In what cases can group proceedings be commenced?

The Polish Act is an example of the so-called sector-based solutions. This means that group proceedings may not be used to examine all civil cases, but only those which belong to one of the following categories specified in the Act.

Compared with the Act, Amendment no. 1 which entered into force on 1 June 2017 extended its original scope.

Currently, group proceedings may be used to examine the following categories of cases:

  1. cases  for claims on the grounds of liability for damage caused by hazardous products – this type of liability is governed by the Civil Code (see: Articles 4491-44910 Civil Code). It concerns liability for damages caused to consumers in result of a failure to guarantee the safe use of a given product. Such liability lies in principle with the manufacturer of the product. For example, in group proceedings one may request the ascertainment of the manufacturer’s liability for damages resulting from the use of harmful medication or a defective and dangerous car engine;
  2. cases for claims on the grounds of liability for damages inflicted by tort – the issue of tort (the so-called “tort liability”) are governed mainly by the provisions of the Civil Code (Articles 415-44911 Civil Code). Generally speaking, a tort is a wrongful and usually a culpable action of a given person or entity that caused damage to another entity. The Civil Code provides for a range of unlawful activities (see especially: Articles 415-441 Civil Code), that possess various preconditions. Tort liability can, for example, be caused by both an unlawful exercise of public authority and a road traffic accident;
  3. cases for claims on the grounds of liability for the non-performance or improper performance of a contractual liability – the issues related to the so-called contractual liability regime are mainly regulated in Articles 471-497 Civil Code. This category of cases includes any and all cases for the payment of damages on the grounds of non-performance of an obligation in full or in part or an improper (defective) performance thereof;
  4. cases for claims on the grounds of unjust enrichment – the institution of unjust enrichment is regulated by provisions of Article 405-414 Civil Code. Unjust enrichment occurs when a specific entity (the enriched) without legal grounds (in the form of a legal standard, decision of a state authority body, or an act in law, especially an agreement, obtains a material gain at the expense of another party (the impoverished). This category of cases also includes cases of “undue performance” occurring mainly in situations where a party delivering the performance acted on the grounds of an agreement which turned out to have been invalid;
  5. cases for claims on the grounds of consumer protection – as regards consumer protection cases, group proceedings are admissible in all cases of this type, regardless of the object of claim criterion; these may in particular be cases arising against entrepreneur’s use in their contacts with clients of the so-called abusive contractual clauses (see: Article 3851-3853 Civil Code) or unfair market practices (see: the Act of 12 August 2007 on Combating Unfair Market Practices).

In terms of principle group proceedings may not be used to pursue claims arising against violation of personal rights.

This exclusion does not pertain to (after the changes introduced by Amendment no. 1) a possibility of pursuing claims in group proceedings arising from a bodily injury or causing a health disturbance, including claims to which the closest members of the family of the injured party who died as a result of bodily injury or a health disturbance are entitled to. However, in the case of this category of claims, pursuing cash claims in group proceedings is limited to demanding the establishment of the defendant’s liability.