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How to Sue Someone in Japan (part 1)

1. Things to think about before suing.

(1) Do you have a good case?

You may be 100% confident that you have been wronged, and you deserve compensation. However, you need to have the legal basis of a claim (or ‘cause of action’) and sound evidence to prove the cause of action. As the case may be, the potential defendant might have a valid counter-argument (or ‘defense’) or even a counter-claim against you.

(2) Are you within the applicable limitation period?

A limitation period is a time limit for a claimant to take legal action. If the applicable limitation period has expired, you have little to no chance of winning the case. For instance, the limitation period for contractual claims is generally five years.

(3) Where will you be able to sue?

Generally, you will be able to sue at the court closest to the opponent’s residence (if an individual) or main office (if a company). Commercial agreements often include a clause specifying which court has the authority to resolve a dispute arising from the agreement. In that case, either party to the agreement is bound to sue the other party at the court (perhaps, out of Japan) specified in the clause.

You may be in or out of Japan. You can sue someone in Japan while living in a different country.

(4) Does the potential defendant have enough money to pay?

Suppose you have a good case. You will win your case if you take it to court. However, it is not worth obtaining a judgment against a defendant who has no means to pay. You want to be reasonably confident that you will be able to recover your reward before you spend money on a lawsuit.

(5) Will you represent yourself?

You are allowed to represent yourself in any civil lawsuit in Japan. If the amount in dispute is small, you’d better sue yourself in a summary court. Otherwise, it won’t pay to hire an attorney.

If you hire a lawyer, you must be fully informed of their fee plus court fees before officially instructing them. In Japan, each party must pay its own attorney’s fees, and the unsuccessful party is usually not liable to pay the successful party’s attorney’s fees.

(6) Is there any alternative to resolve the dispute?

A lawsuit may take a lot of time and energy. It can often be a realistic approach to settle the dispute by compromise. Depending on the circumstances of the case, an alternative form of dispute resolution such as mediation may be a better route. Or, in some cases, your objectives in suing someone can be met by simply making a report to the relevant regulatory body.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure that the information on this article is accurate at the time of posting, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ. If you do require advice or wish to find out more about the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

Text by: Atty. Atsushi Miyake of Miyake Law, August 2021.
Read more original and informative articles here.

Fukuoka Prefecture
Published: Aug 16, 2021 / Last Updated: Sep 8, 2021

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