Court Structure
First Instance
Costs of Litigation


According to the Constitution of the Republic of Poland, dated April 10 1997, the courts and tribunals constitute a separate power and are independent of other branches of power. The Supreme Court and the common, administrative and military courts implement the administration of justice. The common courts implement the administration of justice concerning all matters except for those that are statutorily reserved to other courts.

Court Structure

The structure and jurisdiction of the state courts is set out in the Code of Civil Procedure of 1964 and in the Act on the Structure of State Courts of June 20 2000. The Polish common court system comprises of four levels of courts:

  • district courts;
  • regional courts;
  • courts of appeal; and
  • the Supreme Court.

District and regional courts may be the courts of first instance. Regional courts hear appeals against rulings made in the district courts. Courts of appeal hear appeals against rulings made in the regional courts. The Supreme Court in Warsaw hears cassation applications from the regional and appellate courts acting as courts of second instance. According to the Constitution, each case can be heard in two instances.


Exceptionally, certain cases can be decided on the basis of documents only. However, it is a constitutional ruling that everyone shall have the right to a fair and public hearing of his or her case, without undue delay, before a competent, impartial and independent court.

Generally, all court hearings must be conducted in public. However, a court may exceptionally decide to sit in closed session to avoid the disclosure of, for example, state or trade secrets. The parties also have a limited opportunity to request a closed hearing in cases where the requesting party can show sufficient reason. This sometimes happens in family proceedings. In order to provide for complete confidentiality, arbitration proceedings are used. However, there is a danger of information being revealed even in these cases, when a court is asked to set aside an arbitration award.

First Instance

There are specialized courts for commercial law, labour law, social insurance and family law disputes. Generally, an action should be started in the relevant first instance court for the area in which the defendant either resides or (if it is a legal entity) has its registered office. Certain actions can be brought exclusively to a different court (eg, cases concerning ownership or some other rights connected to real estate, which can be brought to the court for the location of the real estate).

Sometimes a plaintiff has a choice of forum between the court that is competent according to this general rule and other courts.

For example:

  • when a claim concerns a commercial agreement, an action can also be brought to the court for the region of the performance of the agreement;
  • when a claim is in connection with activity of a business unit or company of the defendant, an action can also be brought to the court for the region in which the unit or company is located; and
  • when a claim is for tort, an action can also be brought to the court for the region in which the tortious action was performed.

The first instance court in which proceedings are properly begun will retain residual jurisdiction.


Civil proceedings are started when the claimant files a claim. Each pleading must include the following:

  • information as to the trial court;
  • names and addresses of the parties and their representatives and proxies;
  • the kind of pleading;
  • specification of claim or motion, its justification, factual basis and substantive evidence;
  • signature of an authorized person;
  • list of attachments; and
  • file number of the case.

The chairperson of the court examines the claim in order to check that it meets all the requirements. If the court decides that there are no grounds for rejecting the statement of claim, it examines its own competence and decides whether the proceedings should continue. The chairman fixes a date for trial and orders a copy of the statement of claim to be delivered to the defendant.

A defendant need not make any written response to the statement of claim, unless the dispute is commercial. In cases of commercial disputes all motions, claims and supporting evidence must be included in the statement of claim or the defendant's response. In complex cases other than commercial disputes, the court can also order a written response. If the response does not admit the claim, it must explain the grounds for doing so.

Although a claimant is entitled to respond further to a defendant's response to the claim in advance of the hearing, in practice the claimant's response is usually dealt with during the trial.

Sometimes several plaintiffs may bring a joint action or be jointly sued.


According to the Code of Civil Procedure all meaningful facts must be proved. Exceptions are facts generally or officially known to the court, or admitted, or not denied by the other party. The following sources of information can be accepted as evidence:

  • documents;
  • witness testimony;
  • court-appointed expert testimony;
  • examination/inspection of a subject/site (ie, evidence by inspection);
  • parties' testimony;
  • sounds, drawings, photographs, films and copies of documents; and
  • other means of evidence approved by the court.

Under Polish procedural rules, written witness statements may not be used as evidence. Witnesses must give their evidence orally to the court at the hearing.

