Debate on substantive and procedural deadlines.

On 20 November 2020the Provincial Court of Zaragoza handed down judgment 287/2020, which declared the expiry of the invalidity action of a resolution of a homeowners’ association meeting, and therefore the inadmissibility of the lawsuit filed seeking to exercise said action.

Specifically, the meeting had taken place on 2 September 2017, and the lawsuit was filed on 3 September 2018, when in fact the legal deadline for filing this lawsuit is 1 year from the date of the meeting.

The disputed issue is that 2 September 2018 was a Sunday, i.e., a non-working day according to the procedural rules. However, the Provincial Court, as the Court of First Instance had done before, interprets that this does not prevent the lawyer from filing the claim on that day, as with current technological systems, written statements and claims can be filed any day of the year at any time.

The judgment analyses and compares the concepts of “substantive time limit” versus “procedural time limit” because the regulations and case law are clear that procedural time limits allow pleadings to be filed on the day following the last day of the time limit (popularly known as the “day of grace”). But this does not apply to substantive time limits, i.e. those that are statute-barred and time-barred and are not procedural.

The judgement interprets the one-year limitation period as a substantive period, and therefore the “day of grace” does not apply, thus in this case the lawsuit was filed out of time. It also analyses the regulatory changes that have taken place in recent years due to the technology adapted for the filing of pleadings, which allows them to be filed any day at any time, unlike what used to happen in the past with paper filing, which had to be done in the duty court and time was restricted.

This ruling has created heated doctrine debate and there have been numerous professional associations of lawyers who have publicly defended that the interpretation of this ruling is incorrect because the lawsuit is a procedural act and therefore the day of grace must apply.

In any case, it is clear that this is a complex and debatable situation, which makes it necessary to be very cautious and avoid filing claims on the day of grace.

Antoni Faixó
Dispute Resolution Area