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A success in a dispute does not automatically mean full compensation for procedural costs

This is according to a decision from the Slovak Constitutional Court.

This decision applied to a case where plaintiff sought settlement of co-ownership of real estate. The transfer of the ownership share to the defendant was not disputed, but the parties were in disagreement about the compensation for it. Prior to the proceeding, the defendant offered a little over EUR 34,000 to the plaintiff for the co-ownership. The plaintiff refused and she filed an action, demanding EUR 50,000. She later reduced her demand to EUR 44,000. During the trial, the defendant countered that as a result of improvements the defendant had made to the property. the value was increased by approx. EUR 2,500, an amount which the defendant wished to be compensated for. The matter was decided before the District Court and the Regional Court as the appellate court. The courts granted the exclusive ownership to defendant for a compensation of approx. EUR 28,000. Since plaintiff was successful – the court granted the ownership share to defendant and obliged him to pay compensation, the Regional Court granted plaintiff a full compensation for procedural costs. Defendant fought this at the Slovak Constitutional Court and stated, among other things, that the settlement of the co-ownership rights itself was not disputed. The parties were in disagreement about the amount of the compensation and he had offered plaintiff a higher compensation than what she was granted by the courts.

The Slovak Constitutional Court found that defendant was right – it confirmed a violation of (i) the basic right to court protection and (ii) the basic right to own property. It vacated the judgment with regard to the compensation for procedural costs and referred the case back to the district court.

The final decision of the district court and the amount of the compensation granted to plaintiff is, as of yet, unknown. However, we believe that if the defendant had not offered to buy the co-ownership for EUR 34,000 prior to the proceeding, plaintiff’s claim would be successful by approx. 63%. She demanded EUR 44,000 and was granted EUR 28,000. Since the defendant previously offered plaintiff a compensation exceeding EUR 34,000, and the court “only” awarded her EUR 28,000, we believe that the plaintiff was not successful at all; she gained less than she had been offered. We believe that it is questionable whether the plaintiff is entitled to a compensation for procedural costs despite a success in the matter – granting the co-owned share to defendant. The Constitutional Court also gave instructions on how to proceed in a case like this, by stating that the general court can only grant a participant procedural costs compensation which it purposefully spent to enforce or defend its right.