(Application no. 32971/03)
20 January 2009
This judgment will become final in the circumstances set out in Article 44 § 2 of the Convention. It may be subject to editorial revision.
In the case of Palewski v. Poland,
The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting as a Chamber composed of:
Nicolas Bratza, President,
David Thór Björgvinsson,
Mihai Poalelungi, judges,
and Lawrence Early, Section Registrar,
Having deliberated in private on 16 December 2008,
Delivers the following judgment, which was adopted on that date:
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE
Despite the court's request, the applicant has failed to provide information concerning his business activities. The documents submitted concern the SEDNO Manufacturing and Servicing Company (Zakład produkcyjno-uslugowy) located at Morska Street in Koszalin. However, from the insurance policies submitted, it appears that the applicant insured two companies, both located at Morska Street in Koszalin: SEDNO Manufacturing and Servicing Company and the Private Car Transport Company (Przedsiębiorswto Prywatnej Komunikacji Samochodowej).
It is therefore not clear what type of business activities the applicant is involved in at Morska Street in Koszalin (...).
The documents submitted by the applicant show that he has already received PLN 360,572.68 [approx. EUR 90,142] as partial compensation from Warta S.A. According to the applicant, this amount did not compensate him for the damage actually incurred. However, there are no reasons to believe that the applicant's business collapsed because he received only partial compensation.
It further appears from the submitted tax return forms concerning SEDNO's business for January to October 2002 that the applicant made an eight-digit gross profit and a seven-digit net profit in that period. This leads the court to the conclusion that the applicant can afford to pay the court fees because he has sufficient funds. However, lack of information concerning all his assets prevents the court from making an objective assessment of his financial situation.”
“... It is impossible to find fault with the applicant that he spent in 2000 the amounts received from the defendant as well as the amount of PLN 44,104.68 spent in 2002 for dealing with the effects of the damage and pursuing his professional activities, instead of securing in advance sufficient funds for the payment of court fees. Taking into account the lapse of time and the fact that the applicant has been declared insolvent, the previous decisions concerning the exemption from court fees, based on the different facts, are irrelevant for the present finding.”
The court further found that, while it was true that the applicant was in debt and that his tax return for the period from January to October 2003 had shown a loss in the amount of PLN 68,538.74 (approx. EUR 7,134) and that his business was insolvent, his temporary financial problems did not, however, justify a full exemption from court fees.
II. RELEVANT DOMESTIC LAW AND PRACTICE
I. ALLEGED VIOLATION OF ARTICLE 6 § 1 OF THE CONVENTION
Article 6 § 1 of the Convention, in so far as relevant, reads:
“In the determination of his civil rights and obligations ..., everyone is entitled to a fair... hearing ...by [a] ... tribunal established by law. ...”
32. Accordingly, the Court concludes that, for the purposes of Article 35 § 1 of the Convention, the applicant has exhausted domestic remedies.
1. The parties' submissions
(a) The Government
(b) The applicant
2. The Court's assessment
(a) Principles deriving from the Court's case law
(b) Application of the above principles to the present case
However, in the present case the Court notes that the judicial authorities refused to accept the applicant's argument that he was unable to pay the court fees, without obtaining or considering any evidence contradicting the facts he had set out in his declaration of means.
In addition, the Court of Appeal made certain assumptions as to the applicant's means that were not fully supported by the material submitted (see paragraph 21 above).
The fee required from the applicant for proceeding with his action resulted in his having to desist from pursuing his claim and in his case never being heard by a court. That, in the Court's opinion, impaired the very essence of his right of access.
II. APPLICATION OF ARTICLE 41 OF THE CONVENTION
“If the Court finds that there has been a violation of the Convention or the Protocols thereto, and if the internal law of the High Contracting Party concerned allows only partial reparation to be made, the Court shall, if necessary, afford just satisfaction to the injured party.”
B. Costs and expenses
C. Default interest
FOR THESE REASONS, THE COURT UNANIMOUSLY
(a) that the respondent State is to pay the applicant, within three months from the date on which the judgment becomes final in accordance with Article 44 § 2 of the Convention, EUR 4,000 (four thousand euros) in respect of non-pecuniary damage, to be converted into Polish zlotys at the rate applicable at the date of settlement, plus any tax that may be chargeable;
(b) that from the expiry of the above-mentioned three months until settlement simple interest shall be payable on the above amount at a rate equal to the marginal lending rate of the European Central Bank during the default period plus three percentage points;
Done in English, and notified in writing on 20 January 2009, pursuant to Rule 77 §§ 2 and 3 of the Rules of Court.
Lawrence Early Nicolas Bratza