A legal entity has the right to compensation – Resolution of the Supreme Court III CZP 22/23

Osoba prawna ma prawo do zadośćuczynienia

By its decision dated March 8, 2023, file reference I AGa 196/22, the Appellate Court in Gdańsk presented the following legal question to the Supreme Court: “Can a legal entity demand compensation from a person who has violated its personal rights for the harm suffered, based on Article 448 of the Civil Code in connection with Article 43 of the Civil Code?”

Background of the Question

The basis for the question was a negative opinion about the business activities of the plaintiff company and the quality of its products. This opinion was posted on the internet on a reputable online review service that allows users to review companies and their products. The company demanded the removal of the opinion it considered harmful from the internet, the publication of a relevant statement, and the award of specific compensation.

The first-instance court granted the compensation claim, although in a lower amount than the company had requested. However, the second-instance court raised doubts about the possibility of a legal entity demanding compensation. Consequently, the matter was referred to the Supreme Court, as mentioned at the beginning.

What Arguments Support Granting Compensation Rights to Legal Entities?

The primary argument for granting legal entities the right to compensation is the absence of impediments to the proper application of provisions protecting the personal rights of natural persons regarding compensation claims against legal entities. In the Supreme Court’s judgment of September 24, 2008, file reference II CSK 126/08, it was determined that Article 448 of the Civil Code can also be applied to legal entities in case of infringement of their personal rights. It was emphasized that, in accordance with Article 43 of the Civil Code, the provisions for the protection of personal rights of natural persons are applied accordingly to legal entities. According to the Supreme Court’s opinion expressed in the aforementioned ruling, Article 43 of the Civil Code contains a referral without imposing any restrictions on the means of protecting the personal rights of legal entities to Articles 23 and 24 of the Civil Code.

Another argument justifying the application of Article 448 of the Civil Code to legal entities is the perspective presented in the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence, which states that awarding monetary compensation or an appropriate monetary sum for a social purpose serves not only a compensatory function but also a satisfactory, repressive, and preventive-educational function. In such cases, the essence of compensation is the protection of the objective interests of the legal entity related to its personal rights.

In the viewpoint that allows legal entities to claim compensation for harm suffered, it is acceptable to argue that legal entities cannot experience harm as natural persons do, and the feelings of the individuals holding their corporate offices are not equivalent to the harm suffered by a legal entity.

What Arguments Are Presented by Supporters of the Opposing View?

Supporters of the opposing view refer to the opinion expressed by the Appellate Court in Krakow on September 28, 1999 (file reference I ACa 469/99), which states that legal entities are not entitled to monetary compensation because the provisions for protecting the personal rights of natural persons are applied accordingly to legal entities. They argue that harm as a moral injury cannot occur in legal entities, and it is impossible to identify an equivalent state of a legal entity to justify awarding compensation. The obligation to analogously apply norms concerning the personal rights of natural persons to legal entities leads to the conclusion that legal entities are not entitled to a claim for monetary compensation. Additionally, proponents of this view point out that the construction of a legal entity precludes the possibility of awarding compensation because legal entities do not experience harm in the same way as natural persons, and the feelings of their management, shareholders, shareholders, or employees cannot serve as a starting point for such an determination.

Which View Did the Supreme Court Adopt?

In its resolution dated October 3, 2023, file reference III CZP 22/23, the Supreme Court supported the first of the mentioned views by passing a resolution with the following content: “Article 448 of the Civil Code (currently Article 448 § 1 of the Civil Code) is applied accordingly to legal entities (Article 43 of the Civil Code).”