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Litigation

Last verified on Thursday 29th June 2017

Poland

Justyna Szpara and Maciej Łaszczuk

    Overview

  1. 1.Court system
    Describe the general organisation of the court system for civil litigation.
    1. The district court is the default court of first instance. Certain cases, however, are brought in the first instance before the regional court; for example, cases relating to proprietary claims in which the amount in dispute exceeds 75,000 zlotys; cases relating to intellectual property, unfair competition, media and other intangible rights; or cases in which the claimant seeks to set aside a corporate resolution.

      When the case is heard in the first instance by the district court, the judgment may be appealed to the regional court. If the regional court heard the case in the first instance, the judgment may be appealed to the court of appeal. A final judgment of the court of second instance may be challenged through a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court.

      A cassation appeal is admissible only if the amount in dispute is at least 50,000 zlotys in the case of proprietary claims (if the case relates to non-proprietary claims a cassation appeal is always admissible) or 10,000 zlotys in employment and social insurance matters (with certain exceptions). A cassation appeal must allege incorrect application or interpretation of substantive law, or procedural law affecting the outcome of the case. A cassation appeal may be heard only if it involves substantial legal issues or there are discrepancies in the jurisprudence on the legal issue raised, the proceedings described below were invalid, or the cassation appeal is clearly justified.

      Judges in Poland are appointed by the president upon motion of the National Council of the Judiciary. A judge may not be removed from office but may resign. This ensures the independence of judges from the influence of other branches of authority.

      In some cases before the district courts, professional judges are assisted by lay judges (sometimes called "jurors", but there is no jury in the common law sense). Such cases pertain to employment issues (mainly employment contracts) or family law, and are decided by one professional judge and two lay judges.

      Polish civil procedure recognises res judicata. A case in which there has been a final judgment (ie, a judgment at the second instance or a judgment at the first instance that was not appealed) cannot be raised again in any court between the same parties. Final judgments are binding on the parties, the courts and all authorities in Poland.

  2. 2.The legal profession
    Describe the general organisation of the legal profession.
    1. The general rule is that parties (or their statutory representatives, such as parents of minors or a legal guardian) may appear in court in person. Legal entities other than natural persons may be represented by their executive bodies. A party may also act through an attorney. The attorney may be an advocate or legal adviser, in intellectual property cases a patent attorney and in cases concerning restructuring and bankruptcy also a person certified as a restructuring adviser. The following may also act as attorney: a person who manages the party’s assets or interests, a person who has a standing assignment to handle certain matters for the party or a co-party to the dispute, as well as certain family members in the case of natural persons. An employee may also act as a legal entity’s attorney. In certain actions a party must be represented by an advocate or legal adviser, particularly when appearing before the Supreme Court. Advocates and legal advisers have equal rights to appear for clients in all civil matters.

      Despite the split bars in Poland (advocates and legal advisers) the process of admission to the bars is very similar. Anyone holding a master's degree in law may apply to become an advocate trainee or legal adviser trainee by passing an annual state exam. After three years of training (including obligatory lectures and practice under the supervision of a mentor), trainees are admitted as advocates or legal advisers upon passing a final exam.

  3. 3.General
    Give a brief overview of the political and social background as it relates to civil litigation.
    1. Poland is a civil law country, which means that the law is codified. The rules of civil procedure are set forth in the Civil Procedure Code of 17 November 1964 (CPC) and several minor Acts. Some specific procedures, such as class actions and complaints for delay in ruling on a case, are governed by separate Acts.

      In 2012, a major amendment to the CPC eliminated special procedures for commercial (B2B) cases, which had been highly criticised as being too strict. The aim of the amendment was to make civil procedure quicker and more flexible.

      The caseload of Polish courts is heavy and therefore cases are not adjudicated promptly. Despite that, most of the disputes in Poland are decided through litigation rather than alternative dispute resolution (ADR), although the goal of the new act to amend the CPC to encourage alternative methods of dispute resolution which entered into force on 1 January 2016 is to increase the percentage of commercial disputes resolved using mediation or arbitration.

    Jurisdiction

  4. 4.Jurisdiction and venue
    What are the criteria for determining the jurisdiction and venue of the competent court for a civil matter?
    1. The jurisdiction of Polish courts is governed by the Polish CPC, bilateral agreements, and the Brussels Regulation I-a (1215/2012).

      If the defendant is domiciled in an EU member state, the Brussels Ia Regulation applies, under which the Polish court will have jurisdiction, inter alia:

      • generally, if the defendant is domiciled in Poland;
      • in contract cases where Poland is the place of performance;
      • in tort cases where the event causing the injury occurred or may occur in Poland; and
      • in a dispute arising out of the operations of a branch, agency or other establishment located in Poland.

      Regardless of the domicile of the parties, Polish courts have exclusive jurisdiction if:

      • the case involves real property in Poland;
      • the case involves corporate matters of legal persons or associations with their registered office in Poland;
      • the case involves public registers maintained in Poland;
      • the case involves the validity of patents, trademarks, designs, or other similar rights required to be deposited or registered in Poland; and
      • the proceedings involve the enforcement of judgments and the judgment has been or is to be enforced in Poland.

      The jurisdiction rules in the CPC are similar to those in the Brussels Ia Regulation.

      If the case does not fall by law within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Polish courts (for example, if the case does not involve real estate in Poland) or foreign courts, the parties may agree to confer jurisdiction on the Polish or foreign courts. However, specific rules apply with respect to employment, insurance and consumer contracts. This jurisdiction is by default exclusive, though the parties may decide otherwise. Moreover, if the defendant enters an appearance, the Polish court appointed to hear the case by the claimant becomes competent. This rule does not apply when courts of a foreign member state have exclusive jurisdiction (or the defendant enters an appearance to contest the jurisdiction of Polish courts).

