When deciding whether or not to commence litigation, existing evidence must be assessed from two angles: (i) whether they are sufficient to prove the existence and the amount of the claim; (ii) whether they give the right to apply for a Payment Order, or if an Ordinary Proceeding will be necessary; and (iii) whether they give the right to a provisionally enforceable Payment Order.
(i) The burden of proof of the existence and exact quantification of the claim always falls on the creditor, who can overcome this not only by providing the proof listed in the Procedure Code (e.g., documentary evidence, testimony, oaths, confessions, etc.), but also through atypical evidence, such as emails, WhatsApp/Telegram/Viber messages, SMSs, audio recordings, videos, etc.
This said, and even considering the different possibilities for evidence, Courts usually prefer some types of evidence to others. Although in Italy, there is the principle of free evaluation of the evidence by judges, a conclusive document will always be better evidence than a witness, for example. Therefore, the better a debt can be evidenced with documents, the more possibilities there will be to succeed in Court, or to reach a good agreement.
(ii) In point 2, it was seen that the Payment Order procedure is very advantageous, both in terms of cost and timing. This special procedure, however, is subject to the existence of at least one of the following two types of evidence: an acknowledgment of the debt contained in a document coming from the debtor (e.g., written promise, insurance policy, email); and/or a commercial invoice. In the absence of either of these two types of evidence, the creditor is obliged to commence an Ordinary Proceeding, in which he/she has the burden of fully proving the existence and quantification of the claim, by means of any of the evidence seen under item (i). This same burden of proof will fall on the creditor if the debtor decides to lodge an opposition to the payment order.
(iii) In the following 4 cases, the Judge may issue a provisionally enforceable Payment Order, which allows the enforcement of the claim to start immediately, and is the sharpest weapon in the creditor's hands: 1. if the claim is based on a notarial deed (e.g., contracts and promises of payment signed before a public notary, public wills, minutes of extraordinary shareholders' meetings of limited liability companies); 2. if the claim concerns social security contributions and welfare payments; 3. if there is a danger of serious damage in the delay of payment; or 4. if there is a debt acknowledgment signed by the debtor, proving the claim.
Debt securities (cheques, bills of exchange, etc.) entitle the creditor to begin enforcement directly, unless they are past due, or have other formal defects. In these latter cases, the creditor shall apply for a Payment Order, which, however, will be issued as being provisionally enforceable.