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The court prevented aggrieved farmers from fighting the bank – an extraordinary appeal of the Financial Ombudsman.

1 April 2021

In 2009, a married couple – farmers from the Podlaskie Voivodeship – took a working capital loan for several dozen thousand zlotys from a bank. In their opinion, the payments made for the repayment of the loan were booked against other liabilities towards the same bank, which – as they declared – they did not incur. The bank, using the regulations in force at that time, issued a bank enforcement order, which the farmers tried to challenge in court. The district court dismissed their claim, and – according to the Financial Ombudsman – the errors of the second instance court closed the court to pursue their rights. The only solution for them is an extraordinary appeal, for which they asked the Financial Ombudsman.

The Financial Ombudsman therefore filed an extraordinary appeal to the Supreme Court dismissing the complaint against the decision rejecting the appeal concerning the deprivation of enforceability of the bank enforcement order issued by the bank in 2010.

The basis for issuing the bank enforcement order by the bank was the agreement for a working capital loan borrowed by the married couple of farmers from the Podlaskie Voivodeship. The bank enforcement order (which was in force in Poland until 2016) made it possible to conduct civil enforcement after the court had given it an enforcement clause. This, however, was actually granted automatically, as the court examined the bank enforcement order only in formal terms. In the present case, the bank appropriated a slurry tanker belonging to the farmers under the bank enforcement order. In 2017, the couple filed a lawsuit for deprivation of enforceability of the bank enforcement order. In it, they alleged, among others, that the claim was met and the bank’s enforcement title itself is time-barred.

In the judgment of November 4, 2019, the district court dismissed the claim of the farmers, finding that the bank enforcement order met all formal conditions, the claim was not time-barred, because the limitation period was interrupted by concluding settlements with the bank and that the debt, contrary to the clients’ claims, was not paid off.

The farmers, as plaintiffs, appealed against the decision of the court of first instance that was

unfavorable for them. The appeal was filed by them in person – without the participation of a professional attorney. Along with the appeal, they also applied for an exemption from the appeal fee. The court acceded to the submitted application for exemption from paying the appeal fee and partially released the clients from the obligation to pay it. The clients were therefore required to pay the remainder of the appeal fee.

However, a copy of the court’s decision on partial exemption from costs was delivered to the farmers’ attorney instead of to them. The court did not summon plaintiffs acting personally to pay the rest of the fee. As a result of a court error, the court did not recognize the appeal, rejecting it as unpaid within the deadline. The court hearing the appeal against the decision to reject the appeal duplicated the error of the court examining the appeal. Both courts found that the lack of a summons to pay the rest of the fee was due to the fact that the clients were represented by a professional attorney who signed a letter supplementing formal deficiencies previously submitted by the clients in person for an exemption from the appeal fee, in terms of declarations on assets and family.

In the opinion of the Ombudsman, the court acted incorrectly by not calling the clients to pay the missing fee, but only by sending the decision on partial exemption from it to the attorney who did not appeal.

The court did not make a subjective distinction between bringing an appeal together with an application for exemption from court costs personally by the clients and their representation in the proceedings by a professional attorney, which resulted in the irreversible effect of closing the clients’ way to control the judgment issued in the first instance.

Using the assistance of an attorney by clients in the first instance does not exclude the possibility of submitting an appeal by clients themselves. This was the case in the present state of facts. In such a situation, in the event of formal deficiencies, the court should instruct the clients to supplement them as if the clients had acted independently. However, this was not the case.

In the appeal, the clients raised the objection that the court did not recognize the essence of the case, the limitation of claims, erroneous recognition by the court that in the case there was an interruption of the limitation period for receivables resulting from the bank enforcement title and incorrect accounting of the amounts paid to the technical account, indicating

that, according to them, the loan in question had long since been paid off, while the amounts were posted for loans which the plaintiffs, they say, had never taken. For these reasons, they cannot be prevented from verifying the judgment of the court of first instance.

The Financial Ombudsman considered it necessary to take action and submit an extraordinary appeal in this case in order to open the way for clients to substantive examination of their case by a court of second instance. The issued decision unreasonably deprived the clients of the right to substantive review of the judgment of the court of first instance. The intervention of the Financial Ombudsman may cause the court of second instance to consider the appeal filed by the clients and to substantially refer to all the allegations raised in it.


The Financial Ombudsman’s website in Ukrainian
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