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Bearing the burden of proof

The Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic (CC) has relaxed the burden of proof for certain plaintiffs.

The Court ruled that, in disputes between a hospital and its patient concerning compensation, the patient is considered the “weaker” party. Further, the Court stated that the weaker party has an “unbalanced requirement” of proving the proximate cause of a certain result. Specifically, it held that it is almost impossible for a patient to prove that the act/failure to act of the stronger party resulted in a given consequence (damage), as typically in such situations, all relevant facts are within the exclusive knowledge of the “stronger” party. This imbalance results in claimant’s near impossible task of showing not just a causal connection but also may prevent a showing of proof sufficient to substantiate the underlying claim. The CC stated that the doctrine to prove “all or nothing” is unjust in medical disputes. Especially, when the claimant’s arguments can be regarded as highly probable.

The CC, citing a scholarly article, concluded that if lowering the standard of proof as to causation will result in a “weaker” plaintiff prevailing on the merits, such a step should be taken.