Maintaining balance and security of legal transactions requires a precise definition of the limitation period for claims. This helps parties to the contractual relationship to exercise their rights effectively. Below we present an overview of the institution of limitation period in Poland. We analyse terms, as well as the possibility of challenging the limitation period.
Table of Contents
- Limitation period in Poland – explanation
- What is a limitation period in Poland?
- How to calculate limitation period in Poland?
- Suspension of the limitation period in Poland
- What interrupts the running of limitation period in Poland?
- Consequences of the expiration of limitation period in Poland
- Is it possible to demand payment of a time-barred claim?
Limitation period in Poland – explanation
The limitation period for a claim allows an obligated party to avoid fulfilling a claim after it expires. In practice, you cannot demand its performance after the specified period passes. Neither through court nor through enforcement proceedings.
Property-related claims are subject to limitation period in Poland. You can waive the use of a plea of limitation. However, if you do so before the expiry of the limitation period, the waiver is invalid.
What is a limitation period in Poland?
The general limitation period in Poland amounts to six years. For claims connected with conducting business and for periodical payments’ claims it is 3 years. Some claims have different limitation periods, such as 10 or 2 years.
The 6-year limitation period in Poland also applies to claims confirmed by:
- a final court ruling or by a ruling of any authority appointed to try cases of a given kind,
- an arbitration court ruling,
- a settlement concluded before a court of law or an arbitration court,
- settlement concluded before a mediator and confirmed by a court of law
If the claim confirmed in the above manner includes periodic benefits, the limitation of the claim for periodic benefits due in the future expires after 3 years.
How to calculate limitation period in Poland?
Limitation periods are fixed and cannot be shortened or extended. The rule is that the limitation period begins from the day the claim becomes due. This means – at the moment when the creditor can demand its performance. There are some exceptions. For instance, when the maturity of the claim depends on a specific action by the entitled party. Another specific case is limitation of claims for refraining from acting.
The end of the limitation period falls on the last day of the calendar year unless the period of limitation is shorter than 2 years. This helps to simplify the calculation of limitation periods.
Suspension of the limitation period in Poland
If in the course of the limitation period, there occurs an objective obstacle that hinders the creditor from enforcing the claim, the limitation period is suspended. Its commencement or further running is suspended for the duration of the obstacle.
The suspension period is not included in the limitation period. The limitation period in Poland continues to run after the cause of suspension has ceased to exist.
Suspension of the running of limitation period applies to claims that:
- are vested in children against their parents – for the duration of the parental authority;
- are vested in persons not having full capacity for juridical acts against persons who exercise guardianship or curatorship – for the duration of guardianship or curatorship exercised by these persons;
- are vested in one spouse against the other – for the duration of marriage;
- due to force majeure may not be pursued before a court of law or another organ appointed to try cases of a given kind – for the duration of the impediment
- are covered by the mediation agreement – for the duration of the mediation;
- are covered by a request for conciliation – for the duration of the conciliation proceedings.
What interrupts the running of limitation period in Poland?
The Civil Code provides for two situations that interrupt the running of the limitation period in Poland, namely:
- by any act before a court of law or other authority appointed to try cases or to enforce claims of a given kind or before an arbitration court, which activity is taken up directly to pursue, establish, satisfy or secure a claim. If the limitation period is interrupted, it does not run again until the proceedings are completed. This action must:
- serve to investigate, determine, satisfy or secure a claim,
- pursue this goal directly, e.g. filing a lawsuit, changing the lawsuit,
- refer to the person against whom the claim is made, although there are some exceptions
2. by the acknowledgement of a claim by person against whom the claim may be pursued:
- an agreement between the obligor and the obligee (proper recognition). It does not require a specific form (carried out on the basis of the freedom of contracts),
- declaration of the obligated party (inappropriate recognition). It must reach the entitled person and be intended by the obligated party.
The interruption of running of the limitation period occurs only within the limits of the claim that is the subject of the proceedings. After each interruption of the limitation, it starts to run again.
Activities that do not interrupt the limitation period, as they do not aim to achieve the goal, include:
- a request to appoint a court to hear a case,
- a request for exemption from court costs,
- a request for the re-issuance of an enforcement title instead of the lost one,
- a complaint about the actions of a bailiff.
Consequences of the expiration of limitation period in Poland
The limitation period takes effect after the specified period. The expiration of the limitation period means that the claim still exists. However, it becomes an incomplete (natural) obligation. The debtor can satisfy it voluntarily. Yet, simultaneously, he can refuse to perform the obligation without negative consequences. The creditor cannot enforce the fulfilment of the obligation.
If the debtor successfully raises the statute of limitations during the proceedings, this will lead to the dismissal of the claim. However, if he voluntarily provides a benefit to the creditor, he cannot demand the return of the benefit provided. This can occur when a debtor is unaware that the limitation period expired. The rule results from Article 411 paragraph 3 of the Civil Code.
Is it possible to demand payment of a time-barred claim?
The expiry of the limitation period does not exclude or deprive the creditor of the right to start a lawsuit to satisfy the time-barred claim. The expiration of the limitation period itself is not a ground for rejecting the suit. The limitation period in Poland can be an obstacle to considering the claim. It can lead to the dismissal of the action. It is taken into account by the court ex officio or at the request of the debtor.
At the same time, even if the action is definitively dismissed, the claim exists in a natural form. The judgment of the Supreme Court of 5 February 2009 (reference number I CSK 332/08) shows that a time-barred claim may be subject to determination in a court judgment. Its limitation does not deprive the parties of their legal interest in the determination.
The limitation period in Poland regulates the time for pursuing claims between the parties to the contractual relationship. It allows for the maintenance of economic turnover stability. On the one hand, it defines the period during which the creditor may demand satisfaction of the claim. On the other, it protects the obliged party from unjustified enforcement of his rights.
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