2017/10/18 - 31 Cdo 1704/2016 (summary)

Judgment of the Supreme Court of 18 December 2017, Ref. No. 31 Cdo 1704/2016

(Damages, liability insurance)



Plaintiff caused a traffic accident. One person later died as a consequence of injuries caused by this accident and therefore, the court ordered the plaintiff to pay a monetary compensation to the survivors of the deceased. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was driving a vehicle that had a valid liability insurance based on a contract concluded between the plaintiff and the defendant (an insurer). Accordingly, the plaintiff argued that the monetary compensation as a right deriving from the right to protection of personality according to article 11 et seq. of Act No. 40/1964 Coll., the Civil Code, falls within the scope of liability insurance pursuant to article 6 (2)(a) of the Act on Motor Third-Party Liability Insurance (the "Act on Liability Insurance"). For that reason, the plaintiff sought the court to order the defendant to pay the compensation to the survivors of the deceased for harm caused by the plaintiff's unlawful interference with their personality rights. Nevertheless, the lower courts denied this argument.

The Supreme Court was once again able to address the issue of the relationship between the compensation for damage to health or death under article 6 (2)(a) of the Act on Liability Insurance and the monetary compensation pursuant to article 11 and 13 of the Civil Code. The court also addressed a question regarding a date from which the limitation period starts running. It firstly recalled that there are three relevant directives harmonizing the laws of the Member States in the area of motor third-party liability insurance. The Supreme Court referred to the objectives of these directives and the relevant case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and concluded that the interpretation adopted by the Czech courts is contrary to the EU law. Since a direct effect of these directives was not possible, the Supreme Court stated that the national courts should interpret the national provisions in question in conformity with these directives. He concluded that such an interpretation may lead to the conclusion that the compensation for damage to health or death under article 6 (2)(a) of the Act on Liability Insurance also covers the monetary compensation pursuant to article 11 and 13 of the Civil Code. In relation to the limitation period, the Supreme Court stated that it starts running from the moment when the unlawful intervention was objectively capable of violating or threatening the personal rights of the individual. In this case, such moment was the death of the injured person.