Litigation and dispute resolution in Poland
Litigation in Poland – key facts
|Structure of common Courts||
|Number of instances / appeals||As a rule two instances, incl. one appeal|
|Jury / lay judges||
|Number of judges adjudicating the case||As a rule – single judge in first instance and three judges in appeal cases|
|Standard court fee||5% of the claim value unless flat fee is specified for certain types of cases|
|Mandatory attorneys representation||In most cases not required, although highly recommended|
|E-mail communication with the court||Not acceptable, unless explicitly accepted by the judge|
|Litigation in English language||In practice – not acceptable (only via sworn interpreters)|
|Video conference court hearings||Available|
|Duration of litigation||Depending on type of case and court location – approx. from 3 months to 2 years in first instance|
|Acceptable forms of evidence||No major limitation: documents, witness, experts, recordings, videos, inspections, simulations etc.|
|Moment of presenting evidence||As a rule all the evidence shall be first pleadings (claim / defense) otherwise may be rejected by the court as delayed|
|Reimbursement of legal fees upon wining the case||The court adjudicates reimbursement of legal fees in accordance with statutory amounts (not in accordance with real costs)|
|Judgement and motives delivery||Not automatic – most usually only at formal request|
|Deadline to submit an appeal||14 days from the moment of delivery of written motives|
|Polish litigation rules||https://isap.sejm.gov.pl/isap.nsf/DocDetails.xsp?id=wdu19640430296|
|Directory of Polish Courts||https://arch-bip.ms.gov.pl/pl/rejestry-i-ewidencje/lista-sadow-powszechnych/|
Jurisdiction of Polish courts
When planning a court dispute involving the “Polish factor”, the foreign party must investigate when Polish courts are competent to hear the case. In other words, when a case may or must be decided by a Polish court. This issue is regulated by the provisions on jurisdiction in Polish Code of Civil Procedure.
The most basic rule is that Polish courts will hear the case where the defendant is domiciled or conducts business in Poland. Therefore, the Polish side, as a rule, may be sued in Poland. However, Polish courts will also be competent to hear the case in other situations.
Court proceedings with the participation of a foreign entrepreneur
It should be noted that a foreign entrepreneur is exposed to court proceedings in Poland, even if he did not conduct business activity in that country, but, for example he only concluded an agreement with a Polish entity. Even if the defendant is neither domiciled nor established in Poland, the case should be resolved in Poland in matters relating to, e.g.:
- obligations that have been performed or were to be performed in Poland,
- non-contractual obligations (e.g. tort or accidents) that arose in Poland,
- activities of the entrepreneur’s branches and representative offices located in Poland,
- monetary rights in the event that the defendant has assets in Poland with a value significantly exceeding the amount in dispute,
- labor disputes in which the employee worked in Poland for the benefit of a foreign entrepreneur,
- real estate located in Poland .
In some cases, Polish courts have so-called “exclusive jurisdiction”. This means that such a case cannot be considered outside Poland. The two most important examples of such a situation are disputes concerning real estate located in Poland and registration of legal persons or entities based in Poland.
Contractual jurisdiction clause
Polish legislator, to a certain extent, recognizes the autonomy of the parties as regards the choice of the competent court. Therefore, the agreements may contain the so-called choice of court clause (jurisdiction clause). In such an event, the case will be heard by Polish courts, even if they did not have jurisdiction under general rules, or – on the contrary – the case will be settled abroad, if Polish courts would normally have jurisdiction.
These principles also apply in proceedings for securing claims, non-contentious and enforcement proceedings with some, significant exceptions. It should also be borne in mind that the above principles are subject to modification under numerous bilateral and multilateral international agreements and EU regulations.
Structure of courts in Poland
Litigation in two instances
Pursuant to Polish law court proceedings should, as a rule, consist of two stages – two instances. The principle of two-instance proceedings in court proceedings ensures that a party may bring an appeal to the second instance if the ruling of the court of first instance is, in its opinion, unsatisfactory. The party may therefore appeal against the court’s judgment. The appeal is submitted to the court which is higher in hierarchy.
Types of courts
Justice system in Poland is consists of Supreme Court, common courts, administrative courts and military courts.
Most of the civil, commercial and criminal cases are heard before the common courts:
- Regional Courts,
- District Courts, and
- Courts of Appeal.
