After a judgment is entered in another country, the person in whose favor the judgment is entered may seek to enforce it in The Bahamas against a person or company based here. For example, the judgment may require a Bahamian company to pay money as a result of a dispute that occurred in another country. However, the person seeking to enforce the judgment faces a few obstacles in The Bahamas.
First, a foreign judgment cannot be immediately enforced by process of execution in The Bahamas. It must either be registered or otherwise given recognition by the Bahamian courts. Some foreign judgments may be registered and then enforced similarly to judgments of Bahamian courts. (Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments Act.) For judgments that do not satisfy the requirements for registration, the judgment creditor (the person in whose favor the foreign judgment is entered) may commence an action or make a counterclaim in a Bahamian court action based on the judgment debt. Alternatively, the judgment creditor may be able to rely on the foreign judgment as a defense to proceedings regarding the same subject matter as the judgment.
To register a foreign judgment, the creditor must make an application to the Bahamian court within 12 months of the date of the foreign judgment. The judgment must have been made by a superior court in the foreign country or by an arbitrator under circumstances allowing the arbitration award to be enforced in the same manner as a judgment. Further, the judgment must have been obtained in a jurisdiction that has reciprocal enforcement of judgment provisions with The Bahamas – i.e., Barbados, Bermuda, Jamaica, the United Kingdom, Australia, and a few other countries.
If the judgment was made by a court in a jurisdiction that does not have reciprocal enforcement of judgment provisions with The Bahamas, the creditor must commence an action in The Bahamas to enforce the judgment. Creditors commonly encounter problems when they cannot register the judgment because the foreign judgment debtor may have assets in The Bahamas but not reside or carry on business there. As a result, Bahamian courts may not have jurisdiction over the foreign judgment debtor and the creditor may not receive court approval to commence an action against the foreign judgment debtor in The Bahamas. The judgment creditor may however be able to join a necessary co-defendant who is resident within The Bahamas to solve this problem.
Alleged judgment debtors who wish to oppose the enforcement of a foreign judgment against them can raise a few specific defences. They may assert that the foreign court did not have jurisdiction over them; that the foreign judgment was not final and conclusive; that the judgment was not for a fixed amount; that the judgment was obtained by fraud; that the judgment's enforcement would be contrary to public policy in The Bahamas or contrary to the rules of natural justice; or that the foreign judgment relates to a matter that was previously decided by another court as between the same parties. If these defenses are not raised or if they are found not to have merit, then the judgment creditor will be entitled to summary judgment and can recover its costs of the Bahamian court proceedings from the judgment debtor as part of the judgment debt.
To find out more, visit Gonsalves-Sabola Chambers online or call the office at +1 242 326 6400.
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