Poland: Changes in civil procedure will make it easier for the parties to obtain a faster judgment and may improve commerce
The changes are extensive, so we shall present here only the most interesting ones:
A preparatory hearing has been introduced at which the court will try to persuade the parties to settle the dispute amicably. Should these efforts fail, the court will develop a plan for the trial, together with the parties. The plan is to include, among other things, a specification of the parties' requests, the disputed facts, dates of hearings, the procedure and date for taking evidence and the date for closing the hearing and announcing the result. Claims and evidence need to be filed no later than until the plan is approved, unless a party makes it plausible that this was not possible or the need for such claims and evidence arose later. The claimant's failure to appear at the preparatory hearing may result in the proceedings being discontinued, while the absence of the defendant may prevent the defendant from having any influence on the shape of the trial plan and may burden them with higher costs of the trial.
Cases should be resolved at the first hearing, and if this proves impossible, any further hearings are to be scheduled for subsequent days. Until now, gaps between subsequent hearings have lasted up to 6-12 months.
It will be necessary for the defendant to submit a statement of defence so that the court has an overview of the parties' positions before the first hearing. Failure to submit a statement of defence may result in a default judgment.
The possibility for the defendant to claim a set-off has been limited. The defendant will only be able to do so if their claim is undisputed, evidenced by a document or comes from the same legal relationship as the claim asserted. Otherwise the defendant will have to file their own suit. This limitation is intended to speed up proceedings and prevent fictitious allegations from being raised only to delay the final judgment.
A number of provisions have been introduced to counteract procedural obstruction, such as a ban on abuse of procedural rights or easier rejection by the courts of obviously unfounded claims.
Separate “business” proceedings for disputes between entrepreneurs have been restored. They will be dealt with in a more complicated but faster procedure. This will be based on documentary evidence, with witnesses being admitted only exceptionally.
At the same time, the amendment increases the costs of proceedings, e.g. in place of the maximum court fee of PLN 100,000.00 the limit will be PLN 200,000.00.
Source: Act of 4 July 2019 amending the Civil Procedure Code and other acts (Polish Journal of Laws of 2019, item 1469). Most of the provisions come into force on 7 November 2019.