Common courts hear all criminal, civil, commercial, corporate, family and guardianship, labor, employment and social security cases which are not reserved to other courts. All common court judges are appointed by the President at the request of the National Council of the Judiciary.
Appeal against the judgment of the court
A person who is not satisfied with the judgement of the court may appeal against it. In other words, it has the right to apply to a higher court for reconsideration (known as the appellate court) and to change that decision. The court of second instance may examine the facts of the case and issue a new ruling on the merits of the dispute.
Cassation appeal to the Supreme Court
Moreover, in some cases, a party may file a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court, which is a court of law and not of fact. This means that the Supreme Court does examine evidence or hear witnesses, but only adjudicates on the basis of facts already established in previous court instances. Accordingly, the Supreme Court court does not constitute the third instance of civil procedure in Poland. Rather, it is an “extraordinary” court, hearing only some of the cases provided for in the Code of Civil Procedure.
Lay judge and jury
In addition, unlike many common law jurisdictions, the Polish judicial system does not operate on the basis of a jury. As a rule, all cases are heard by one professional judge at first instance and three judges on appeal. As opposed to jury, Polish law accepts in certain cases the lay judges, who are adjudicating only in very limited number of certain labor, family and criminal law matters.
Role of attorney in litigation
Mandatory attorneys representation in Poland
In most cases, there is no formal requirement for a party to be represented by attorney. The procedure before the Supreme Court is the most important exception to that rule. As a result, most usually you are not required to appoint a Litigation Law Firm – however, it should be mentioned that the Polish court procedure is very formalized. Pleadings must meet certain content requirements. These stringencies are even stricter in the case of specific types of pleadings. Accordingly, representation by a professional attorney is highly recommended.
The role of litigation attorney
Historically in Poland there are two types of trial / litigation attorneys, who recently have equal rights and functions: legal advisors (in Polish: radca prawny), and barristers (in Polish: adwokat). Appointed trial attorney is an authorized representative of a party to a court proceeding and as a rule may perform the following actions, e.g.: file a statement of claim (lawsuit), defense, further pleadings, application for securing a claim, reach a settlement, represent the party at the pre-trial stage and appeal the judgement.
It is highly recommended to appoint an attorney at early stage of legal dispute. First steps in the dispute and court procedure usually have a decisive impact on the outcome of the entire case. A delay in appointing an attorney may result in irreversible consequences in further proceedings and lead to the dismissal of the claim due to, for example, the principle of delayed evidence preclusion in force in Polish litigation procedure. The principle establishes and obligation to present comprehensively all the facts, claims and evidence in the statement of claim or defense without an ability to supplement at later stage of litigation.
Power of Attorney – appointing an litigator
In order to appoint an attorney in Poland, it is necessary to draw up a power of attorney. Appointment form depends on the type of activities to which the attorney is appointed and whether it is a general, specific type or specific action power of attorney. If you grant a power of attorney in writing, the document shall contain the name and surname of the attorney, detailed data of the grantor, description of the authorization scope, place and date of its issuance.
Due to strict procedural rules, most usually, Polish attorney will require hard copy of wet signature signed Power of Attorney.
Litigation costs in Poland
Under Polish procedural law, there are two main types of fees / expenses that are incurred by the parties:
- court fees; and
- legal fees and expenses
Both shall be reimbursed by the defeated party to the winning party in accordance with the court’s final judgement.
The party instituting the proceedings must pay a court fee. This principle also applies to certain types of special proceedings, e.g. security or enforcement proceedings, and to a specific stage of the proceedings, e.g. appeal proceedings and proceedings before the Supreme Court. The court fee depends on the type of dispute. In most of the cases it amounts to 5% of the claim value. In some cases it fixed and determined by special court fees regulation.
|Standard court fee||5 % of the claim value|
|Discounted court fee||1,25 % of the claim value|
Legal fees and expenses
Legal fees and litigation expenses (incl. fees of experts, translators, and reimbursement for witnesses) are awarded by the court to the winning party in the final judgement. However, it shall be underlined that in Poland, legal fees are not reimbursable in real amount (that the winning party incurred) but in accordance with statutory table. In very exceptional circumstances the court may order reimbursement in excess of the statutory amounts. As a result, in international, complicated or time-consuming cases – oftentimes the reimbursement of legal fees does not cover the realistic expenses.
