We have the government’s economic aid package to fight the effects of #coronavirus; we have Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) help for entrepreneurs. And finally, we have – revealed by the Ministry of Justice on 19 March – a draft special purpose act on the effects of the #coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Ministry, this is the act on special arrangements for preventing, counteraction and combating COVID-19, other infectious diseases and the crisis situations caused by them.
The draft of the special purpose act provides for the suspension of the unstarted run and the suspension of the commenced run of the following:
- Time limits provided for by civil law, on observance of which the granting of legal protection in court is dependent;
- Statute of limitations for the punishability of the act and the statute of limitations for the execution of the sentence in cases of offences and fiscal offences and crimes, as well as petty offences;
- Procedural and judicial deadlines in court proceedings, including court and administrative, enforcement, criminal, penal and fiscal, petty offences, administrative, enforcement in administration and other cases.
This act is expected to enter into force soon.
Today, however, what legal means does an entrepreneur have in courts to suspend the running of court deadlines in extraordinary situations?
The basic provision in this respect is Article 173 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CCP). According to this provision, court proceedings are suspended by law if the court discontinues the activities due to force majeure. This means that the court does not have to issue an order and the court deadlines do not run and only start running when the proceedings are started again. The court shall then take no action except to secure the claim or evidence in the case. The actions of the parties shall not have any effect during the suspension. The consequence of the suspension of proceedings due to force majeure will also be that the court will undertake them ex officio, i.e. without the initiative of the parties.
There is no definition of force majeure in the Polish legal system. Therefore, it seems necessary for the special purpose act to define #coronavirus risk as a force majeure.
Admittedly, we have a REGULATION OF THE MINISTER OF HEALTH of 13 March 2020 on the announcement of the state of epidemic hazard on the territory of Poland (Dz.U. [Journal of Laws] item 433) of 14 March in connection with #coronavirus infections. But does it describe the #coronavirus risk as a force majeure? No, hence the problems of interpretation whether the court deadlines since 14 March have been suspended. Although by order of the presidents of most courts in Poland the hearings were cancelled in the period from 13 to 31 March, with the exception of urgent cases (arrests, parental authority, persons with mental disorders, prevention of domestic violence, the European Arrest Warrant and questioning of persons for the purpose of preserving evidence), it is not certain whether the deadlines for e.g. appeals, etc. are running.
This is why it is so important to introduce a statutory definition of the effects of the #coronavirus pandemic as a state of force majeure.
The Law Firm Żyglicka i Wspólnicy will keep you posted about the amendments being introduced. At www.kpr.pl there are studies available on how entrepreneurs and borrowers can get help with regard to the #coronavirus pandemic situation.
Revised: 20 March 2020