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Interrupting the limitation period by way of a summons to settle – the end of doubts?

When examining the cassation appeal, the Supreme Court in its judgment of June 17, 2021 (reference number II CSKP 104/21) took a position in one of the more controversial legal disputes in recent years, namely the prerequisites for the effectiveness of a summons as a way to interrupt the limitation period

A summons to a settlement is one of the most popular ways to interrupt the limitation period – that is, to interrupt the period after which it may become impossible to pursue a claim due to the statute of limitation raised by the debtor. Proceedings caused by it are relatively cheap, quick and informal; due to these features, it is often initiated by creditors not with the aim of actually concluding a settlement, but only to interrupt the unfavorable time limits.

In recent times, a trend has appeared in the jurisprudence that questioned the effectiveness of such a method of interrupting the limitation period, which implied that the summons to a settlement attempt was purely apparent, that the only intention of the creditor was not to pursue the claim directly by way of a settlement, but to interrupt the limitation period itself. Judgments have begun to be issued, allowing for the statute of limitations in such situations. On the basis of such judgments of the lower courts, the Supreme Court issued the judgment in question. Although the content of the justification is not yet known, the announcement on the Supreme Court’s website shows that the undertaking of activities „directly aimed at pursuing” a claim is not subject to individual control aimed at determining whether in a given case the creditor’s purpose was specifically to pursue a claim or to implement other plans or interests; the effect of interruption of the limitation period occurs by operation of law (ex lege) as a result of a specific procedural act, which is the submission of a formally correct application. Although this is a Supreme Court ruling issued in a specific case, it may indicate the direction in which the interpretation of this issue will go, especially since a legal question on the same issue is pending before the Supreme Court recognizes it.

Author team leader DKP Legal Magdalena Napierała
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