Statutory reimbursement for legal fees in 2022 equals to:
|Case value||Statutory legal fee|
|10.000 – 50.000 PLN||3.600 PLN|
|50.000 – 200.000 PLN||5.400 PLN|
|200.000 – 2.000.000 PLN||10.800 PLN|
|2.000.000 PLN – 5.000.000 PLN||15.000 PLN|
|above 5.000.000||25.000 PLN|
Advances and costs exemption
During litigation process the court may order a selected party to provide advance payment for e.g. appointing an expert, witness, or a sworn translator.
Importantly, a party may apply for an release from litigation costs if s/he proves absence of ability to bear the costs of the proceedings without prejudice to the subsistence necessary for himself or the family (or in the case of a legal persons – the that the entity does not have sufficient financial resources to pay the fees). The release may be granted in whole or in part. It may also result in appointment of the court-appointed attorney ex officio.
Duration of litigation in Poland
Litigation time is a serious disadvantage of Polish legal system. However, recently the legislator introduced a couple of changes that improved the procedure, e.g. the possibility of holding hearings remotely (videoconference). Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict exactly how long a given case will take. The key factors determining this are the type of proceedings, the amount of the dispute and the complexity of the case, as well as the number of parties and the degree of their involvement in the trial, the number of witnesses or other evidence cited, e.g. evidence from an expert witness. Typically, litigation in two instances should take no longer than two or three years.
Complaint against excessive length of proceedings
In Polish law provides a possibility of filing complaint against excessive length of proceedings, which can often speed up the settlement of a case. Complaints about excessive length of proceedings are intended to ensure the right to obtain effective legal protection in court within a reasonable time. It is submitted to the court before which the proceedings are pending. It is subject to a fixed fee of PLN 200. Examination may not go beyond the efficiency control of the court proceedings.
The purpose of the complaint procedure is, on the one hand, to establish the length of time and, if necessary, to award appropriate compensation, but also to force the case to be proceeded adequately. A decision issued as a result of examining a complaint gives the possibility to recommend that the court hearing the case be taken in the matter of specific actions within the prescribed period.
Pre-trial actions / Pre-litgation stage
Collecting and evaluating evidence
Prior to file a lawsuit top the court of law, you shall collect the evidence, evaluate it and develop a litigation strategy. Evidence gathering is particularly important as Polish civil procedure requires the claimant to present all the claims and evidence immediately in the lawsuit. If the claimant does not comply with this obligation, the late evidence and arguments will be disregarded by the court.
An interesting institution of the Polish legal system is the conciliation procedure, which is one of the methods of amicable settlement of the disputes. Conciliation procedure is a separate procedure initiated at the request of any party to the dispute. It is run before the judge and it aiming to find a common position between the parties of the dispute. A settlement concluded within the conciliatory procedure has the legal force equal to the courts judgement. As a result, it is considered as an enforcement order that opens a convenient way for the creditor to enforce the claim in the event of breach of the provisions of the settlement by the debtor. Until June 30, 2022 summons to a conciliation attempt interrupted the limitation period of the claim, irrespective of whether or not a settlement was reached. As of June 30, 2022 summons to a conciliation attempt will not result in interrupting the limitation period, but it will only suspend it for the duration of the settlement procedure or mediation, respectively.
Securing claims – freezing orders
It is not uncommon for a defendant to hide or get rid of valuable assets in the face of an impending litigation. In order to prevent this, Polish law provides the courts with the possibility to issue various types of freezing orders. As a part of the freezing order the court may secure the claim by “freezing” the counterparty’s (defendant’s) assets, incl. bank accounts or encumbering them to special rights.
Stages of litigation in Poland
Stage 1 – Claim and defense pleadings
Proceedings before the Polish court are strictly organized. The litigation procedure is initiated by the plaintiff filing a claim (lawsuit). Once filed, the court assesses whether lawsuit meets all the procedural requirements. If there are no deficiencies, the lawsuit is delivered by the court to the defendant together with an order to submit a defense within 14 days. Then the court, in most cases, arranges the first court hearing, summons witnesses.
