Netherlands: Class Actions: Dutch Supreme Court Supports Effective Protection Of Injured Parties (In Dutch)

In een recente uitspraak oordeelt de Hoge Raad dat een stichting of vereniging die een collectieve actie kan instellen, de verjaring van rechtsvorderingen niet alleen kan stuiten door een procedure aanhangig te maken, maar ook door een stuitingsbrief te sturen. Stuiting van de verjaring van rechtsvorderingen wordt hierdoor in het geval van collectieve schadeclaims eenvoudiger, maar tegelijkertijd zal de schuldenaar langer in onzekerheid blijven over de (eventuele) claim. Daarnaast kan langer onzekerheid bestaan over de omvang van de groep benadeelden ten behoeve van wie de verjaring is gestuit, waardoor het moeilijker kan worden een schikking te bereiken.

Collectieve afwikkeling van massaschade staat in de belangstelling en daarbij is veel aandacht voor de vraag hoe het collectief actierecht optimaal kan bijdragen aan een efficiënte en effectieve rechtsbescherming van belanghebbenden, zonder de rechtszekerheid te ondermijnen. Ook in een recent arrest van de Hoge Raad is het collectief actierecht aan de orde. Deze zaak, waarover de Hoge Raad op 28 maart 2014 oordeelde, betreft de vorderingen van de Vereniging van Effectenbezitters (VEB) tegen de Deloitte Maatschap (Deloitte) naar aanleiding van de boekhoudfraude in 2000 en 2001 bij US Foodservice, een dochter van Ahold. De VEB liet in februari 2008 bij exploot een brief aan Deloitte betekenen waarin zij namens zichzelf en de (voormalig) aandeelhouders van Ahold voor wie zij opkomt de verjaring stuitte van alle vorderingen die voortvloeien uit onrechtmatig handelen van Deloitte. Vervolgens spande de VEB bij de Rechtbank Amsterdam een procedure aan tegen Deloitte.

De stuitingsbrief die de VEB in februari 2008 aan Deloitte zond, was voor de Rechtbank Amsterdam aanleiding om een rechtsvraag aan de Hoge Raad voor te leggen, namelijk of een rechtspersoon in de zin van artikel 3:305a lid 1 Burgerlijk Wetboek de verjaring van vorderingen tot schadevergoeding van degenen van wie hij volgens zijn statuten de belangen behartigt, kan stuiten door een aanmaning of mededeling zoals bedoeld in artikel 3:317 lid 1 BW.

De Hoge Raad beantwoordt deze prejudiciële vraag bevestigend: collectieve stuiting door een aanmaning of een mededeling is mogelijk. In zijn uitspraak benadrukt de Hoge Raad dat de regeling van de collectieve actie een effectieve en efficiënte rechtsbescherming ten behoeve van de belanghebbenden beoogt te bevorderen.

Uit de wet vloeit voort dat een 305a-rechtspersoon de verjaring van rechtsvorderingen van de belanghebbenden voor wie hij opkomt, kan stuiten door een procedure aanhangig te maken tegen de schuldenaar en door de schuldenaar in gebreke te stellen. Dit is voor de Hoge Raad reden om de stuiting door een 305a-rechtspersoon door een aanmaning of mededeling zoals bedoeld in artikel 3:317 lid 1 BW ook als rechtsgeldig aan te merken.

Stuiting van de verjaring van rechtsvorderingen in het geval van collectieve schadeclaims wordt door de uitkomst van deze procedure eenvoudiger. Dit brengt echter ook met zich mee dat de schuldenaar langer in onzekerheid zal blijven over de (eventuele) claim. Het kan er verder toe leiden dat er langer onzekerheid bestaat over de omvang van de groep benadeelden ten behoeve van wie de verjaring is gestuit. Die onzekerheid kan het moeilijker maken om een schikking te bereiken.

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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