As a result of the consideration of the appeal against the sentence lodged by Mariusz Maksis, the Supreme Court admitted that the notions of unduly paid benefit and undue benefit should not be treated the same in the context of claims for reimbursement of paid benefits formulated by the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS).
This refers to the situation of an unauthorised overlapping of benefits paid by the Social Insurance Institution (ZUS), not due to a fault of the party of interest. Initially, ZUS denied the insured person the right to the pension, as a result of which that person appealed against the decision to the court. In the meantime, the insured was granted the right to a rehabilitation benefit and, during the period of taking advantage of this benefit, the court managed to consider the appeal and ruled on the change of the ZUS decision, granting the insured the right to the pension.
Thus, the insured acquired the right to the pension only during the time of receiving another ZUS benefit (in this case it was a rehabilitation benefit). The problem is that the judgement awarding the right to a social security benefit (in this case – the pension) has a retroactive effect.
As a result, the insured person was compensated with the pension for the period from the date of application for the pension, including for the period in which that person also received a rehabilitation benefit.
In view of the above, ZUS considered that, as a result of granting the retroactive right to the pension, the rehabilitation benefit received by the insured during that period is a benefit unduly paid and is subject to reimbursement with interest. However, the Supreme Court in its justification of the judgement confirmed that the obligation to return the benefit is imposed only on those who accepted the benefit in bad faith, being aware of its undue nature, which distinguishes the concept of unduly paid benefit from undue benefit. In the case in question, the rehabilitation benefit was paid when the insured person did not yet have the right to the pension and could not know what the court’s decision would be made in this case in the future.
In the opinion of the Supreme Court, this means that payment of the benefit in the way that was not influenced by the fault (malice) of the beneficiary does not justify the insured person’s obligation to return the unduly received benefit.