Stage 2 – Court hearing
Once the defense is submitted by the defendant, the court, in most cases, arranges the first court hearing and summons witnesses. Prior to the first hearing the court may also establish a plan of litigation and define order of hearings and the filing of the pleadings. Theoretically the litigation shall end after the first hearing. However, this is very rare and only happens when the matter is relatively straightforward. In practice, there is usually more than one hearing when witnesses are to be heard. In the Polish judicial system, hearings do not take place day by day, but are postponed for a period of one to several weeks or months.
Testimony in court
As a general rule, a party to proceedings is not required to testify in court. The testimonies of the parties are treated as supporting evidence. They are admissible only after other means of proof have been exhausted or when the essential facts of the case remain unclear. In place of a legal person (e.g. a capital company), the court may hear a person authorized to represent that legal person (e.g. the president of the management board). Contrary to the question of witness testimony, if a party does not appear in court, the court cannot impose a fine on the party.
Submission of pleadings
Pursuant to the provisions of Polish civil procedure, the claimant may file a claim, then the defendant may respond to the claim in the form of a statement of defense and, in principle, it is no longer possible to submit further pleadings, unless the court expressly asks the party to do so or approves to the request of a party in this regard. Pleadings submitted without the consent of the court shall be disregarded and returned.
Submission of applications for evidence
Requests for evidence shall be submitted to the court by the parties at earliest possible. In Polish civil proceedings, as a rule, the court ignores the evidence submitted after the lawsuit has been filed, if it considers that the evidence could and should have been invoked earlier. In other words, the court will not always admit all the evidence requested by the party.
As a general rule of procedure, a court will usually disregard late evidence, unless there is any exception under the Code of Civil Procedure.
Stage 3 – Court’s ruling
After taking the evidence, submitting pleadings, hearing witnesses and presenting their arguments in full by the parties, the court issues a ruling. A judgment may be issued after the hearing is closed, and the judge is obliged to adjudicate on the basis of the current state of affairs at the time of the judgment.
When the court ruling is enforceable?
As a rule, court judgments are enforceable after the judgment becomes final and the court issues an enforcement clause. The judgment becomes final and binding after lapse of the deadline for appealing. After that the party may request the court to issue the enforcement clause.
Stage 4 – Requesting written motives / justification
After the judgment has been rendered, each party has the right to request the court to present the justification of the judgment in an official written statement of motives. It is important to remember that in most of the cases the motives are not provided automatically, and each party has to submit a formal request for written motives within 1 week of the issuance of the judgment.
Are the motives / justification of the judgement provided automatically?
No. As a rule – in Poland you are obliged to separately request the motives / justification within 7 days from the moment of issuing the judgement. The motives / justification will not be provided automatically.
Is there a fee for requesting motives / justification of the court ruling?
Yes. As a rule, request for motives / justification is subject to fee of 100 PLN.
I missed the 7 days deadline to request the motives / justification of the judgement, can I still appeal against the judgement?
No. If you missed the deadline, you are not able to appeal the judgement, unless the court reinstates the deadlines at your justified request.
Stage 5 – Appealing against the judgement
If the Court issued an unfavorable judgment, an appeal to the court of second instance should be considered. In this case, it is first necessary to ask the court to draw up a written justification of the judgment. Knowing the reasons for the judgment will be necessary to assess the chances of winning the case in the court of appeal. If the chances of challenging the judgment of the first instance court are high, an appeal should be lodged with the competent court within 14 days of the delivery of the written justification of the judgment.
What is the deadline to submit an appeal against the judgment of Polish Court ?
As a rule it is 14 day from the moment of the deliver of the written motives / justification of the judgement.
How many levels of appeal are available in Poland?
As a rule – one appeal is available against the judgement in Poland. Further judicial review is only possible within the extraordinary measures (e.g. cassation appeal) which are subject to special conditions.
Stage 6 – Enforcement of the court ruling
In absence of appeal, or when the appeal was dismissed – the court’s judgement becomes immediately final. Final judgements are enforceable in Poland after obtaining the enforcement clause. Enforcement clause is issued by the court at the request of the claimant. More may be found in section: Enforcement in Poland.
