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System of Polish jurisdiction

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published on 4 May 2021 | reading time approx. 5 minutes




International jurisdiction

For cases with a foreign connection to other EU member states, Poland – as well as Germany in most cases – applies unified European jurisdiction law according to the EU regulations on jurisdiction in civil matters.
  

Recognition and enforcement of European titles and foreign arbitral awards

The recognition in the other Member States of judgments given by the court in one Member State is subject to the rules of the Brussels Ia Regulation. The judgments or court settlements are not reviewed again.

 

Enforcement measures are carried out in accordance with national regulations. An enforcement order (e.g. a court judgment or settlement) and a certificate pursuant to Art. 53 Brussels Ia Regulation must be translated under oath and presented in order to commence enforcement.

 

In Poland, the recognition and declaration of enforceability of a foreign arbitral award is carried out in accordance with the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards of 10 June 1958. If the Polish court recognises the foreign arbitral award and declares it enforceable, the enforcement procedure follows in accordance with the provisions of the Polish enforcement procedure.
  

Structure of jurisdiction and court channels in Poland

Polish procedural law provides for the following types of jurisdiction:


local jurisdiction

  • General local jurisdiction: General local jurisdiction means that actions must be brought before the court of first instance with local jurisdiction at the defendant's domicile (place where the natural person permanently resides and place where the legal entity's registered office is located).
  • Alternative territorial jurisdiction: According to provisions on alternative local jurisdiction, the plaintiff may, at his discretion, sue either before the court of general jurisdiction or before another court having jurisdiction according to the law. This option is provided for in particular in the following cases: 
    • Maintenance and paternity actions;
    • property claims against a company;
    • disputes arising from a contractual relationship;
    • tort claims;
    • claims arising from rent or lease of real estate.
  • The provisions of the Polish Civil Procedure Code providing for exclusive local jurisdiction are mandatory. For example, actions for restitution of property or assertion of other rights in rem to real estate as well as to real estate property may be brought only before the court having jurisdiction in the place where the real estate is located. In inheritance matters, in cases concerning compulsory portions, legacies, testamentary orders or dispositions, plaintiffs may bring actions only before the court having jurisdiction at the last habitual residence of the decedent. If the place of residence in Poland cannot be established, then before the court having jurisdiction in the place of the estate or part of the estate. Other examples of exclusive local jurisdiction are actions related to membership in a cooperative, company or association. These actions can only be brought before the court that has jurisdiction in the place of the formal place of business. Actions in matrimonial matters may only be brought before the court having jurisdiction at the place where the spouses last resided, even if only one of them still has his or her domicile or habitual residence in that jurisdiction.

Subject matter jurisdiction of the court

As a rule, the district courts are the courts of 1st instance (“Sąd Rejonowy”). There is a closed catalog of the cases, but they are recognised by the regional court (“Sąd Okręgowy”) as the court of 1st instance. Between these cases are in particular the actions related to the intangible rights, copyright, divorce cases, claims from the personal rights, property right with the value exceeding 75,000 Złoty.

 

A decision of the court (judgment or order) pronounced by a court may be appealed to the 2nd instance court (“Sąd Okręgowy or Sąd Apelacyjny”), in particular in the form of appeal or complaint. If an appeal is filed against a judgment of the 1st instance, a higher court of 2nd instance must, in principle, re-examine the entire case, but the re-examination of evidence is very limited. If the court of the 2nd instance comes to the conclusion that substantial mistakes of the procedure before the 1st instance lie in the execution of the proofs, the judgment of the 1st instance is cancelled and the renewed proof procedure is ordered to the court of the 1st instance. Otherwise, the effect of the appeal may be to change the content of the 1st instance judgment or to uphold the 1st instance judgment.

 
The judgment of the 2nd instance is immediately final and enforceable.

 

The judgment of the 2nd instance can be appealed to the Court of Justice in Warsaw in an extraordinary and limited form of appeal, i.e. cassation. The Court shall only examine whether all legal regulations of the substantive law have been correctly applied or whether serious procedural errors have not occurred in the 2nd or 1st instance.
  

Legal costs

In principle, court proceedings involve costs. Court costs include fees (entrance fee) and expenses (travel expenses of witnesses, expert opinions). The court costs must be paid by the party who has filed a lawsuit for which fees are due or expenses must be incurred. If the due fee is not paid, the court shall request payment within one week. Otherwise, the case will be dismissed. The amount of the fee is based on a percentage of the amount in dispute or, in some cases, is provided for as a fixed fee. 

 
The fees paid to attorneys are agreed upon between the client and his legal representative. However, there is a regulation regarding attorney's fees in judicial matters, which determines the level of an attorney's fee depending on the type of judicial matter. In the internal relationship, the party and its attorney are not bound by this regulation, but reimbursement of attorney's fees in judicial proceedings is made only in accordance with the level of the fee determined in the regulation.

Obligation to bear costs/obligation to reimburse costs

The costs of the proceedings (fees, expenses and attorney's fees) are borne by the party that loses the proceedings. This means that there is an obligation (and this is stated in the judgment) that the losing side will reimburse the costs previously advanced by the winning party at the end of the proceedings.
In certain cases, the court may decide to award the costs only partially (e.g. if the plaintiff has not been completely successful) or to set them off against each other (especially if the action was unsuccessful or according to the principle of justice, the losing side should not be burdened with the costs).
  

Average duration of legal proceedings

There is no generally binding answer to the question of how much time a court case takes. In Poland, the studies are also rarely conducted to show the duration of proceedings. In the period of the worldwide pandemic Covid-19 it is even more difficult to determine the average duration of proceedings. In fact, in the whole world the duration of proceedings has increased because the courts have not functioned properly. With the end of “lockdown”, court functioning rules are now in place to address epidemic response guidelines, i.e., fewer people in court, ventilation and disinfection in courtrooms, quarantine of incoming mail, and restrictions on direct contact with court staff. These restrictions also result in the lengthening of the proceedings.

 

The latest complex data from the Minister of Justice was prepared for 2017. In the first instance, the procedure takes at least 4 months to 8/12 depending on the court location. Enforcement lasts from over 7 months to over 15 months.

 

The proceedings before the court of second instance can take about 12-18 months. In the case of an appeal to the court of cassation, one should expect the duration of at least 10-20 months.

 

Interim relief

Interim relief secures the effectiveness and enforceability of a subsequent decision in the main proceedings. Security may be requested in any civil case, which means that security may be granted both in cases heard in court (in ordinary proceedings or in separate proceedings) and in non-contentious proceedings. A request for granting a security can be made both in the case when the decision made after the examination procedure is enforceable or not subject to execution. The subject of the security may be a pecuniary claim and a non-pecuniary claim of pecuniary or non-pecuniary nature.

 

The court may issue a security order at the request of a party or participant if that person has a plausible claim and a legal interest in the provision of security. The legal interest should be understood as the lack of security prevents or seriously hinders the enforcement of the decision made in the case or otherwise prevents or hinders the achievement of the purpose of the proceedings. On the other hand, the security method should correspond to such an extent that the entitled person is adequately protected and the obliged person is not overburdened. Therefore, the security cannot be aimed at satisfying the claim.

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