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Last update: 30-08-2007
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Jurisdiction of the courts - Poland

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. Should I apply to an ordinary civil court or to a specialised court? A.
B. Where the ordinary civil courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I should apply to? B.
I. Is there a distinction between lower and higher ordinary civil courts and if so which one is competent for my case? I.
II. Territorial jurisdiction (Does the court of city/town A or of city/town B have jurisdiction for my case?) II.
1. The basic rule of territorial jurisdiction 1.
2. Exceptions to the basic rule 2.
a) When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule) and another court? a)
b) When do I have to choose a court other than that in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule)? b)
c) Can the parties themselves attribute jurisdiction to a court that would not be competent otherwise? c)
C. Where specialised courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I have to address? C.

 

A. Should I apply to an ordinary civil court or to a specialised court?

In Poland, civil cases are heard by the ordinary courts and the Supreme Court (see: Organisation of the Judiciary in Poland) unless they come under the jurisdiction of the specialised courts.

The rules governing the jurisdiction of courts are set out in Articles 16‑18 and 27‑37 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

In the district courts, civil cases are heard by the following Divisions:

  • Civil Division;
  • Family and Minors Division (family tribunals) – matters relating to family and guardianship law and concerning the leading astray of children and criminal offences committed by minors, treatment for alcoholics and drug addicts and other matters which fall under the jurisdiction of the guardianship courts under separate legislation;
  • Labour and Social Insurance Division (employment tribunals) – cases involving labour or social insurance law;
  • Business Division (business tribunals) for cases pertaining to economic and civil law, such as disputes between companies operating in a given field, disputes within companies, actions for damages against members of the board of managing directors for making false statements to the State Court Register and actions against companies for causing environmental damage;
  • Land Registry Division – for land register records and other civil proceedings involving the land register;
  • Municipal Division (municipal tribunals) for cases heard in simplified proceedings or concerning escrow deposits and forfeiture of property.

At Warsaw District Court, the following Divisions also operate:

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  • Protection of Competition and Consumers Tribunal, which is mandated to hear cases involving anti‑trust rules and energy regulation;
  • Community Trade Marks and Design Rights Tribunal, which hears cases involving infringement of trade marks, threats to infringe designs or statements to the effect that designs and trade marks have not been infringed, annulment of a Community design right, revocation or annulment of a trade mark and the consequences of infringing trade marks.

B. Where the ordinary civil courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I should apply to?

I. Is there a distinction between lower and higher ordinary civil courts and if so which one is competent for my case?

As a general rule, the district courts have jurisdiction in respect of civil cases and issue judgments in first instance. District courts have jurisdiction in respect of all cases with the exception of cases reserved to regional courts under Articles 16 and 507 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

First‑instance regional courts have jurisdiction in respect of the cases referred to in Article 17 of the Code of Civil Procedure, i.e. concerning:

  • non‑material rights (such as divorce) and related claims other than the following: establishment or contestation of a child's parentage, renunciation of parenthood or dissolution of adoption;
  • protection of copyright and related rights and rights concerning inventions, utility models, designs, trade marks, geographical indications and topographies of integrated circuits, protection of other rights involving intangible goods;
  • claims under the Press Act;
  • property rights where the value of the disputed item is more than PLN 75 000, and PLN 100 000 in business proceedings, except in cases concerning: alimony, ownership disputes, liquidation of matrimonial property between spouses, alignment of the contents of the land register with the law as it stands;
  • the issue of a ruling replacing a resolution on the division of a cooperative;
  • the annulment, declaration of invalidity or establishment of the null and void status of resolutions issued by legal persons or by organisations which are not legal persons but which have been granted legal personality by law;
  • the prevention of, and measures to eradicate, unfair competition.

The following areas also fall within the remit of the regional courts:

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  • cases involving legal incapacity;
  • dispute resolution in cases involving the operation of nationalised companies: between a company's board and the director, between a company's internal bodies and the founding authorities and between a company's internal bodies and the monitoring body;
  • cases involving the recognition and confirmation of the enforceability of judgments handed down by foreign courts (Articles 1148 and 1151 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

In cases involving property rights, the petitioner is required to indicate the value of the object of the dispute in the petition, unless the object of the dispute is a given sum of money.