      The venue of the competent court in Poland is generally established according to the residence or registered office of the defendant. The claimant may, however, also elect the court based on, inter alia: the place of performance of a contractual obligation; the place where the harmful event occurred in a tort case; or the location of a branch, agency or other establishment in a dispute involving its operations. The parties may stipulate the venue in writing unless an exclusive venue is established by law (the venue in real estate cases, for instance, is determined by the location of the real estate).

  5. 5.Forum shopping
    Does your jurisdiction commonly attract disputes that have a nexus with other jurisdictions?
    1. Foreign parties rarely stipulate Polish jurisdiction. Polish courts do, however, attract ‘torpedo’ actions, in which a party likely to be sued elsewhere initiates an action in Poland, seeking a declaratory judgment that it is not infringing the other party’s rights. In such cases, Poland is an attractive forum because the Polish courts tend to uphold their own jurisdiction.

  6. 6.Pendency in another forum
    How will a court treat a request to hear a dispute that is already pending before another forum?
    1. If proceedings involving the same cause of action and between the same parties are pending before another forum, the Polish court shall stay the proceedings initiated in Poland until the jurisdiction of the court first seized is established, if the first proceeding was brought in another EU member state. When the jurisdiction of the court first seized is established, the Polish court shall decline jurisdiction and reject the statement of claim. Where actions come within the exclusive jurisdiction of several courts, the Polish court (provided that it is not the first seized court) shall decline jurisdiction in favour of the court whose exclusive jurisdiction was first established.

      The Polish court may stay the proceedings:

      • Where related actions are pending in the courts of different member states and it is not the first seized court.
      • Where jurisdiction is based on article 4 or articles 7, 8 or 9 of the Brussels Ia Regulation and proceedings are pending before a court of a non-member state involving the same cause of action and between the same parties if: (i) it is expected that the court of a non-member state will give a judgment capable of recognition and, where applicable, of enforcement; and (ii) the Polish court is satisfied that a stay is necessary for the proper administration of justice.

      On the basis of the CPC, if the first proceeding was brought in a non-member state, the Polish court shall stay the proceedings initiated in Poland until the end of the first proceeding, unless a judgment in the first proceeding would not be enforceable in Poland or it cannot be expected that the proceedings before the non-member state court will be validly completed in a reasonable time. 

  7. 7.

    Deference to arbitration
    How will the courts treat a dispute that is, or could be, subject to an arbitration clause or an agreement to arbitrate, including in interim proceedings?

    1. The court will hear a dispute that is subject to an arbitration clause unless the defendant objects before joining issue on the merits (typically in the statement of defence). If the objection is raised, the court must dismiss the suit unless the arbitration agreement is invalid, ineffective, unenforceable or expired, or the arbitral tribunal has already ruled that it lacks jurisdiction. The courts are thus bound by the ruling of the arbitral tribunal on lack of jurisdiction and may not revisit such decision.

      Even if a dispute is subject to an arbitration clause, the Polish state courts are still competent to grant interim measures. Therefore, the fact that a dispute is covered by an arbitration clause does not exclude the possibility of securing the claim by an injunction order issued by a state court.

  8. 8.Judicial review of arbitral awards on jurisdiction
    May courts in your country review arbitral awards on jurisdiction?
    1. The arbitral tribunal is competent to rule on its own jurisdiction. It may rule on its jurisdiction in a separate order before issuing an award on the merits. If it upholds its own jurisdiction, a party has two weeks to seek a ruling from the state court, which may in turn be appealed. An application to the court for a ruling on jurisdiction does not preclude the tribunal from issuing an award on the merits.

      A decision by the tribunal finding that it lacks jurisdiction may not be challenged in court, and in this sense a negative decision is binding for the state court.

  9. 9.Anti-suit injunctions
    Are anti-suit injunctions available?
    1. It is highly questionable whether Polish courts may issue anti-suit injunctions. There are no regulations nor is there published case law directly addressing this issue.

      In our view, an anti-suit injunction could be issued only as interim relief to secure non-monetary claims, under highly unusual circumstances, if such injunction were the most effective and appropriate way to secure the claim.

  10. 10.

    Sovereign immunity
    Which entities are immune from being sued in your jurisdiction? In what circumstances? In what circumstances can creditors enforce a court judgment or arbitral award against a sovereign or a state entity?

    1. State immunity is not governed by CPC. However, Polish courts accept the rule that a foreign state cannot be sued before Polish courts. This rule stems from customary international law, which was confirmed by the International Court of Justice in its judgment in Germany v Italy: Greece intervening, dated 3 February 2012, (2012 ICJ Rep. 99, paras 54-57), and also in the Polish Supreme Court’s order in Natoniewski . Federal Republic of Germany, Case No. IV CSK 465/09. This rule also extends to enforcement of a judgment or arbitral award against a sovereign entity.

      However, currently, Polish courts recognise that the state’s immunity extends to matters related to exercising of sovereign power, but not those related to participation in civil and commercial matters (see the judgment of Polish Supreme Court of 10.03.2008 III CSK 293/07).

      Furthermore, according to CPC, members of a diplomatic mission, and their families, cannot be sued in Poland. The immunity does not apply to private matters (those matters unrelated to their diplomatic activity). The court must take judicial notice of the immunity and dismiss the statement of claim without considering the merits. 

