PRACTIQUE LEGAL – Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Mexico

One of the most notable legal necessities of foreign-owned companies in Mexico is that of enforcing judgments issued by courts from other countries. Several fundamental points should be considered when one attempts to enforce a foreign judgment in Mexico. As is the case with any judgment involving international aspects, the first point to consider is the relative effectiveness of the foreign judgment. This means that when anticipating litigation that will have international aspects, it is essential for one to establish the possibility or need to enforce the judgment in the respective court of competent jurisdiction in order to substantiate the lawsuit and issue the judgment or to conclude that it is necessary to "export" the judgment so that it may be enforced by the courts of another country. This first point is fundamental, as it is quite different to seek enforcement of a judgment in a foreign country in a court other than the one that issued the final judgment. As a general rule, judgments are guaranteed enforcement in the country where the issuing court is located; however, such guaranty does not apply to enforcement of such judgment in a foreign jurisdiction. With respect to Mexico, other aspects must be taken into consideration prior to obtaining a judgment in a foreign jurisdiction, including the following: (i) Service of Process Requirements. In Mexico, notice of the lawsuit should be duly served by the court of competent jurisdiction in observance of applicable principles of due process. The laws on civil and commercial proceedings and other applicable laws establish the necessary requirements for service of process in observance of individual rights provided by the Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States; (ii) Rules on Original Jurisdiction. In accordance with this principle, any Mexican court that acknowledges the enforcement of a foreign judgment should analyze whether the court of original jurisdiction where the lawsuit was presented had proper jurisdiction according to international principles. International principles establishing original jurisdiction must also be considered when presenting a lawsuit before a foreign court when it is anticipated that the judgment issued will be enforced in Mexico. Mexico follows certain principles with respect to personal jurisdiction over people and goods or resulting from the nature of an act. For example, lawsuits relating to real property located in Mexico may be brought only before Mexican courts. If such a lawsuit involving Mexican real property were to be filed in a foreign jurisdiction, the judgment would not be enforceable in Mexico. Mexico adopts many international principles regarding the determination of original jurisdiction; (iii) Finality of the Judgment. In order for a foreign judgment to be enforceable in Mexico, it is a fundamental requirement that such be a final judgment not subject to appeal or review in the country of origin. Otherwise, the judgment may not be enforced in Mexico; (iv) Public Policy. Numerous rules deriving from public policy could prevent the enforcement of a judgment in Mexico. The classic example is the award of punitive damages or fines including excessive indemnification. If a judgment orders a defendant to pay excessive punitive damages or indemnification on top of the maximum amount permitted by Mexican law, the judgment will not be enforced or its enforcement will be limited as a result of domestic public policy; (v) Conformity with Language. Since Spanish is the official language in Mexico, it is necessary for the judgment and all of its exhibits to be property translated into Spanish by an authorized expert translator; (vi) Value of the Subject Matter of the Lawsuit. When presented with a final judgment that is not subject to appeal, the enforcing Mexican judge may not analyze and revise the fundamental points decided by the original judge; (vii) Immunity Principles. The country itself and governmental entities performing matters of public concern are immune to the enforcement of foreign judgments. Indemnification for governmental acts is subject to the original and exclusive jurisdiction of Mexican courts. These are fundamental principles which should be taken into account generally prior to litigation, when a party seeks to enforce the judgment in Mexico. Once the final judgment is obtained and all previous requirements, including those provided by the applicable legal provisions, are met, it will be necessary to resolve any possible conflicts of law arising between state and federal laws and between the federal and state courts of the Mexican Republic. It should be noted that, pursuant to Mexican constitutional provisions, lawsuits based on commercial law, and consequently the enforcement of foreign commercial law judgments, may be heard or enforced by local or federal courts. The jurisdictional rules applicable in the various states of the Mexican Republic also play a relevant role in the proper enforcement of a foreign judgment. It is very frustrating to endure a complicated, lengthy and costly lawsuit only to find that such judgment is not enforceable in a foreign court for failure to consider the international elements or the effectiveness of such judgment in a foreign jurisdiction. This situation may be further exacerbated by the fact that the original legal action in the country of origin may no longer be brought based on expiration of the statute of limitations. Furthermore, since Mexico applies different rules with respect to varying subject matters, enforcing a commercial judgment is not the same as enforcing a civil or labor related judgment. The best recommendation to a party commencing litigation in a foreign jurisdiction, whose judgment requires enforcement in Mexico, is to consult with a licensed attorney with an expertise in international litigation in order to ensure the successful enforcement of the judgment in Mexico. As a final point, it should be noted that Mexico is a party to various international treaties regarding the enforcement of foreign judgments.

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One Response to PRACTIQUE LEGAL – Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Mexico

  1. Great article. thanks for sharing this article.

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