Dr Marcin Lemkowski

Class actions

The Act on Enforcement of Claims in a Group Proceeding went into effect on 19 July 2010. The act introduces the institution of the class action, not previously recognised under Polish law.

The act enables groups of at least 10 persons to pursue claims of a single type based on the same or nearly the same factual basis. The act is applicable in claims involving consumer protection, product liability or torts. It is not applicable to defamation claims.

In cases involving monetary claims, a class action is permissible only when the amount of the claim of all members of the class has been unified (although unification of claims may occur in subclasses of at least two persons).

The petition is filed by the class representative, who may be a member of the class or a city or county consumer advocate. The lead plaintiff conducts the proceeding in his or her own name on behalf of all members of the class. If necessary, the lead plaintiff also retains counsel; in a class action, it is necessary for the plaintiffs to be represented by an advocate or legal adviser, unless the lead plaintiff is also an advocate or legal adviser.

Another new feature is that the act permits counsel to receive a success fee (but no more than 20% of the amount won). So far success fees have been highly controversial in Poland, particularly among members of the bar, and have rarely been used in practice.

An announcement on commencement of a class action is published in a high-circulation nationwide newspaper so that other claimants may join the class. The court will schedule a window of one to three months after the announcement is published during which time claimants may join the proceeding. A plaintiff who fails to join the class during that time may pursue his or her claim individually.