      The Polish state may be sued in the civil court in civil matters. In such instances, the case is brought against the State Treasury. There are special rules for representation of the State Treasury in such proceedings. It is represented by the state organisational unit whose competence covers the subject matter in question (for instance, the General Director for National Roads and Motorways). Creditors may enforce a judgment or arbitral award against the State Treasury in a similar way as against any private entity. There are certain special rules, however, pertaining to injunction or enforcement proceedings against the State Treasury (for instance, it is not possible to obtain an injunction securing monetary claims against the State Treasury).

    Procedure

  11. 11.Commencement and conduct of proceedings in general
    How are proceedings commenced? To what extent will a court actively lead the proceedings and to what extent will the court rely on the parties to further the proceedings?
    1. A proceeding is commenced by filing a statement of claim with the court, specifying the relief demanded, the amount in dispute and the factual allegations supporting the claim. After reviewing the statement of claim for compliance with formal requirements, the court will schedule a hearing and serve notice on the defendant. The defendant may file a statement of defence at any time prior to the first hearing, unless the court required the defendant to file a statement of defence in a specified time, in any event not shorter than two weeks.

      The court may require the defendant to file a statement of defence or it may order the parties to file other preliminary pleadings. The court may also issue a schedule of submissions (indicating the date and order of submissions to be filed, and the circumstances that should be explained or proved in the submissions). Before issuing the schedule of submissions, the court may hear the parties during an in-camera session. If the court issues a schedule of submissions or decides to allow only the statement of claim and statement of defence, the parties may not file further submissions without prior consent of the court unless they present new evidence that could not be submitted earlier.

      Civil matters are usually heard in open session. The clerk prepares a record, memorialising the course of the proceedings using audio or audio-visual equipment as well as in writing. If audio or audio-visual recording is not possible for technical reasons, the record is prepared solely in writing. Procedural motions are decided in closed session.

      During the trial, each party makes an opening statement presenting its demands and motions. Each party is required to address the factual allegations by the opposing party, after which the parties introduce and argue evidence. Allegations and evidence may generally be raised at any time until the close of the trial.

      The parties are required to present evidence of factual matters that are legally relevant. The court may deem an allegation admitted if the adversary fails to address it. The court may draw inferences from established facts in order to find other relevant facts to be proved.

      In cases where an amicable settlement is admissible, the court should strive to reach an amicable settlement at any stage of the proceedings, in particular by encouraging the parties to use mediation. If a settlement is reached in court, it will be signed by the parties and noted in the record.

  12. 12.Statement of claim
    What are the requirements for filing a claim? What is the pleading standard?
    1. Any pleading initiating a proceeding must specify:

      • the court;
      • the parties and their representatives or attorneys;
      • the type of pleading;
      • the basis for the application or declarations as well as the evidence in support of the circumstances alleged;
      • the residence or registered office of the parties and attorneys;
      • for a plaintiff who is an individual, his or her personal identity number (PESEL) or tax number (NIP), or in the case of a plaintiff that is not an individual, its number from the National Court Register (KRS), if any, or other relevant register, or tax number; and
      • all enclosures.

      It must also be signed by the party or its representative or attorney, enclosing the power of attorney.

      A statement of claim must also identify the matter at issue and include a precise description of the claim (the relief sought); the evidence to prove the claim (the factual background of the case) and to prove the jurisdiction of the court; in a proprietary case, a determination of the amount in dispute (unless the claim is for an amount in cash); and information on whether the parties have tried mediation or any other out-of-court settlement method, and if no such attempts have been made, an explanation why not.

      The statement of claim may also include a motion for interim relief, to hold hearings even when the claimant is not present, or to summon witnesses to appear at the hearing.

      The fee for the statement of claim must be duly paid. The filing fee is generally 5 per cent of the amount in dispute in proprietary cases (monetary claims as well as injunctive claims), but no more than 100,000 zlotys. If the amount in dispute cannot be established upon initiation of the proceedings, the court will set an interim filing fee of 30 to 1,000 zlotys and will set the final fee in the judgment.

  13. 13.Statement of defence
    What are the requirements for answering claims? What is the pleading standard?
    1. In the statement of defence, the defendant presents its allegations and evidence for denial of the claim. From service of the statement of the claim until the first hearing, the defendant may raise counterclaims. Certain defences (for example, a reservation as to jurisdiction or an arbitration clause) must be raised in the statement of defence, or before, but in any case it must be raised before joining issue on the merits, or the defence will be precluded.

      Generally, it is a right and not an obligation to file a statement of defence before the hearing; however, in practice, the defendant usually files a statement of defence. The court may also order the defendant to do so. If the defendant does not defend the claim or fails to appear, without moving to hear the case in the defendant’s absence, the court can deem the claimant’s allegations proven (if they are not doubtful) and render a default judgment.

  14. 14.Further briefs and submissions
    What are the rules regarding further briefs and submissions?
    1. The claimant may amend the relief sought at any time, but only if the same court is competent to grant the new relief; otherwise, the request for new relief will be treated as a new case and forwarded to the proper court.

      The claimant or the defendant may present new factual assertions and legal arguments in further submissions, but must provide reasons why it was not done in the statement of claim or statement of defence, or demonstrate that consideration of the new evidence or arguments will not delay the proceeding or that other exceptional circumstances appeared.

      New factual assertions may not be raised on appeal unless the party demonstrates that the assertions could not have been raised at the first instance.

