Information Note on the Court’s case-law No. 183
Momčilović v. Croatia - 11239/11
Judgment 26.3.2015 [Section I] See:  ECHR 334
Access to court
Requirement to attempt to settle a civil claim as a necessary prelude to contentious proceedings against the State: no violation
Facts - By virtue of Section 186(a) of the Civil Procedure Act, any party wishing to bring a court action against the Croatian State must first submit a request for settlement to the competent State Attorney’s Office. Failure to do so will result in the action being declared inadmissible.
In January 1998 the applicants submitted a request to the State Attorney’s Office for settlement of a claim for damages for the unlawful killing of one of their relatives by a soldier. When their request was refused they brought a civil action in a municipal court. However, that action was deemed to have been withdrawn when their representative failed to attend the hearings. In May 2005 the applicants lodged a fresh claim for damages in a different municipal court, but it was declared inadmissible because they had failed to comply with the obligation to lodge a prior request for settlement with the competent State Attorney’s Office.
Law - Article 6: The Court was called upon to examine whether the restriction of the right to access to court imposed by the procedural requirement to attempt to settle a case prior to instituting civil claims against the State had resulted in a limitation impairing the very essence of that right. The settlement requirement was provided for by law and pursued the legitimate aim of securing judicial economy by avoiding long and expensive court proceedings and by reducing the number of cases. As to the proportionality of that requirement, the Court noted that the applicants’ first civil action had been considered withdrawn due to their inactivity and failure to lodge a timely appeal. Following such a withdrawal and before instituting a new set of proceedings, the applicants were again required to fulfil the pre-condition of a friendly settlement attempt. In view of the refusal of the first request for settlement, it was impossible to say what the outcome of a second friendly settlement attempt would have been after such a substantial period of time had passed. The requirement was neither unreasonable in itself nor did it lead to a legal prejudice for the applicant’s claim. This limitation had not, therefore, impaired the very essence of their right to access to court.
Conclusion: no violation (unanimously).
© Council of Europe/European Court of Human Rights
This summary by the Registry does not bind the Court.
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