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"Service of documents" means providing a given individual with access to correspondence intended for them in accordance with the law.
Service of documents is very important for civil proceedings as it is associated with a number of specific legal effects. Compliance with the constitutional principle of transparency of adjudication, the guaranteeing of parties' rights and the opportunity to defend them, compliance with the rules governing the legitimacy of proceedings, the correct calculation of deadlines and, accordingly, the validity of judgments, are all contingent on documents being served correctly.
The rules governing the service of documents are binding; the parties have no discretion in this respect. The rules are set out in the Code of Civil Procedure under Articles 131 – 147.
In Poland, documents are served formally, i.e. service of documents is effected on an ex officio basis. The following documents are served: judicial writs (served by the court on the parties to and other persons involved in court proceedings), including all types of notifications, summons and other letters which, in practice, usually have standard formats and to which are attached copies of written statements (applications and statements by the parties, letters instituting proceedings and other letters sent to the court during the proceedings) as well as other documents such as expert opinions and copies of judgments or orders.
In the course of proceedings, documents are served by the court. The serving authorities are: the post office, the court bailiff, ushers and the court service agency. As a rule, documents are served by post. Where there are particular problems in serving a document by post, the court may issue an order to permit service by ushers. During enforcement proceedings documents are served by a court bailiff. The Minister for Justice can set up a court service agency and determine its organisational arrangements as well as detailed procedures for serving documents.
Solicitors and legal advisors are exempt from the principle of formality and may serve documents on each other personally against a dated receipt. Documents can also be served personally in the court secretariat on persons who have proved their identity and confirmed receipt.
In addition, under special provisions, the presiding judge may issue an order to the effect that judicial writs must be served personally on local institutions and solicitors and that letters submitted to the court by local institutions must be accepted in person. Letters and consignments sent to institutions located in the same building as the court are transmitted personally against confirmation of receipt without involving the court's postal service. If a preparatory document has been submitted so late that it is impossible to serve a copy of it with a summons for the court hearing, it may be served during the hearing itself.
Judicial writs are served by recorded delivery against confirmation of receipt.
In cases involving labour or social insurance law, a court may call parties, witnesses, experts or other persons by any means deemed appropriate if this is necessary in order to expedite the matter.
In cases involving business law, the party represented by a solicitor or a legal advisor is obliged to serve copies of statements of case and annexes personally on the other party during proceedings. However, this does not concern documents where compliance with the deadline is contingent on the date on which they were lodged with the court (i.e. counter-claims, appeals, appeals in cassation, complaints, objections to a judgment by default, objections to a payment order, applications for a payment order, applications for security for claims, petitions for the revival of proceedings).
Where the addressee is a natural person, documents should be served on him in person, i.e. handed to him or, where he does not have legal capacity, to his legal representative.
Letters for a legal person or an organisation without legal personality are served on the body authorised to represent them in the court or handed to an employee authorised to take receipt of letters by the organisation's head.
Where a legal representative has been appointed or a person has been authorised to accept judicial writs, the documents are served on them.
Once a legal representative has been appointed, documents may not be served on the party itself unless it has limited the power of attorney or authorised another given individual to take receipt of documents. Deadlines are calculated as of the moment when the writ is served on the legal representative, even if the court has also served the writ on the party in question.
The person authorised to take receipt of judicial writs must be an employee responsible for taking receipt of correspondence of this type from the document server or in person at the post office or court.
Documents must be served on natural persons engaged in business activities in accordance with the rules applicable to natural persons. Documents must be served on businesses and business partners registered in the court record under separate provisions at the address indicated in the record, unless a party has indicated that documents should be served at another address.
Documents may also be served personally on a guardian ad litem appointed by the court deciding on the application submitted by the person concerned. This occurs when a statement of claims or other document which entails defending a party's rights is served on a party whose permanent or temporary place of residence is unknown. Organisations which do not have representative bodies, or where the place of residence of the members of those bodies is unknown, may also appoint a guardian.
