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Decision 24/2018 on the annulment of a judicial decision
Constitutional complaint against the judgement No. Pfv.III.21.285/2016/6 of the Curia (damages, medical malpractice)
The concrete case at the Constitutional Court was based on a constitutional complaint. The petitioner had a nasal septum operation in anaesthesia and after waking up he developed symptoms of aphasia (speech disorder) and limb paralysis on the right side of his body. The National Rehabilitation and Social Expert Institute established that the petitioner had a health damage of 80 percent due to cerebral haemorrhage, hypertonia, one-side paralysis and obesity, and it classified the petitioner into disablement category II. The petitioner brought an action against the medical institution where the operation had been made, requesting the payment of damages by the medical institution due to the failure of the clinics to perform expectable diligence. As a secondary claim for the case of the court establishing that the defendant clinics did indeed perform due diligence, the petitioner requested to establish that his right to proper information had been violated. As on the basis of the primary claim, the Budapest-Capital Regional Court had established the clinic’s liability for damages and the Budapest-Capital Regional Court of Appeal approved this judgement, neither of the fora had to decide about the secondary claim. Upon the defendant’s application for review, the Curia annulled the final judgement, changed the judgement of first instance and rejected the claim.
In the constitutional complaint the petitioner alleged, among others, the violation of the right to fair court procedure. According to the petitioner, the Curia rejected his claim without examining the merits of the secondary claim. The Constitutional Court underlined in its decision: the right to turn to court as a part of the right to a fair court proceedings means more than a simple right to start court proceedings – it also implies the right to have the legal debate adjudicated by the court on the merits of the case. The obligation to have the claim exhausted raises a requirement concerning the judicial decision that the courts should decide about all elements of the claim and the counterclaim in the holdings of the judgement as the result of the examination on the merits. The Curia rejected the petitioner’s claim with final force, but one of the elements of his claim has not been examined on the merits by any of the judicial fora. The Curia laid down in its judgement, in accordance with the rules of the old Act on civil proceedings in force at the time of the procedure, that it had no possibility in the review procedure to examine the merits of a secondary claim formulated as a contingency. However, the Curia undoubtedly had the possibility to deliver a judgement in the review procedure that allows the lower courts to examine the merits of the secondary claim. Indeed, it follows from the right to turn to court, as a partial entitlement of the right to fair trial, that when the Curia changes the final judgement and rejects the claim in the framework of the review procedure, this decision should not result in a situation – notwithstanding an apparent accumulation of claims – where one of the lements of the contingent claims is not examined on the merits by any of the judicial fora.
Accordingly the Constitutional Court established that the judicial decision challenged by the constitutional complaint was contrary to the Fundamental Law, therefore the Court annulled it. Judge László Salamon attached a concurring opinion to the decision.