In cases involving financial claims, even those declared as an alternative to another claim, the amount indicated constitutes the value of the object of the dispute.

In other cases involving property the petitioner is required to indicate the amount of the object of the dispute in the petition pursuant to Articles 20‑24 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

II. Territorial jurisdiction (Does the court of city/town A or of city/town B have jurisdiction for my case?)

The Polish Code of Civil Procedure refers to four types of court jurisdiction: general (Articles 27-30 of the Code of Civil Procedure), concurrent (Articles 31-37 of the Code of Civil Procedure), exclusive (Articles 38-42 of the Code of Civil Procedure) and special (Articles 43-46 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

1. The basic rule of territorial jurisdiction
General territorial jurisdiction

Proceedings should be instituted with the court of first instance with jurisdiction over the defendant's domicile.

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Under Article 25 of the Civil Code, a natural person's domicile is the place in which they normally reside. If the defendant is not domiciled in Poland, general jurisdiction is determined according to where (s)he actually lives, and where this is not known or is not in Poland, proceedings should be instituted at the defendant's last domicile in Poland. Proceedings against the Treasury should be instituted in the court with jurisdiction over the place in which the establishment concerned by the dispute is located. In cases where the Treasury is represented by the Office of the State Attorney of the Treasury (Prokuratoria Generalna Skarbu Państwa), proceedings should be instituted in the court with jurisdiction over the place where the branch responsible for the establishment concerned by the claim is located.

Proceedings against other legal persons or non‑legal persons should be instituted in the court with jurisdiction over the place where they have their office (Article 30 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

2. Exceptions to the basic rule
a) When can I choose between the court in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule) and another court?

Concurrent territorial jurisdiction means that in some cases petitioners can choose the court in which they institute proceedings. In those instances, the petitioner can institute proceedings in the court with general jurisdiction or in one of the other courts indicated in Articles 32‑37 of the Code of Civil Procedure.

Provision is made for concurrent territorial jurisdiction in the following cases:

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  • maintenance claims, establishment of paternity and related claims – proceedings can be instituted before the court with jurisdiction over the domicile of the claimant;
  • property claims connected to the defendant's business activities – proceedings can be instituted before the court with jurisdiction over the place in which the defendant's establishment or business is located, if the claim is connected to the activities carried out by that establishment or business. However, this does not apply to cases in which, under the law, the Treasury is represented by the Office of the State Attorney of the Treasury (Prokuratoria Generalna Skarbu Państwa);
  • actions to establish the existence of a contract or to have it performed, annulled or declared null and void and actions for damages for non‑performance or improper performance of a contract – proceedings can be instituted with the court with jurisdiction over the place of performance of the disputed contract; in the event of any doubts arising, documentary evidence should be provided of the place of performance of the contract;
  • claims arising out of a tort/delict ‑ proceedings can be instituted with the court with jurisdiction over the place where the harmful event occurred;
  • claims for payment of case fees ‑ proceedings can be instituted with the court with jurisdiction over the place where the legal representative handled the case in question;
  • claims relating to the rental or lease of real estate ‑ proceedings can be instituted with the court with jurisdiction over the place where the real estate is located;
  • actions against the issuer of a bill or cheque ‑ proceedings can be instituted with the court with jurisdiction over the place of payment. Several issuers of a bill or cheque can be arraigned jointly before the court with jurisdiction over the place of payment or before the court with general jurisdiction for the drawee or the issue of promissory notes or cheques;
  • actions to conclude, establish the contents of or amend a contract, heard in separate proceedings in cases involving business law – proceedings can be instituted with the court with jurisdiction over the place of performance of the contract (Article 479, read in conjunction with Article 34 of the Code of Civil Procedure);
  • actions pertaining to labour law ‑ proceedings can be instituted with the court with jurisdiction over the place where the work is, has been or is to be carried out, or before the court with jurisdiction over the place where the workplace in question is located (Article 461(1) of the Code of Civil Procedure).
b) When do I have to choose a court other than that in the place where the defendant lives (court determined by the application of the basic rule)?