The disclosure of documentary and other evidence is at the discretion of the chairperson of the court, who is responsible for preparing the case for trial. There is no obligation of discovery that requires the parties to disclose to each other all the relevant documents in their possession. At an early stage, the chairperson will question the parties to identify the exact issues that are in dispute. The court may ask to see any document but it may not force the party to present such a document (exceptions are for labour and family disputes).

At trial, the parties and the court may question witnesses. Evidence may be taken under oath and witnesses may be prosecuted under the Criminal Code if they give false evidence. Witnesses do, however, have a limited right of silence if they are closely related to a party or if their testimony might incriminate themselves or their relatives. They also have a limited right of silence if their evidence might reveal certain professional or state secrets.

Contradictory evidence from witnesses is dealt with by confrontation. The relevant witnesses are summoned to appear before the trial judge and they confront each other about their conflicting evidence. If specialized evidence is needed, the court appoints expert witnesses. The court also decides whether the expert should give evidence orally or in writing.

The judge's clerk records all court hearings, usually in handwritten note form. The minutes cover all oral evidence, submissions, decisions and orders of the court. According to the principle that the court (and not the parties) controls the action, the proceedings are closed by the court once it considers that it has sufficient evidence upon which to reach a judgment.


In the majority of cases the court is bound with the claim of the plaintiff and the judgment may not decide matters that are not requested in the claim, nor exceed the relief sought. Usually, judgment follows immediately after the close of proceedings and is given in writing. In complex cases, however, judgment may be adjourned for up to two weeks. The parties can request that the court produce a written version of its oral judgment, which should contain the court's detailed reasoning. This request must be made within a week of the initial judgment being issued. The court will also produce a written justification of the judgment if there is an appeal.

Except for judgments, the proceedings in certain cases may also be terminated by the court's decision. This will happen, for example, when the parties settle the case (it is a court's general duty to induce the parties to settle whenever possible). If the proceedings are terminated when the dispute becomes groundless, the plaintiff may also decide to withdraw the claim. If the plaintiff wants to withdraw a statement of claim only, without denying his or her claim, the defendant must agree to this. In all of these cases, the court will discontinue proceedings. The court may also decide on the costs of the case.


The Code of Civil Procedure provides three types of appeal: appeal, cassation and complaint.

There is a right of appeal against any court judgment of first instance due to any pleas or rejections. An appeal must be filed within two weeks of the appellant having received a reasoned judgment, or three weeks if he or she did not request such a judgment.

The other party to the proceeding is under no obligation to respond to the appeal. However, it may respond by submitting a written reply directly to the relevant appellate court within two weeks of receiving the appeal. The reply may refer to new facts and evidence.

An appeal is determined on the basis of the evidence produced at the trial hearing of first and second instance. The appellate court may change the original judgment, or annul the judgment and refer the case back to the court of first instance, if it rules that:

  • the original proceedings were invalid for reasons exclusively expressed in the code;
  • the court of first instance did not recognize the essence of a matter; or
  • the evidence hearing should be carried out again entirely.

If the statement of claim is rejected, or there are grounds to strike out the proceedings, the court annuls the judgment and rejects the statement of claims or strikes out the proceedings.

Subject to limited exceptions under the code, the judgments of the court of appeal are immediately enforceable.

A cassation to the Supreme Court can be filed in exceptional cases. The code provides some limitation to the possibility of cassation. For example, cassation is not allowed if the value of the claim is less than PLN10,000 (PLN20,000 in commercial disputes). Besides, the Supreme Court may refuse to recognize the cassation if there are no crucial legal issues in the case or there is no need to interpret the law.

Cassation may be based only on the grounds that (i) substantive law was infringed by its incorrect interpretation or application, or (ii) procedural law was infringed and this infringement could significantly influence the result of the proceeding.

The appellant must lodge a cassation, prepared by an advocate or legal counsel, within one month of receiving the judgment. The cassation should be filed to the court that issued the judgment in question. The other party of the proceeding then has two weeks in which to respond. No new evidence or facts can be submitted during the proceedings at this stage.