  15. 15.Publicity
    To what degree are civil proceedings made public?
    1. The files of court proceedings are accessible only to the parties, but hearings are by default open to the public (with television cameras and photographers allowed). The court should close the hearing if a public hearing would threaten public order or morality, or if classified state information might be revealed. A party may also request a closed hearing if a trade secret might be revealed. Even if the hearing is closed, the operative wording of the final decision will be announced in open court. If the judgment is published later, however, it is anonymised. Moreover, all anonymised judgments are accessible to anyone upon motion, based on freedom of information laws.

      Pretrial settlement and ADR

      The aim of the act to amend the CPC to encourage alternative methods of dispute resolution which entered into force on 1 January 2016 is to increase the percentage of commercial disputes resolved using mediation or arbitration.

      The Act provides for certain changes in the CPC’s mediation and arbitration provisions, relating inter alia to shortening the proceedings to set aside an arbitration award and the period for filing a petition to set aside an arbitration award, and new guarantees of arbitrators’ independence and impartiality, as well as changes in other acts.

      Changes concerning mediation aim in general to increase the number of cases directed to mediation by Polish courts.

    Pretrial settlement and ADR

  16. 16.Advice and settlement proposals
    Will a court render (interim) assessments about any factual or legal issues in dispute? What role and approach do courts typically take regarding settlement? Are there mandatory settlement conferences between the parties at the outset of or during the litigation?
    1. A Polish court may issue a preliminary judgment on liability if it finds the claim to be justified in principle, and then rule on the amount of the claim in the final judgment. Such judgement is however a binding ruling, and not a preliminary assessment. The court may not reveal to the parties its preliminary view on issues in dispute, even if it could facilitate a settlement. However, the judge is obliged by law to encourage the parties to settle. The court may also decide to the direct the parties to mediation at any stage of proceedings (see below). Such mediation is non-mandatory and is conditional upon consent of both parties. There are no mandatory settlement conferences for the parties.

  17. 17.Mediation
    Is referral to mediation or another form of ADR an option, or even mandatory, before or during the litigation?
    1. Mediation is governed by CPC Part I, in the section dealing with proceedings before courts of first instance. This legislation was introduced in 2005 and amended in 2016.

      The amendment provides for certain changes in mediation provisions, including a regulation according to which a court may, irrespective of the result in the case, decide to charge a party to the dispute with costs of proceedings caused by its unfair or obviously improper conduct. After amendment, this provision pertains, inter alia, to costs resulting from obviously unjustified refusal to take part in mediation. Furthermore, the amendment provides for a possibility for the presiding judge to order the parties to take part in an informational meeting regarding ADR methods, particularly mediation. However, the parties’ right to refuse to consent to mediation was not affected.

      Mediation is voluntary and is based on a mediation agreement or a court order directing the parties to mediation, which the court may issue at any stage of proceedings. 

      Mediation is confidential and privileged. A settlement offer, proposal for mutual concessions or other statement made in a mediation proceeding is inadmissible as evidence in a judicial or arbitration proceeding. If the parties reach a settlement before the mediator, it is signed by the parties and included in the record. The mediator then submits the settlement to the court that would otherwise have jurisdiction over the dispute. Upon motion of a party, the court will confirm the settlement, unless it is contrary to law or public policy, intended to circumvent the law, unclear, or internally inconsistent. After confirmation by the court, a settlement made before a mediator has the legal effect of a settlement concluded before the court, and in particular constitutes a writ of enforcement. There are also certain rules awarding the parties a refund of part of the court fee if the case was settled.

      In recent years there has been a growing acceptance of mediation as a form of ADR. 

    Interim relief

  18. 18.Forms of interim relief
    What are the forms of emergency or interim relief?
    1. In Polish civil proceedings, a party or another participant seeking to secure its legitimate interests may ask the court for interim relief. Both monetary and non-monetary claims may be secured by interim relief. In the case of monetary claims, the CPC provides an exhaustive catalogue of the forms of interim relief, including, inter alia, seizure of moveables or attachment of receivables (including money in a bank account) and establishment of a compulsory mortgage.

      In the case of non-monetary claims, any form of interim relief that the court considers to be suitable is allowed. For example, the court may regulate the duties of the parties for the duration of the proceeding, forbid the sale of disputed items or order publication of notice in a public register.

  19. 19.Obtaining relief
    What must a petitioner show to obtain interim relief?
    1. The applicant must substantiate the claim and demonstrate that lack of relief would hinder or prevent enforcement of the eventual judgment. The relief must not anticipate ‘in full’ or lead to final remedies (with certain exceptions, for example, in intellectual property and unfair competition cases). If relief is granted, the claimant must file the statement of claim in the case within two weeks. Additionally, even before the proceedings are initiated, a party may request that evidence be secured if there is a risk that the evidence could not be produced later or if necessary to prove facts. In intellectual property cases, the court may order alleged counterfeiters or third parties to provide additional information necessary to clarify the claim. Injunctions and information orders are ex parte measures.

    Decisions

  20. 20.Types of decisions
    What types of decisions (other than interim relief) may a court render in civil matters?
    1. Polish courts issue ‘judgments’ on the merits (in adversary proceedings), and ‘orders’ on procedural or provisional issues (injunctions, for example) and on the merits in non-adversary proceedings. In order for payment proceedings and summary proceedings, the court issues an order for payment ex parte, which, if challenged, is then confirmed or set aside afterwards by a judgment on the merits. Certain orders (for example, in proceedings before courts maintaining the commercial register or land and mortgage register) may be issued by court clerks.

      The types of judgments include:

      • a ‘main’ judgment on the merits;
      • a default judgment, also on the merits but relying only on the statement of claim;
      • a partial judgment, if the court rules only on certain claims or with respect to certain parties; and
      • a preliminary judgment on the merits (where the court will decide on the amount in the final judgment).

      Summary judgments are not allowed.

      A judgment on the merits may be a declaratory judgment (establishing that a legal relation exists), an injunctive judgment (eg, ordering the defendant to pay money, vacate premises or cease the infringement of a patent) or a constitutive judgment (creating a legal relation).

  21. 21.Timing of decisions
    At what stage of the proceedings may a court render a decision? Are motions to dismiss and summary judgment available?
    1. The court will close the hearing after receiving all admitted evidence and hearing the parties’ closing arguments. Generally the court will render a judgment on the merits immediately upon closing the hearing, but may postpone the announcement for two weeks.

  22. 22.Default judgment
    Under which circumstances will a default judgment be rendered?
    1. If the defendant does not defend against the claim, for instance does not file a statement of defence in writing or does not appear at the hearing (or appears but does not participate), and does not move to hear the case in the defendant’s absence, the court may render a default judgment (see question 13). The court should then deem the facts alleged by the claimant to be true, as long as they are not doubtful. A default judgment may be issued for the claimant without issuing a justification. The court may also dismiss the claim in a default judgment, but in such a case it must issue a justification upon request of the claimant..

  23. 23.Duration of proceedings
    How long does it typically take a court of first instance to render a decision?
    1. Usually it takes the court of first instance one to two years to render a judgment on the merits. In an order for payment or summary proceeding, the court will usually issue an order for payment within six months of the filing of the claim.

    Parties

  24. 24.Third parties – joinder, third-party notice, intervenors
    How can third parties become involved in proceedings?
    1. An entity may be joined as a party under certain conditions. Firstly, if it is found that the claim was not filed against the correct defendant, a third party may be substituted for the named defendant. Secondly, if it is found that the same claim may be asserted against additional persons who are not defendants in the case, the court may upon application of the plaintiff summon such persons to appear in the case as defendants. Thirdly, if it is found that not all necessary parties have appeared as plaintiffs or defendants, they may be joined accordingly.

      Anyone who has a legitimate interest in ensuring that the matter is resolved in favour of one party may join the party at any stage of the proceedings (even on appeal) and support its position. The parties may object to such intervention, however. The intervener may not later claim against the party it has joined that the case was decided incorrectly or that the party conducted the proceedings improperly.

      A party may also request that a non-party join the proceedings if, in the case of an unfavourable judgment, the non-party may have claims against the party. If the non-party does not join the proceedings, then it may not later claim against the party that the case was decided incorrectly or that the party conducted the proceedings improperly.

      A third party that claims rights to the subject matter of the proceedings may join the proceedings by bringing a claim against both parties.

    Evidence

  25. 25.Taking and adducing evidence
    Will a court take or initiate the taking of evidence or will it rely on the parties to request the taking of evidence and to present it?
    1. Evidence is offered and produced by the parties. In exceptional situations, when the court considers specific evidence to be essential to resolve the dispute, the court has the power to admit evidence on its own initiative. 

  26. 26.Disclosure
    Is an opponent obliged to produce evidence that is harmful to it in the proceedings? Is there a document disclosure procedure in place? What are the consequences if evidence is not produced by a party?
    1. Disclosure is available only upon order of the court.

      If another party, a non-party or a public authority holds a document that may serve as evidence in the proceedings; any party may request the court to order disclosure of the document. The court may request such documents on its own initiative if it finds that they may be essential to the resolution of the dispute.

      If a non-party refuses to disclose the requested document, the court may impose a fine on that person. If a party refuses to disclose a requested document, the court may draw a negative inference from the party’s refusal to provide the document, but it may not impose a fine on the party.

  27. 27.

    Witnesses of fact
    Please describe the key characteristics of witness evidence in your jurisdiction. Is witness preparation allowed?

    1. A party calling a witness should identify the witness sufficiently for the court to effectively summon the witness to appear. In practice, this means that the party bears any negative consequences of not being able to determine the witness’s address. Witness testimony may be given in person before the court hearing the case, in person before the court in the district where the witness lives (if coming to the court hearing the case would be difficult), or before the court hearing the case via video conference. Witness testimony may not be made in writing. The witness may be fined for failure to appear as summoned without due cause, or may be brought before the court by force of police officers.

      There are no rules pertaining to witness preparation in the CPC. However, under rules of ethics of advocates and legal advisers, it is generally accepted that they may contact the witness only in order to learn what the witness knows of the case and also to inform the witness how the hearing process before the court looks.

  28. 28.Expert witnesses
    Who appoints expert witnesses? What is the role of experts?
    1. Usually expert witnesses are appointed by the court upon the motion of a party; however, in some exceptional cases the court may appoint an expert witness on its own initiative.

      Expert witnesses should be appointed when specific knowledge or information is required (usually technical or accounting knowledge). The expert witness is requested to prepare an opinion in writing on the relevant issue and to attend a hearing and answer questions from the parties and the court.

  29. 29.Party witnesses
    Can parties to proceedings (or a party’s directors and officers in the case of a legal person) act as witnesses? Can the court draw negative inferences from a party’s failure to testify or act as a witness?
    1. Parties to proceedings (or the party’s representatives in the case of legal entities) may not testify as "witnesses"; however, they may offer "party testimony". The court should request party testimony only if issues remain unclear after exhaustion of all other forms of evidence. A party may refuse to testify, but the court may draw a negative inference from the party’s decision not to testify.

  30. 30.Foreign law and documentation
    How is foreign law or foreign-language documentation introduced into the proceedings and considered by the courts?
    1. Under the CPC, evidence may include documents in a foreign language. The party submitting such evidence is usually requested to provide a sworn translation, but the court may treat foreign-language documents as sufficient. The court may also accept a non-sworn translation of a document in a foreign language if the court finds that the translation is sufficient and does not raise doubts as to its correctness.

      The court is required to take judicial notice ex officio, of foreign law. If a legal relationship is governed by foreign law, the court is obliged to apply it. If needed, the court may request the Ministry of Justice to provide the text of foreign law or an explanation of foreign judicial practice, or request assistance in the form of an expert opinion on the issue prepared by the ministry of justice of the foreign country (pursuant to the 1968 European Convention on Information on Foreign Law). The court may also use other available means, except for witness testimony.

  31. 31.Standard of proof
    What standard of proof applies in civil litigation? Are there different standards for different issues?
    1. The CPC governs the burden of proof, which rests on a party making factual allegations.

      The CPC provides that it is sufficient to "substantiate" certain issues rather than "prove" them. For example, a claimant seeking interim relief must ‘substantiate’ the main claim.

      Owing to its civil law culture, in Polish civil practice a claimant must "prove" the claim in order to obtain a judgment. Virtually anything can serve as evidence, and assessment of the evidence rests within the judge’s discretion. In the justification of the judgment, the court is required to indicate which facts were proved and which were not, and which evidence was found to be credible and which biased.

    Appeals

  32. 32.Options for appeal
    What are the possibilities to appeal a judicial decision? How many levels of appeal are there?
    1. Any judgment on the merits may be appealed. There is one level of appeal. A party considering an appeal may request a written justification of the judgment within seven days of the announcement of the judgment (or service if the judgment is made without a hearing – in very specific cases, for example, in commercial matters where the dispute is ripe for decision after exchange of the statement of claim and the statement of defence and neither party requests a hearing). The appeal must be filed within 14 days from service of the judgment with the justification, or, if no justification was requested, within 21 days of announcement of the judgment (or service of a judgment made without a hearing).

      Certain final judgments are subject to a cassation appeal.

  33. 33.

    Standard of review
    What aspects of a lower court's decisions will an appeals court review and by what standards?

    1. In Poland, the court of second instance is required to re-examine the merits of the case. Thus, the court of second instance considers the merits in a manner similar to that of the court of first instance. On the merits, it is not bound by the allegations on appeal. However, it is bound by the procedural allegations on appeal except where, due to serious procedural defects, the proceedings must be declared invalid (such defect should be considered ex officio), and may not examine procedural decisions of the court of first instance that are not alleged in the appeal to be unlawful. The court of second instance may vacate the judgment on procedural grounds only if the unlawful decision had a direct impact on the judgment.

      The court of second instance usually does not take new evidence, but reviews the evidence taken by the court of first instance. New evidence may be admitted on appeal, however, if the party demonstrates that it could not provide the evidence earlier.

  34. 34.Duration of appellate proceedings
    How long does it usually take to obtain an appellate decision?
    1. Usually it takes up to one year to obtain an appellate decision.

    Special proceedings

  35. 35.Class actions
    Are class actions available?
    1. Class actions were introduced in Poland in 2010. The procedure is available in consumer protection, product liability and other tort cases (excluding claims for “protection of personal interests,” such as privacy and defamation) where the claims arise out of the same or a similar set of facts. The minimum class size is 10. Filing of a class action does not bar other plaintiffs from filing suit individually if they do not join the class or if they leave the class. The amount of the claim by each member must be uniform, or the class action may be limited to a finding of liability on the part of the defendant.

      The case is filed by a class representative (the name plaintiff). The class must be represented by counsel unless the name plaintiff him- or herself is an advocate or legal adviser.

      Class actions are heard by the regional court in a panel of three professional judges. The agreement on legal fees must be filed with the statement of claim – a new feature under Polish law. A contingency fee of up to 20 per cent of the award is permissible. The court may direct the parties to mediation and may require security for the defendant’s costs. Class actions appear to be gaining popularity in Poland. Recent examples of class actions include claims against banks by their clients who took out mortgage loans denominated in foreign currency, typically Swiss francs.

  36. 36.Derivative actions
    Are derivative actions available?
    1. Derivative actions are governed by the Commercial Companies Code. If the company fails to file a claim within one year of disclosure of an act causing injury to the company, any shareholder may file a claim for redress of the injury suffered by the company. There are no irregularities in proceedings initiated by the shareholder.

  37. 37.Fast-track proceedings
    Are fast-track proceedings available?
    1. Fast-track proceedings are provided for in the CPC: order for payment proceedings, summary proceedings, electronic summary proceedings and simplified proceedings.

      • Order for payment proceedings: These are available for claims substantiated by certain documents, for example an official document, written acknowledgment of a debt, a promissory note or a cheque. The court may apply the order for payment procedure only upon request of the claimant. Under this procedure, the court issues an order for payment ex parte, giving the defendant two weeks to pay or to assert defences against the order. If defences are asserted, the court schedules a hearing, conducts an ordinary civil proceeding and renders a judgment either maintaining the order for payment in force or setting aside the order for payment and ruling on the merits.
      • Summary proceedings: The court may issue an order for payment in summary proceedings on the court’s own initiative (without a motion by the claimant) if the claimant is asserting a monetary claim. The court may not, however, issue an order for payment if, for example, the claim is evidently unjustified, the allegations in the statement of claim are doubtful, or the claim is dependent on reciprocal payment. The order for payment gives the defendant two weeks to pay the amount or dispute the order. If the order for payment is disputed, the court schedules a hearing and conducts an ordinary civil proceeding.
      • Electronic summary proceedings: Electronic summary proceedings are governed by similar rules, but all legal steps are made via the court website.
      • Simplified proceedings: Simplified proceedings are available for certain claims, for example contractual claims for no more than 10,000 złotys, or payment of residential rent. The statement of claim and the statement of defence must be filed using official forms.

      The CPC also provides for certain European fast-track proceedings, namely European order for payment proceedings and European small claims proceedings. 

  38. 38.Foreign-language proceedings
    Is it possible to conduct proceedings in a foreign language?
    1. Civil proceedings in Poland must be conducted in Polish, not in a foreign language. If necessary (for instance, in order to hear a witness who does not speak Polish), the relevant parts of proceedings are conducted with the participation of an interpreter.

    Effects of judgement and enforcement

  39. 39.Effects of a judgment
    What legal effects does a judgment have?
    1. Final judgments are binding on the parties, the courts, and all authorities in Poland. Binding effect generally extends only to the operative wording of the judgment. However, it is sometimes necessary to refer to the findings of fact in order to reconstruct the actual content of the decision (especially in case of judgments dismissing claims). Final judgments are not binding on third parties unless otherwise provided by specific provisions of law (eg, judgments in divorce proceedings).

      A final judgment ordering performance of a claim is subject to enforcement.

  40. 40.Enforcement procedure
    What are the procedures and options for enforcing a domestic judgment?
    1. A domestic judgment, judicial settlement, arbitration award or settlement in arbitration is enforced in Poland after the Polish court affixes an enforcement clause (in ex parte proceedings upon simple request). The same procedure is followed for a foreign judgment or judicial settlement from another EU member state certified as a European Enforcement Order, an order for payment issued by such court, or a judgment of such court taken in the European small claims procedure and accompanied by a relevant certificate. Judgments or judicial settlements from other courts are enforced in the same manner, but before the enforcement clause is affixed (in closed session), the debtor has two weeks from receiving a copy of the request in which to raise objections with the court. Non-enforceable judgments must be considered at a hearing.

  41. 41.Enforcement of foreign judgments
    Under what circumstances will a foreign judgment be enforced in your jurisdiction?
    1. Recognition and enforcement of judgments issued in EU member states is governed by the Brussels Ia Regulation (1215/2012). In relations with Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, recognition and enforcement of judgments is governed by the revised 2007 Lugano Convention.

      Under the Brussels Ia Regulation, a judgment given in one member state is recognised in another member state without any special procedure being required. A judgment given in a member state which is enforceable in that member state shall be enforceable in the other member states without any declaration of enforceability being required. An enforceable judgment carries with it by operation of law the power to proceed to any protective measures which exist under the law of the member state addressed.

      Book Three of the CPC applies to recognition or enforcement of foreign judgments outside the scope of the Brussels Ia Regulation or a treaty, or if these regulations must be supplemented by national law.

      Under the CPC, rulings of foreign courts in civil cases are subject to automatic recognition, unless there is a statutory ground for non-recognition. This means that any public authority before which the issue of the effectiveness of a foreign judgment may arise will be able to determine for purposes of that proceeding whether a foreign judgment is recognised. Nonetheless, there is an option to conduct a separate proceeding to determine whether a given ruling is subject to recognition.

      The Polish procedure is designed to supplement the Brussels Ia Regulation. A person relying on a foreign ruling must present an official copy of the ruling, a document confirming that it is final and a certified Polish translation.

      A ruling of a non-EU foreign court that is capable of enforcement by execution may be enforced in Poland, as long as the judgment is enforceable in the country of origin and no barrier provided in the CPC applies, after issuance of an enforcement clause by a Polish court. An enforcement clause is issued by the regional court for the debtor’s place of residence or registered office, or if there is no such court, then the regional court for the place where the execution is to be conducted.

      A non-EU ruling may be enforced when the order issuing the enforcement clause becomes final. 

    Costs

  42. 42.Costs
    Will the successful party’s costs be borne by the opponent?
    1. The losing party must reimburse the prevailing party for its costs (court fees) – including attorney’s fees, but these are capped at a low level. In practice, this means that the losing party is not required to reimburse the prevailing party for its actual attorney’s fees.

  43. 43.Legal aid
    May a party apply for legal aid to finance court proceedings? What other options are available for parties who may not be able to afford litigation?
    1. A party may apply for legal aid in the form of exemption from court fees and expenses (eg expenses for expert witnesses) and may also request appointment of an attorney whose fees are paid by the state. (These attorneys’ fees are capped by statute at a very low level.)

      A new act on free legal aid and legal education entered into force on 1 January 2016. The act provides for wider access to free legal aid.

  44. 44.Contingency fees
    Are contingency fee arrangements permissible? Are they commonly used?
    1. Contingency fee arrangements are allowed, but only part of the fee may be dependent on success. Thus ‘no win, no fee’ arrangements are not allowed. Partial success fees are quite common.

  45. 45.Third-party funding
    Is third-party funding allowed in your jurisdiction?
    1. There is no practice of third-party funding of litigation in Poland.

  46. 46.Fee scales
    Are there fee scales lawyers must follow? Are there upper or lower limits for fees charged by lawyers in your jurisdiction?
    1. There are no fee scales imposed in Poland with regard to the lawyer–client relationship. There are, however, low statutory caps on fees shifted from the prevailing party to the losing party and on the fees paid by the state to court-appointed counsel.

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GAR know-how provides reliable cross-jurisdictional insight to help cement the building blocks of international practice. In this section, select experienced practitioners answer commonly asked questions for key jurisdictions so allowing readers to be better-placed to solve the challenges of their working days.

Questions

    Overview

  1. 1.Court system
    Describe the general organisation of the court system for civil litigation.
  2. 2.The legal profession
    Describe the general organisation of the legal profession.
  3. 3.General
    Give a brief overview of the political and social background as it relates to civil litigation.
  4. Jurisdiction

  5. 4.Jurisdiction and venue
    What are the criteria for determining the jurisdiction and venue of the competent court for a civil matter?
  6. 5.Forum shopping
    Does your jurisdiction commonly attract disputes that have a nexus with other jurisdictions?
  7. 6.Pendency in another forum
    How will a court treat a request to hear a dispute that is already pending before another forum?
  8. 7.

    Deference to arbitration
    How will the courts treat a dispute that is, or could be, subject to an arbitration clause or an agreement to arbitrate, including in interim proceedings?


  9. 8.Judicial review of arbitral awards on jurisdiction
    May courts in your country review arbitral awards on jurisdiction?
  10. 9.Anti-suit injunctions
    Are anti-suit injunctions available?
  11. 10.

    Sovereign immunity
    Which entities are immune from being sued in your jurisdiction? In what circumstances? In what circumstances can creditors enforce a court judgment or arbitral award against a sovereign or a state entity?


  12. Procedure

  13. 11.Commencement and conduct of proceedings in general
    How are proceedings commenced? To what extent will a court actively lead the proceedings and to what extent will the court rely on the parties to further the proceedings?
  14. 12.Statement of claim
    What are the requirements for filing a claim? What is the pleading standard?
  15. 13.Statement of defence
    What are the requirements for answering claims? What is the pleading standard?
  16. 14.Further briefs and submissions
    What are the rules regarding further briefs and submissions?
  17. 15.Publicity
    To what degree are civil proceedings made public?
  18. Pretrial settlement and ADR

  19. 16.Advice and settlement proposals
    Will a court render (interim) assessments about any factual or legal issues in dispute? What role and approach do courts typically take regarding settlement? Are there mandatory settlement conferences between the parties at the outset of or during the litigation?
  20. 17.Mediation
    Is referral to mediation or another form of ADR an option, or even mandatory, before or during the litigation?
  21. Interim relief

  22. 18.Forms of interim relief
    What are the forms of emergency or interim relief?
  23. 19.Obtaining relief
    What must a petitioner show to obtain interim relief?
  24. Decisions

  25. 20.Types of decisions
    What types of decisions (other than interim relief) may a court render in civil matters?
  26. 21.Timing of decisions
    At what stage of the proceedings may a court render a decision? Are motions to dismiss and summary judgment available?
  27. 22.Default judgment
    Under which circumstances will a default judgment be rendered?
  28. 23.Duration of proceedings
    How long does it typically take a court of first instance to render a decision?
  29. Parties

  30. 24.Third parties – joinder, third-party notice, intervenors
    How can third parties become involved in proceedings?
  31. Evidence

  32. 25.Taking and adducing evidence
    Will a court take or initiate the taking of evidence or will it rely on the parties to request the taking of evidence and to present it?
  33. 26.Disclosure
    Is an opponent obliged to produce evidence that is harmful to it in the proceedings? Is there a document disclosure procedure in place? What are the consequences if evidence is not produced by a party?
  34. 27.

    Witnesses of fact
    Please describe the key characteristics of witness evidence in your jurisdiction. Is witness preparation allowed?


  35. 28.Expert witnesses
    Who appoints expert witnesses? What is the role of experts?
  36. 29.Party witnesses
    Can parties to proceedings (or a party’s directors and officers in the case of a legal person) act as witnesses? Can the court draw negative inferences from a party’s failure to testify or act as a witness?
  37. 30.Foreign law and documentation
    How is foreign law or foreign-language documentation introduced into the proceedings and considered by the courts?
  38. 31.Standard of proof
    What standard of proof applies in civil litigation? Are there different standards for different issues?
  39. Appeals

  40. 32.Options for appeal
    What are the possibilities to appeal a judicial decision? How many levels of appeal are there?
  41. 33.

    Standard of review
    What aspects of a lower court's decisions will an appeals court review and by what standards?


  42. 34.Duration of appellate proceedings
    How long does it usually take to obtain an appellate decision?
  43. Special proceedings

  44. 35.Class actions
    Are class actions available?
  45. 36.Derivative actions
    Are derivative actions available?
  46. 37.Fast-track proceedings
    Are fast-track proceedings available?
  47. 38.Foreign-language proceedings
    Is it possible to conduct proceedings in a foreign language?
  48. Effects of judgement and enforcement

  49. 39.Effects of a judgment
    What legal effects does a judgment have?
  50. 40.Enforcement procedure
    What are the procedures and options for enforcing a domestic judgment?
  51. 41.Enforcement of foreign judgments
    Under what circumstances will a foreign judgment be enforced in your jurisdiction?
  52. Costs

  53. 42.Costs
    Will the successful party’s costs be borne by the opponent?
  54. 43.Legal aid
    May a party apply for legal aid to finance court proceedings? What other options are available for parties who may not be able to afford litigation?
  55. 44.Contingency fees
    Are contingency fee arrangements permissible? Are they commonly used?
  56. 45.Third-party funding
    Is third-party funding allowed in your jurisdiction?
  57. 46.Fee scales
    Are there fee scales lawyers must follow? Are there upper or lower limits for fees charged by lawyers in your jurisdiction?