A civil law mediation institution was first introduced into the Polish legal system in 2005; however, the number of mediation agreements remained small. In order to make the use of mediation in civil matters more popular, especially in disputes between entrepreneurs, the Act of 10 September 2015 introduced a number of changes to the Polish Code of Civil Procedure. The changes were aimed at increasing the use of mediation, as well as to improving court proceedings and reducing associated costs. The new regulations came into effect on 1 January 2016.
The new law obliges courts to encourage the parties to mediate. The principle of confidentiality of mediation has also been strengthened. Unless the parties decide otherwise, all persons involved in mediation proceedings are currently required to maintain strict confidentiality.
A new formal requirement was introduced for pleading. Parties must inform the court whether mediation or other out-of-court dispute resolution has been attempted. If not, the reasoning for the failure to mediate must be given.
Mediation may also be carried out in writ and injunction proceedings; which was not possible previously.
The court has the possibility of directing the parties towards mediation at each stage of the proceedings and in any situation in which mediation may facilitate a settlement of the dispute. In addition, the court is now obliged to advise the parties on the possibility of an amicable settlement of the dispute, in particular through mediation.
Procedural issues have been clarified by giving parties the ability to choose a mediator, or to introduce an institution to exclude a mediator in case of circumstances that raise doubts about his/her impartiality.
An important change is the extension of the mediation period from one to three months. The previous term proved to be too short and did not match the actual duration of mediation proceedings, which averaged around 40 days. The change is intended to make the duration of mediation more realistic. The 3-month deadline is designed to ensure the efficiency of the procedure, while ensuring that mediation can be carried out effectively.
The mediator has the right to use various methods to mediate. He/she may also assist the parties in formulating settlement proposals, or indicate other ways to settle.
Finally, the limitation of the claim, which is now reached at the time of the request for mediation, even if eventually the mediation is not initiated either due to the refusal of the other party or other circumstances not on the side of the applicant, has been changed.
The statistics of mediation proceedings in civil and commercial cases show that, since 2005, the number of cases has been gradually increasing. However, this latest amendment caused a sharp increase in the number of cases in which the parties are referred for mediation. Since 2016, the number of mediation proceedings in civil cases in regional courts has increased by about 60%. In district courts, the increase was twofold. It is becoming more important to provide legal aid to entrepreneurs, both at the pre-trial stage, at the mediation stage, and at the stage of court proceedings.