Poland: Civil Procedure

On 16 September 2011, the Polish Parliament adopted a significant amendment to the Polish Civil Procedure Code (the "Code"). Most of the changes comprising the amendment came into force on 3 May 2012 (the "Amendment").

The most important changes brought by the Amendment involve the end of separate civil proceedings for disputes among entrepreneurs and the introduction of a new model of evidence collection. Moreover, the Amendment modifies provisions regarding available remedies at law and execution proceedings in order to simplify and speed up court proceedings, as well as to increase the effective execution of judicial decisions.

1. No separate procedure for commercial disputes

The Amendment provides for the liquidation of the separate procedure for disputes among entrepreneurs (to be applied in cases filed after 3 May 2012). Since being introduced in 1989, the separate procedure for commercial disputes was subject to numerous novelizations. In general, it imposed stricter obligations for the parties concerned compared to those in ordinary civil cases. These additional obligations included i.a. an obligatory statement of defense and the preclusion of evidence production. Failure to fulfill these obligations resulted in severe consequences, namely judgment by default or the rejection of evidence, respectively. Following the introduction of the Amendment, disputes among entrepreneurs will be resolved according to the general rules as set out in the Code applicable to everyone.

2. New rules of case management

The Amendment has supplied the court with the authority in every case to oblige defendant to submit a statement of defense (previously, except for the procedure for commercial disputes, such a right was restricted to complicated cases or ones involving financing settlements). In addition, the court is entitled to set a time limit for the submission of the statement of defense. In any event, this limit should not be shorter than 14 days.

With the Amendment's coming into force, submission of the parties' written pleadings has been seriously restricted. Now, submitting a pleading is possible only in the event that the court provides its permission to do so, unless the pleading filed by the party only contains a motion regarding new evidence. All pleadings filed in violation of the above-mentioned rules will be rejected by the court.

The Amendment has also changed the rules concerning submission of evidence and statements of facts, and introduces a new model that is based on discretionary power of the judge. Under the new model, once the statements of claims and defense have been filed, it is be up to the court to decide whether to admit new statements of facts or evidence. They will be rejected unless the party can prove that (i) the failure to submit statements of facts or evidence in due time was not the party's fault, (ii) late submission of a statement or evidence will not cause delay in the examination of the case, or (ii) there are other exceptional circumstances.

The new model differs from the preclusion of the evidence previously applicable in disputes among entrepreneurs as now the late statement of facts or evidence will not be barred by law, but under a decision of the court. Moreover, contrary to the preclusion of the evidence, the new model of production of evidence will be applicable in all civil cases.

3. Submission of an appeal directly to the court of the second instance

It has been the principle to date that an appeal must be filed to the court of the second instance through the court of the first instance. This rule remains unchanged; however, the Amendment mitigates the stringent result of filing the appeal directly to the court of the second instance. Pursuant to the previous provisions of the Code, filing the appeal directly to the court of the second instance was not regarded as effective. Before such a court sent the appeal to the court of first instance, the time limit for submission of the appeal was usually violated which, as a consequence, resulted in the appeal's rejection. Now, the time limit shall be deemed met even if the party has appealed directly to the court of the second instance. In such a case, the court of the second instance shall immediately forward the appeal to the court which issued the judgment under appeal (namely, the court of the first instance).

4. Wider access to the Supreme Court

The Amendment has significantly changed the grounds on which a cassation appeal can be made to the Supreme Court, providing the parties with wider access to the highest instance. Pursuant to the previous provisions of the Code, the cassation appeal was inadmissible in disputes among entrepreneurs in which the value of the subject of the appeal was lower than PLN 75,000 (ca. EUR 18,750). As a result of the Amendment's bring to an end the separate civil procedure for the commercial disputes, the value of the subject of the appeal entitling a party to lodge the cassation appeal has been lowered by PLN 25,000 (ca. EUR 6,250). Now, the cassation appeal may be submitted by the party in cases in which the value of the subject of the appeal amounts to at least PLN 50,000 (ca. EUR 12,500), in labour law and social security cases – PLN 10,000 (ca. EUR 2,500).

What is more, the Amendment has expanded the catalogue of decisions made by the court of second instance that can be the focus of a complaint to the Supreme Court. Now, the party shall be able to lodge the complaint to the Supreme Court against the decision of the court of second instance reversing and remanding the case. What is worth noting is that this right will not be limited only to those cases in which the cassation appeal is admissible.

5. Changes in execution proceedings

The Amendment has also brought changes to the execution proceedings, which include i.a.:

  • Clarification of the rules regarding joinder of administrative and judicial executions carried out against the same debtor;
    According to the previous wording of the Code, in the event of joinder of administrative and judicial execution applying to the same object or right, it was unclear whether the court was entitled to name the competent body to conduct both proceedings only with regard to the object or right subject to the joinder or if the body named by the court was in charge of the whole execution proceedings.
    According the Amendment, in the mentioned case, both an administrative execution body and the bailiff shall stop execution and submit files of administrative and judicial executions to the competent district court. The court shall resolve which execution body – judicial or administrative -- should carry on executions jointly towards the object or right subject to the joinder only.
  • Clarification of the provisions concerning complaints against actions of a bailiff;
    According to the previous wording of the Code, it was unclear when a complaint against omission of action by a bailiff should be filed.
    According to the Amendment, a complaint against omission of action by the bailiff shall be filed within one week from the day when such action should have been performed. A copy of a complaint is sent by a court to the bailiff who, within three days, must justify in writing why he performed the appealed action or provide reasons for its omission, and shall submit such justification along with case files to the court to which a complaint has been filed, unless he agrees to the complaint in whole, about which he shall notify the court, complaining entity and concerned parties.
  • Extending the possibility of the voluntary submission to the execution;
    According to the previous wording of the Code, the voluntary submission to the execution regarding obligation to pay a sum of money, delivery of things designated only as to their kind, or delivery of a thing defined as to its identity could only be issued if it was possible to state the term in which such obligation should be fulfilled by the debtor.
    According to the Amendment, such possibility has been extended. According thereto the voluntary submission to execution may be issued with regard to debtor's obligation to pay a sum of money, delivery of things designated only as to their kind, or delivery of a thing defined as to its identity, also in a situation in which the term of performance of the obligation is not specified in the submission itself. In such a case, it is sufficient to indicate an event in which the performance of the obligation depends, e.g. the handover of the leased premises if the lease contract was for an indefinite period of time.

Additionally, according to the Amendment, i.a.:

  • The upper limit of fines imposed on a debtor in the execution of non-pecuniary benefits has been increased to PLN 10,000 (ca. EUR 2,500). The court has been authorized to impose an obligation to pay a specified sum of money to the creditor instead of imposing the fine as such;
  • The obligation of publishing on the official webpage of the National Council of Bailiffs has been extended to include announcements on levying the execution concerning an enterprise or an agricultural farm (since 6 January 2012, this obligation exists with regard to levying execution on real estate);
  • The upper limit of fines imposed on persons obstructing the activities of a bailiff has been raised up to PLN 2,000 (ca. EUR 500).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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