Evidence in the court
Documents can obviously be used as evidence in the litigation process in Poland. This applies to both private and official documents (i.e. issued by foreign or Polish state or local authorities). A private document is proof that the person who signed it made the declaration contained therein. Therefore, if a party submits to court a private document signed by an opponent in the trial, and the opponent denies the authenticity of this document, he must prove his claims. This rule also applies to official documents. However, if the opposing party denies the authenticity of a private document signed by someone else, unfortunately you have the responsibility to prove the authenticity of that document.
In the Polish litigation system, there are also provisions introducing the possibility that the court, at the request of one of the parties, and sometimes at its own discretion, may request / order third parties or institution to present documents in their possession.
Expert opinion may also be an evidence in Polish litigation. As opposed to many other legal systems, there is no such thing as a party-appointed expert in Polish court proceedings. An in Polish litigation – expert may only appointed by a judge and must be as independent and impartial as the court itself. The court appoints an expert only after conducting other evidentiary activities, and it may also oblige the party who demands the appointment of an expert to pay an advance for the preparation of the opinion. After the court expert has drawn up a written opinion, he is often called upon to answer the parties’ questions, as the parties are served with the expert’s written opinion and set a period within which the parties may file remarks or objections against the opinion.
Testimony of witnesses
In principle, a party to proceedings is not required to testify in court. The testimonies of the parties are treated as supporting evidence. They are admissible only after other means of evidence have been exhausted or when the essential facts of the case remain unclear.
Witnesses can serve as a valuable source of evidence. In Poland, everyone has a legal obligation to appear in court and testify when summoned. The court may impose a financial penalty on the witness for unjustified refusal to appear.
There are certain legal circumstances in which a witness may refuse to give evidence or refuse to answer a question. This usually relates to situations where the answer to the question would threaten the witness with criminal liability or severe financial loss. If a witness unreasonably refuses to testify, the court may impose a penalty on him or even a short-term prison sentence.
In justified circumstance the court, as a part of litigation process, may order an inspection / audit to be carried out. Inspection most usually consists of visual examination of places, things or even people. The examination may be carried out with or without the participation of court experts and may be associated with the testimony of witnesses.
Other sources of evidence
Finally, the Polish civil procedure and litigation rules do not limit evidentiary measures. As a rule – anything could potentially serve as evidence, this includes e-mail, photos, videos, audio recordings, blood samples, etc. The possibilities are endless on condition that the party is able to convince the judge that the evidence relates to facts of the case and is relevant to the its resolution.
Translation and certification of documents
Translation of documents in litigation
Evidence in commercial and civil litigation often consists of documents drawn up in a foreign language. It turns out that in order to successfully take legal action in Poland, it is necessary to prepare certified translations into Polish. In Poland, the official language is Polish, and thus all evidence must be submitted to the courts in Polish language. This means that the document drawn up in English will be admitted as evidence and examined by the court only after it has been translated into Polish by a sworn translator.
Theoretically, in accordance with the Polish Code of Civil Procedure: the court may, but does not have to, demand that a document in a foreign language be translated by a sworn translator. On practical terms, Polish courts always demand to provide sworn translations of the documents in Polish language. As a result, when preparing to litigation in Poland, the plaintiff shall ensure that all important documents are in Polish or sworn translated into Polish language.
Possibility of claiming reimbursement of translation costs
Importantly, the party who incurred the translation costs in the case may submit an application for awarding costs related to the costs of sworn translations. As a rules, translation costs are awarded to the winning party on the top of the basic claim.
The provisions of the Polish Code distinguish two types of documents: official documents and private documents. It is about who created them – if public or state authorities are talking about official documents, private ones are drawn up by other people, both natural persons and entrepreneurs.
Going further, official documents, drawn up in the prescribed form by the designated public authorities and other state bodies within the scope of their operation, constitute evidence of what has been officially certified in them. On the other hand, private documents – made in written or electronic form, prove that the person who signed them made the declaration contained in the document. In order for the documents collected in the case to be considered a means of evidence, they must be authentic and original. It should be pointed out that the party referring to a given document in writing is obliged, at the opponent’s request, to submit the original document to the court before the hearing. However, as evidenced by the case law – documents attached to the statement of claim or other pleading, e.g. responses to the statement of claim in the form of non-certified photocopies, although they do not constitute documentary evidence, are not completely devoid of probative force.
