This happened in in 2004, in Germany, in a very small town. I don’t speak the language and relied on my English speaking lawyer and my bilingual gf.

On the night before the court date, my lawyer told me he wouldn’t represent me anymore because the strategy i wanted to pursue would create damages and he didn’t want to be a part of it. To make a long story short, it would question the skills and reliability of two city workers.

I showed up in court, no lawyer, I explained what happened and asked for a continuation and the judge refused. So the whole proceedings happened without me having a lawyer present. There was a semi fluent translator present for me. Then an expert witness was present and essentially delivered a testimony against me, which, in my eyes didn’t make sense. The whole then happened very quickly and I lost the case.

As time passed and more people talked, it turns out that, in this small city, everyone knows everyone, went to school together, etc. One policeman even told me that even though I’m right, I can’t win the case in that locality.

More than 10 years passed and the expert witness contacted me via a very long letter explaining me that he lied in the testimony because he was engaged in a relation with the plaintiff. He said he felt remorseful and manipulated.. in practice their relation fell apart and he decided it would be a good time to tell the truth.

This whole ordeal ended up with a bill of roughly €70k of court ordered payements. Since the judgement was obviously a joke, and I had gone back to California, I never paid anything.

This resulted in an arrest warrant in Germany; I eventually went back to another EU country where Germany tried to collect money, but failed, as in face of the new evidence, the local court didn’t want to apply the German judgement.

Now.. I will need soon to go to Germany, so I talked to a lawyer. I was told me that it’s too late to modify the judgement and the only thing I can do is negotiate a payment plan. As the proof from the expert witness came a decade later, it can’t be used.

Obviously, I find the whole ordeal infuriating because I do not understand how evidence can be willfully ignored, but not the penalties.

Are there any precedents, in German law, where new evidence came very late and would invalidate a judgment?

  • Did you appeal at the time?
    – Dale M
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 1:47
  • No because at that time the only reason I could have had is that the judge refused to reschedule and I didn’t have a lawyer present. I don’t know if this would have worked. The witness’ confession came something like 10 years later
    – Thomas
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 1:49
  • 1
    If you only have to go to Germany once, you might want to set up a payment plan, make the first payment, pay your visit to Germany, leave again, and then omit to make further payments. Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 4:18

2 Answers 2


TL;DR: You may have chances. Consult a German lawyer fast.

In German civil cases there is the possibillity of "Reopening of proceedings" (Wiederaufnahme des Verfahrens), §§ 578 ff. ZPO. It can be used in special cases of incorrect proceedings.

You have an "Action for retrial of the case" (Restitutionsklage), if "in a testimony or report on which the judgment was based, the witness or experts violated their obligation to tell the truth, such violation being liable to prosecution", § 580 n. 3 ZPO. The lie of the expert witness seems to be prosecutable as "False unsworn testimony" (Uneindliche Falschaussage, § 153 StGB). This crime is under Limitation on prosecution (Verjährung § 78 StGB). Nevertheless it is a reason for reopening.

There are short periods for filing such an action, § 586 ZPO. It has to be within one month after knewing of the cause for rescission. If you expired this period without fault, you may get "restoriation of the status quo ante" (Wiedereinsetzung in den vorigen Stand, §§ 233ff. ZPO). But again there is a very short period after you are able to file the action.

The wording of § 586 II 2 ZPO excludes reopening after five years. But this clause is reduced in practice, if enforcement is still possible (Braun, in: Münchener Kommentar zur ZPO, 5. Auflage 2016, § 586 Rn. 4). So it does not apply in your case.

So you may have an action for retrial of the case, but only if you act now fast. For the details, esp. when the periods begin to run in your case, please consult a German lawyer.

You may also have a case against the expert whitness and/or the plaintiff because of fraud in the process (Prozessbetrug) and/or § 839a BGB about the liability of court-appointed experts.

As the judgement is about €70k the I assume the process was at a "Landgericht". It is not possible to negotiate there without a lawyer. I don't know if it is a cause for rescission, that the judge didn't gave you a chance to get a new lawyer and proceeded without your lawful representative.


What your lawyer told you sounds about right

Judgements in Germany are enforceable for 30 years so this one is still good.

The time for lodging appeals is long past so you are stuck with it. In the interests of finality (res judicata), you can’t revisit a case already completed in both civil law (e.g. Germany) and common law (e.g. USA) systems. You had your chance to show the expert was lying (e.g. by engaging a different expert) and you didn’t. You lost, they won. You don’t get to play again.

  • Does this prevent me from opening a new case, based on the newer evidence, against the original plaintiff, for the damages (reputation and monetary) caused through manipulating the witness? This would NOT cover the original point of contention. As a side note, I find interesting that another EU country, supposed to apply the German judgment, refused to do so in the light of that evidence.
    – Thomas
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 2:58
  • Almost certainly not. Anyway, what concrete evidence do you have that he lied then rather than lying now to spite his ex?
    – Dale M
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 3:09
  • 1
    @DaleM - Presumably if there were a hearing or a trial, OP could put the "expert" witness on the stand. If he's truly remorseful I don't see why he wouldn't cooperate. // Let's think about your conjecture. What exactly would the "expert" stand to gain with a false confession letter? How would such a letter actually spite his ex? Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 4:16
  • 1
    To take an extreme example, does that mean that someone improperly imprisoned in Germany could never be freed if new evidence comes to light much later on?
    – Thomas
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 11:21
  • 1
    @Thomas criminal trials are governed by different rules
    – Dale M
    Commented Feb 14, 2020 at 21:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .