Group proceedings - cases in which claims of the same type, based on the same or similar facts, are pursued by at least ten individuals - are permissible in Poland. One of the claimants will act as representative and conduct the proceedings on its own behalf for the benefit of all the group members. Each member of the group must opt in and the action must be approved by the court before it may proceed. Additional members may join within a limited time frame.
There are a number of limitations on the claims that may be pursued by way of group proceedings and the remedies that may be obtained. Parliament has proposed changes to the Act on pursuing claims in group proceedings. However, these changes are currently at a very early stage of development and it is therefore difficult to foresee their final impact.
What forms of collective actions are permitted in this jurisdiction and under what authority?
The Act on pursuing claims in group proceedings (17 December 2009) introduced a process for group proceedings - cases in which claims of the same type, based on the same or similar factual basis, are pursued by at least 10 persons.
The Act applies to cases concerning claims for liability for damage caused by hazardous products, liability for torts, liability for non-performance or improper performance of contracts, for unjust enrichment and with respect to consumer protection, as well as other claims. Claims for the protection of personal rights are generally excluded unless they relate to claims for personal injury or illness, including claims raised by family members of a person deceased as a result of the injury or illness.
The commencement of group proceedings does not prevent parties who did not join the group or who have left it from bringing such claims against the defendant on their own.
Who may bring them?
The statement of claim in group proceedings is filed by the group representative.
A person, being a member of the group, or a district (municipal) consumer spokesman, may act as the group representative within the scope of their authority, that is, to the extent that they have an interest in the claim being brought.
The group representative conducts the proceedings on its own behalf, for the benefit of all the group members.
In group proceedings, the claimant (the representative of the group) must be represented by an attorney, unless the claimant is itself an attorney.
Opt in or opt out?
Opt in. The statement of claim must be accompanied by individual declarations by group members regarding joining the group and agreeing on the identity of the representative.
After the court decides about admissibility of a group proceeding in a particular case, the decision is published. Any future potential members of the group have a specific deadline from the date of the publication of the decision (one to three months) within which to file a declaration joining the group.
Group proceedings in respect of claims for protection of personal rights are generally inadmissible unless arising from claims relating to personal injury or illness, including claims raised by family members of a person deceased as a result of the injury or illness. However, in claims for damages in such claims, the scope of proceedings is limited to a determination of the defendant’s liability only.
Group proceedings in monetary claims are only admissible if the amounts of the individual group members’ claims have been standardised. This means that in each action there must be at least two claimants, whose claims are factually similar, who are also claiming the same amount. Their actual claims are “standardised” to give the same figure across all claims in that group.
Judge or jury?
A panel of three professional judges from a Regional (higher) court will hear the case and give judgment on the claim.
What relief may be obtained?
All the usual remedies sought in civil proceedings are available, including, but not limited to, compensatory relief, injunctive relief and declaratory action. Punitive damages are not an available remedy under Polish law.
When awarding payment of damages, the amount due to each member of the group or subgroup shall be established separately.
How are such actions funded?
In general, parties will initially fund their own actions. However, the losing party shall, upon the request of the other party, reimburse any reasonable costs incurred by them in pursuing the claim.
The court fee in a collective action case will be 2% of the value of the dispute (lower than the 5% charged for individual claims), but with a minimum fee of PLN 30 and maximum of PLN 100,000.
At the outset of the proceedings, the defendant may request the court to order the claimant to pay a deposit to secure the costs of the proceedings. In order for such a deposit be ordered, the defendant must demonstrate to a reasonable extent that the claim is frivolous and that the lack of a deposit will make it overly difficult or even impossible for the defendant effectively to claim the costs of the proceedings should it be successful in the group proceedings.
Is pre-trial disclosure available?
Generally, each party must be given access to the documents disclosed to the court and relied upon by the opposing party.
The court may grant an order for the preservation of evidence if an application is made before proceedings are commenced, where there is a risk that the taking of evidence may become impossible or excessively difficult, or where it is necessary to determine the current state of affairs for other reasons.
Likely future scope and development?
Parliament has proposed changes to the Act on pursuing claims in group proceedings. However, these changes are currently at a very early stage of development and it is therefore difficult to foresee their final impact.