transactions and the like for claims that do not exceed 20 million while the Commercial High Court hears matters for claims which exceed 20 million
It is pertinent to establish the right court to sue in lest your case be dismissed for want of jurisdiction.
Do I have the evidence to prove my case?
“He who alleges must prove” is a favourite maxim of Defence lawyers. It refers to the principle that in a civil suit, you (the Plaintiff) bears the burden of proving the claim you are making.
There is no point in suing if you do not have evidence to support your claim. Proof may come in form of documents e.g a contract, emails, or letters and any other correspondences.
It is imperative that you research the law and establish whether the evidence you have satisfies the requirements of the law.
You should collect all the evidence you intend to rely on especially original documents which Rwandan courts tend to favour over oral testimony. In case you intend to rely on witness testimonies, contact all the witnesses you will need and confirm that they will be available to give testimonies supporting your claim.
Will the person I am suing be able to pay me in case the judgment is in my favour?
Winning a case may be pointless if the person you are suing is a pauper, has disappeared or is for whatever reasons unable to comply with the judgment.
Unless you are suing purely to prove that you are right and the other party wrong, you should never sue if there is no chance that you will ever recover the money/property from the Defendant in the event that you won the suit.
Finally, if your lawsuit is complicated or valuable, you should seek legal advice.
Richard Balenzi is a lawyer