The most recent amendment to the Civil Code which came into effect on 9 July 2018 shortened the basic period of limitation of civil claims. Previously, the length of this period was ten years, and at present it has been shortened – generally – to six years. Generally, since only claims falling due on the last day of the calendar year (31 December) will be subject to the statute of limitation after precisely six years.
In any other case this period will be longer, since the introduced amendment also changed the manner of calculation of this period. So currently the period of limitation will end with the lapse of the last day of the calendar year in which this 6-year period passed. Thus, the introduced rule is the same as when calculating the period of limitation of tax claims.
In the case of other claims (namely claims related to conducted business activity or periodical performance) the period of limitation has been extended, despite not having changed nominally. This is because, generally, the length of this period is 3 years as previously, but the introduced change of the manner of calculation of this period, which also applies to claims of this type, means that, in fact, this period has been prolonged.
The rules of calculation of the period of limitation described above do not apply to the periods of limitation introduced under special provisions which are shorter than two years. Therefore, they do not apply to periods of one year or shorter applicable in some situations indicated in the Civil Code, such as e.g. claims under the preliminary contract which become subject to the statute of limitation after one year from the date on which the final contract was to be concluded.
An important change made simultaneously with the shortening of the basic period of limitation is introduction of a rule of obligatory ex officio examination by the court whether the claim towards the consumer is not subject to the statute of limitation. This will enable consumers to stay completely passive, without the risk of negative consequences, in case their creditor brings an action to court. Moreover, this change will surely reduce the workload of district courts, including but not limited to the e-court in Lublin, to which a lot of cases concerning claims subject to the statute of limitation have been brought so far. This may have positive impact on the duration of court proceedings.
However, the amendment provides for a possibility of court’s mitigation of the rigour of the statutory lapse of the period of limitation of the claim against the consumer referred to above. According to the amendments made, in exceptional cases the court may, having considered the interests of both parties, not take into account the lapse of the period of limitation of a claim against a consumer, if reasons of equity so require. Acting in this way it should consider, in particular: length of the period of limitation, length of the period from the lapse of the limitation period to the time of pursuit of the claim and the nature of the circumstances which resulted in the entitled party not pursuing the claim, including impact of the obliged party’s conduct on the delay of the entitled party in the pursuit of the claim.
If the defendant is not a consumer, the rule applicable so far has been retained according to which the issue of limitation of the claim is examined by the court only in the case where the defendant makes such a charge.
Additionally, the period of limitation has been shortened with regard to claims confirmed with a final and binding court decision or a decision of any other body appointed to examine cases of a given type, or a decision of an arbitration court, as well as claims confirmed with a settlement concluded before a court or an arbitration court, or a settlement concluded before a mediator and approved by a court. In such an event these claims will be subject to the statute of limitation after 6 years and in the case of periodical performance the claim for periodical performance due in the future will be subject to the statute of limitation after 3 years following its maturity.
Generally, the new regulations concern all claims which have not become subject to the statute of limitation yet, namely also those which arose before the effective date of the above amendments. In the case of claims which arose before 9 July 2018 which in accordance with the legal regulations previously in force became subject to the statute of limitation after a period longer than the one applicable at present, a rule has been introduced according to which they become subject to the statute of limitation either after the lapse of the previously applicable period of limitation or after the lapse of the new period of limitation calculated from the effective date of the amendments, whichever occurs earlier. In practice, this applies, first of all, to claims subject to the basic period of limitation (previously 10 years and now 6 years). Therefore, to put it simply, it may be assumed that claims subject to the basic period of limitation whose maturity arose before 31 December 2013 will become subject to the statute of limitation after 10 years following maturity and those whose maturity arose after that date (but not later than on 9 July 2018) will become subject to the statute of limitation as of 31 December 2023.
Senior Associate, Legal Advisor
TGC Corporate Lawyers
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