The Supreme Court can either confirm the judgment, or partially or completely overturn it. If the Supreme Court takes the second course, then the district or regional court must re-examine its judgment in light of the Supreme Court's findings.

Anyone involved in a case, from parties to witnesses, may raise a complaint against certain court decisions. The complaint must be lodged with the court that issued the decision within one week of issuing or receiving it. A court of higher instance will generally hear the complaint in closed session.


District courts and the relevant bailiffs exercise the execution proceeding. The bailiff undertakes most of the acts in the enforcement proceeding, but a complaint can be filed against such acts to the district court.

Execution and enforcement title
An enforcement title is the basis for initiating the execution proceeding for the whole claim contained, unless the content states otherwise. To obtain the enforcement title, the court must issue an enforcement order to the execution title (wherein the court confirms the enforceability of the judgment).

The law distinguishes between several types of execution title. They are:

  • a valid or immediately enforceable court's ruling and settlement in court;
  • an arbitration court's judgment and settlement in such court;
  • other enforceable rulings, settlements and acts; and
  • notarial deeds with a debtor's submission to the execution proceeding and obligation to pay a certain sum of money.

Methods of execution
To initiate the execution proceeding, the creditor must file a motion (together with the enforcement title) to the relevant bailiff or court, as appropriate. The motion should specify the performance to be executed and the method of execution. In one motion, the creditor may indicate several methods of execution.

To satisfy a creditor's pecuniary claim, the execution proceeding can be exercised against:

  • movable and immovable assets;
  • salary;
  • bank accounts; and
  • other claims and proprietary rights.

Generally, execution against movable and immovable assets is carried out in two stages: seizure and sale, usually completed by auction.

Execution against other debtor's claims consists of informing the bank, employer or debtor's debtor (respectively) that a certain amount of money cannot be released to the debtor, and should be paid directly to the bailiff or creditor.

If there is more than one creditor and execution concerns immovable assets, or the amount of money received from the execution is insufficient to cover all debts, the bailiff or the court divides the creditors into several groups according to priority of satisfaction.

Enforcement of foreign judgments
Poland is a party to the Convention on Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters, made at Lugano on September 16 1988. Judgments issued by courts from signatory countries to the convention must be enforced in accordance with its rules.

The provisions of the code can be applied to enforceable foreign judgments from other countries. Such judgments may be enforced in Poland, subject to reciprocity. A regional court adjudicates the enforceability of the judgment in Poland if the judgment fulfils the following conditions:

  • It is final;
  • The case is not under the exclusive jurisdiction of Polish courts;
  • The party had the opportunity of defence and was, if appropriate, properly represented;
  • The case was not finally recognized by a Polish court;
  • The judgment is not against the basic rules of Polish law; and
  • Polish law was applied as appropriate.


In order to secure a claim, a creditor can file a request to the court for an injunction. This happens before or during a court proceeding, and in some circumstances during an enforcement proceeding. If the application is filed before the proceeding has been initiated, the injunction contains an order to file a complaint within two weeks.

The applicant must substantiate (not prove) that the claim is credible and that securing it is necessary for the future enforcement of the judgment. The court should recognize the application and issue an injunction immediately, indicating the method and scope of securing the claim. The court may also request a deposit before the injunction is executed. A debtor can appeal against the injunction.

The most common injunctions refer to the seizure of movables, remuneration, claims or other rights, and the establishment of a mortgage on property.

Costs of Litigation

The plaintiff filing a statement of claim is usually obliged to pay a court registration fee. The maximum amount payable is PLN100,000.

The losing party is usually ordered to pay the winner's costs. However, the court has the power to order that a losing party pays none or only part of the costs. Costs can include court charges, the fees of legal representatives and other general expenses. There is a limit on how much one party can recover. In effect, legal expenses that exceed an amount assessed as the reasonable cost of instructing a local lawyer will be irrecoverable.

For further information on this topic please contact Lukasz Rozdeiczer or Pawel Pietkiewicz at CMS Cameron McKenna by telephone (+48 22 520 5555) or by fax (+48 22 520 5556) or by e-mail ([email protected] or [email protected]).

The materials contained on this web site are for general information purposes only and are subject to the disclaimer.