If a party's place of residence is unknown and the letter to be served does not entail defending rights, displaying it on the walls of the court building is deemed to constitute service.
If the parties and their representatives fail to give notification of a change of address, the document is left in the case file and is deemed to have been served (except in the case of petitions for the revival of proceedings), unless the new address is known to the court. When a document is first served, the court informs the party of its obligation to provide notification of any change of address and of the consequences of failing to do so.
Documents intended for a person residing abroad should be served on their legal representative or proxy for document service resident in Poland; if the names of those persons are not indicated, the documents should be left at the party's address as indicated in the statement of claims.
Documents are served on prisoners via the relevant prison governor or head of the custody unit.
Service can be effected at home, in the workplace or anywhere the addressee is present. The place of service is decided by the parties in compliance with the requirement to notify the court of their address and of any change of address. The onus is not on servers to inquire about an addressee's new address. Under special provisions, the court conducts an investigation to establish the party's address only in cases involving family or guardianship law; an investigation may be launched to establish the address of the defendant in cases involving employees' claims. In exceptional circumstances, where it is difficult to serve a document at the addressee's home, the court may issue an order to serve it at their workplace. However, if the party has not indicated an address for service other than their home address, the court is not required to search through the case file for the address of the workplace.
Substituted service, i.e. on a party other than the addressee, is effected on natural persons only in a manner clearly laid down in law. In such cases, the letter is deemed to have been handed to the addressee.
If an addressee is not at home, the server hands the letter to an adult fellow resident or, if no such person is present, leaves it with the residents' association, caretaker or municipal body, in so far as the persons in question are not opposing parties to the case and have agreed to transmit the letter to the addressee. If it is impossible to serve the letter in the above manner or if the addressee or fellow resident refuses to be accept it, it is left at the post office or on the premises of a municipal body and a notice to that effect is affixed to the door of the addressee's residence or placed in the letterbox. Letters are kept for seven days starting from the day after they are delivered. If the letter is not collected within this time limit, it is sent back to the court. The date of delivery is deemed to be the date on which the addressee accepts the letter or on which the time limit for acceptance expires.
Similar arrangements apply where an addressee refuses to accept a letter and it is impossible to leave it at the place of service.
These arrangements apply to natural and legal persons, organisations and State Treasury bodies. They do not apply if the administration, caretaker or municipal body refuses to accept the letter.
If it is impossible to serve a letter on legal persons because a change of address has not been notified, the letter is left in the case file and is deemed to have been delivered.
If it is impossible to serve a letter on legal persons or organisations subject to the registration requirement because a change of address has not been recorded, it is left in the case file and is deemed to have been delivered, unless the new address is known to the court.
A confirmation of receipt, usually a form attached to the consignment, proves that a document has been served and the date of service. The form states that on the day in question the addressee accepted the above-mentioned letter at the address indicated above. Recipients confirm that the document was served and the date of service by handwritten signature. If they cannot or will not do so, the server fills in the date of delivery and signs in their place, indicating why the addressee failed to do so. After service has been effected, the post office stamps the first page of the confirmation of receipt with the date, this stamp confirming the date in the event of any doubts arising.
A confirmation of receipt provided by the post office is an official document proving that a document has been served and the date of service. Persons who claim that the document was served on a different date must provide evidence.
If a server infringes the rules governing service the delivery in question is deemed null and void and the proceedings may be declared invalid.
Where a document is not served on the right person, it becomes valid in respect of the addressee as soon as he accepts it.
The parties may not complain about court decisions on the service of documents. However, when lodging an appeal, an appeal in cassation or a complaint relating to other issues, a party to legal proceedings may plead that service was not effected or not effected correctly. The causes of invalidity deemed admissible by the court on an ex officio basis include parties being deprived of an opportunity to defend their rights, which might result from a failure to serve a writ on a participant in legal proceedings.
The cost of service of documents by the court is covered by the court fees (register) borne by a party, which are settled in accordance with the rules in force when deciding on the merits of a case.
The Polish Ministry of JusticeTop
Last update: 19-02-2007