Exclusive jurisdiction means that the case must be heard by the court indicated in the Code. Provision is made for exclusive jurisdiction in cases involving:

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  • ownership or other rights in rem to real estate or possession of real estate ‑ proceedings must be instituted with the court with jurisdiction over the place where the real estate is located; if an easement is the subject of the dispute, jurisdiction is determined according to the place where the encumbered property is located;
  • inheritance or conservation by virtue of a letter, instruction or other form of will – proceedings must be instituted with the court with jurisdiction over the testator's last domicile and, where it is not possible to determine their domicile in Poland, before the court with jurisdiction over the place in which the inheritance, or part thereof, is located;
  • by virtue of membership of a cooperative, company or association ‑ proceedings must be instituted with the court with jurisdiction over the place where the body's registered office is located;
  • by virtue of marriage – proceedings must be instituted with the court with jurisdiction over the place in which the couple's last joint domicile is located if one or both of them is still permanently resident there. Where that is not the case, the court with jurisdiction over the domicile of the defendant has exclusive jurisdiction; where that is not applicable either, the court with jurisdiction over the domicile of the petitioner has exclusive jurisdiction;
  • by virtue of a parental relationship or relationship between an adoptor and adoptee ‑ proceedings must be instituted with the court with jurisdiction over the domicile of the petitioner, in so far as there is no basis on which to institute proceedings under the rules governing general jurisdiction.
c) Can the parties themselves attribute jurisdiction to a court that would not be competent otherwise?

Special jurisdiction means that, in the cases indicated in the special rules there may be a different definition of court jurisdiction:

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  1. The petitioner has been authorised to choose the court.
  2. If there are grounds for one court to have jurisdiction or if proceedings are instituted against several persons in respect of whom different courts have jurisdiction under the rules governing general jurisdiction. The same applies to cases where real estate whose location determines jurisdiction is situated in several judicial districts;

  3. Both parties have been authorised to choose the court further to an agreement or joint application.

    The parties may agree in writing to submit an existing dispute which has arisen from a given legal relationship or potential future disputes to a court of first instance which does not have local jurisdiction under the law. This court will then have exclusive jurisdiction, unless the parties decide otherwise. The parties may also, by written agreement, restrict the right of the petitioner to choose between courts with jurisdiction in respect of such disputes.

    However, the parties may not change exclusive jurisdiction.

    Agreements on court jurisdiction must be in writing and may form part of a legal agreement (prorogation clause) or be drawn up as a separate agreement.

    In cases involving labour and social insurance law, the court with jurisdiction may remit the case for hearing by another, equivalent court competent in respect of cases involving labour and insurance law further to a joint application from the parties, in so far as this is deemed expedient.

  4. The court with jurisdiction is designated by the higher court or the Supreme Court.

    If the court with jurisdiction is precluded from hearing the case or taking other action, the higher court designates another court. Another court is designated only where the court with jurisdiction is precluded from hearing the case e.g. because a judge has been barred or on grounds of force majeure.

    The Supreme Court is required to designate the court before which proceedings should be instituted if, within the meaning of the Code of Civil Procedure, it is not possible to establish local jurisdiction with reference to the facts of the case (Article 45 of the Code of Civil Procedure).

C. Where specialised courts have jurisdiction how can I find out which one I have to address?

Specialised courts consist of administrative courts and military tribunals.

The work of military tribunals is governed by the Military Tribunals (Structure) Act of 21 August 1997. Essentially, these tribunals hear criminal cases involving the Polish armed forces. They can be empowered to hear other cases only by way of an Act.

The work of administrative courts is governed by the Administrative Courts (Structure) Act of 25 July 2002. Administrative courts dispense justice by monitoring the activities of public bodies and ruling on disputes concerning matters of competence or jurisdiction between local government and central government. It cannot be excluded that in exceptional cases an administrative court may rule on a civil case as part of monitoring carried out on the activities of public bodies.

Further information

Ministry of Justice

http://www.ms.gov.pl polski

List of ordinary courts in Poland (addresses)

http://www.ms.gov.pl/organizacja/organizacja.shtml polski

« Jurisdiction of the courts - General information | Poland - General information »

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Last update: 30-08-2007

 
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