However, the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure allow the parties to submit a copy of a document in place of the original, provided that the copy submitted in the case is certified as a true copy of the original. The authorization to certify copies to be true to the original is granted to: a notary public, a professional representative of the party, e.g. an attorney, legal advisor, patent attorney. If another entity certifies the compliance with the original, it will not have any legal effects. At the same time, it should be pointed out that the certification of compliance with the original may take place only when the party has the original, which may be shown for the purpose of certification, but for other reasons it does not want to submit it to the case file.
However, it should be noted that some documents (e.g. a will or death certificate) must be submitted to the court in original. The provisions of the Polish civil procedure do not provide for the possibility of submitting certain documents in a form certified to be true copies of the original.
Foreign documents and their legalization
It often happens that the parties use foreign documents during the process. First of all, it should be noted that foreign official documents have an evidential value equal to the Polish official documents. From a legal point of view, with two exceptions, there is no obligation to legalize foreign public documents. In practice, however, courts require legalization or apostille for virtually all foreign official documents.
Legalization is the primary method of authenticating foreign documents. It consists in confirming the compliance of a document with the law of the place where it was issued by a consular officer for the purpose of using it in a country other than the country of issue. It is worth noting that legalization does not confirm the authenticity of the document, but only confirms the issuance in an appropriate form by a competent authority authorized in accordance with local law and that the seal and signature on the document are not forged. Polish consuls are entitled to legalize official foreign documents.
FAQ – Litigation in Poland
What are the court levels in Poland?
There are three levels of ordinary courts in Poland i.e.: Regional courts, District courts and the Courts of Appeal. There is also one extra-ordinary court, i.e. Supreme Court.
When Polish court has jurisdiction to hear my case?
The answer depends on particular circumstances and type of the case. Nevertheless most usually Polish court will have jurisdiction to hear the case when the defendant is located or residing in Poland.
What is the difference between Adwokat and Radca Prawny?
There are almost no differences. It is mainly historical distinction which results in separate organization of associations. Both – may represent before the court in litigation in Poland.
What is the cost of litigation in Poland?
Litigation involves court fees, litigation expenses and legal fees. Court fee most usually equals to 5% of the claim. Litigation expenses depend on the case and may involve translations, witness expenses and experts fees. Legal fees are individually agreed with the attorney or the Law Firm. The winning party may request reimbursement of the legal fees in accordance with the statutory maximum limits.
Can litigation in Poland be run in English language?
No, litigation in Poland must be run in Polish language. Any communication in foreign language will be translated by sworn translator.
Are video conference court hearings available in Poland?
Yes, video conference court hearings are available in Poland.
Is the attorney representation mandatory before the court in Poland?
No, in most of the cases attorney’s representation is not required, although highly recommended. There are categories of cases in which attorneys’ representation is mandatory – as an example all cases before the Supreme Court.
What types of evidence is acceptable by the post court?
There are no major limitations as to type of evidence that the Polish court would accept. All standard evidence like documents, witness expert, witness, recordings, videos, simulations – are acceptable.
What documents do I need to start a case in Poland?
If you are a company you will need: 1. corporate excerpt from your company register, 2. power-of-attorney and 3. evidence supporting your claim.
What is the standard duration of court case in Poland?
The answer depends on the type of case and location of the court. Nevertheless the case in first instance usually takes from three months after two years.
I have received the lawsuit from Poland – do I have to file a defense pleadings?
Yes, if you don’t answer the lawsuits within the given deadline the court may issue the judgement in default to your detriment.
How much time do I have to file a defense pleadings against the lawsuit?
The term is usually defined by the court along with delivery of lawsuit. Nevertheless the standard deadline is 14 days.
Do I have to present all evidence in the first letter to the court?
Yes, Polish litigation procedure requires that the party presents all evidence in the statement of claim or in the first defense pleadings. Delay in providing evidence may result in its dismissal.
Is the judgement and the motives delivered automatically by the email or registered post?
No, in Poland you always have to request formal delivery of the judgement and written motors. Motives may be only requested within seven days from issuing the judgement.
Can I appeal the court judgement if I have not requested the written motives?
No, if you have not requested motives you will not be able to appeal the court ruling.
What is the deadline to file an appeal against a Polish judgement?
It is 14 days from the moment of delivery of written motives.
Are the court hearings in Poland scheduled day by day?
No, most usually between each court hearing there is a break of couple of weeks or months.