Damages for flood victims from Płock – the Court of Appeals has issued a judgment in the class action

5 May 2021

The Court of Appeals in Łódź issued a final ruling that the victims of the flood of May 2010 are entitled to compensation. Almost 30 farmers may now claim specific amounts.

The judgment was issued in group proceedings.

The damages must be paid jointly and severally by the Governor of the Mazowieckie Province, Państwowe Gospodarstwo Wodne Wody Polskie (“Polish Waters” State Water Holding), and the Mazowieckie Province.

These institutions are liable for the improper exercise of public authority in the form of inadequate flood protection.

These negligent acts, as found by the Court of Appeals in Łódź (judges Małgorzata Stanek, Dorota Ochalska-Gola and Joanna Walentkiewicz-Witkowska), jointly led to the breaking of the floodbank in Świniary, commune of Słubice in the Płock poviat on 23 May 2010 and flooding twice – in May and June 2010 – the property of the group members (farmers – fruit processors) and caused damage to them.

Therefore, almost thirty victims can now claim specific compensation amounts, initially estimated at approximately PLN 20 million.

As representatives of the flood victims, attorneys Dominik Gałkowski and Agnieszka Trzaska-Śmieszek, told Rzeczpospolita, if the final judgment determines the defendants’ liability, they will apply for a settlement and then, if necessary, bring forth individual actions for specific amounts.

The negligence of the defendant institutions consisted, as confirmed by experts, in failing to dredge the riverbed, failing to clear overgrowth within the embankments and failing to maintain the embankments sufficiently.

In the first instance, the Regional Court in Płock had already stated that the property of the injured parties would not have been damaged if it had not been for the flooding of the Vistula riverbank. Now the Court of Appeals has confirmed this position.

This case was one of the first class actions in which, in order to circumvent the legal reefs encountered at the beginning of this new procedure, the action was limited to the adjudication of liability without going into the specific amounts of damages. Even so, as can be seen, it took ten years. It was also legally complex, as it concerned the determination of liability for a so-called complex tort, consisting in a dereliction of duty. It referred to both civil law issues and public law issues (duties of state bodies.

File ref. no.: I ACa 1099/18

Edited by: Marek Domagalski

The text originally published in: Rzeczpospolita, 05.05.2021