The Italian Supreme Court recently held that the lack of a digital signature on the original of the appeal deed determines the inadmissibility of the appeal itself on grounds that the legal challenge is non-existent and cannot be remedied even if the defendant joins the proceedings.


With judgment no. 14338 of 8 June 2017, the Italian Supreme Court once again considered one of the matters that has been most disputed in recent years, namely the consequences of the failure to comply with the regulations governing serving by lawyers via certified electronic mail. Such regulations, starting with Law no. 53/1994, have been subject to significant changes mostly brought about by the need to remain in line with the technological evolution of the IT instruments being used.

In this case, the Court of Appeal of Salerno held that the appeal commenced with the serving of a deed of appeal bereft of digital signature was inadmissible in so far as such a defect of the deed could not be remedied even if the defendant joined the proceedings and raised the relevant exception. The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeal of Salerno on the point of inadmissibility but partly changed the decision of the lower court. The Supreme Court stated that the digital signature on the electronic deed is fully identical to the hand signature on a paper version of the deed and such a requirement must be understood to be a condition for the validity of the deed pursuant to art. 125 of the Code of Civil Procedure, in so far as it aides to trace the deed to a specific individual.

However, the Supreme Court held that what is relevant is not only the lack of digital signature of the served copy of the deed (a matter which the petitioner focused on), but also its omission from the original deed, a circumstance which unto itself is sufficient for determining the inadmissibility of the appeal.

The decision of the Italian Supreme Court for the first time abandons the previous “anti-formalistic” approaches that supported the attainment of the objective of a legal deed even if regulations on electronic serving were not fully complied with. This new approach, which initially helped avoid burdening judges with minor exceptions, has evidently led to the opposite result, that is to a total lack of compliance with procedure, which the Court decided to remedy.