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Decision 5/2022. (IV. 14.) on compensation for damages
Constitutional complaint aimed at establishing the lack of conformity with the Fundamental Law and annulling the judgement No. Pfv.III.21.484/2019/12 of the Curia (compensation for damages, environmental pollution)
The Constitutional Court declared the contested judgement of the Curia as a review court, the contested partial judgement of the Budapest-Capital Regional Court of Appeal and the contested partial and interlocutory judgements of the Budapest-Capital Regional Court to be contrary to the Fundamental Law and annulled them. In the case underlying the proceedings, the petitioners withdrew from contract for the sale of real estate and brought an action for damages against the defendants, alleging that the condominium apartments they had purchased were unusable due to environmental contamination and explosions that had occurred in the premises. By partial and interlocutory judgements, the court of first instance dismissed the petitioners’ action. By its partial judgement, the court of second instance partially reversed the decision of the court of first instance by setting aside the provision dismissing the action for damages against the defendants listed in the decision and by setting aside the provision finding liability for damages, and within this framework ordered the court of first instance to reopen the case and to issue a new decision, and upheld the decision of the court of first instance in all other respects. The judgement of the Curia upheld the final partial judgement in the part challenged by the application for review. In the petitioners’ view, the judiciary contributes to the protection of the environment and the right to a healthy environment by applying the legislation on environmental protection, interpreting it in accordance with the provisions of the Fundamental Law. In its decision, the Constitutional Court stated that while the law-maker has the possibility to continuously promote the protection of the environment and nature by adopting new legislation, the judiciary must enforce the principle of non-derogation within the existing legal framework, partly by respecting and enforcing the existing legislation and partly by taking due account of environmental and natural aspects in the case of a regulation allowing for multiple options. The right to a healthy environment is both a fundamental subjective right (to which everyone is subject) and an objective obligation of the state to protect institutions. The state must therefore take particular care in creating, enforcing and complying with environmental protection legislation, as individuals may hold the state accountable for it. Furthermore, by interpreting the rules establishing liability for environmental pollution in such a way as to exclude the possibility of liability for pollution resulting from negligence, the Curia not only interpreted the relevant statutory provisions in a contra legem manner, but also deprived the right to a healthy environment of its essential content. Therefore, the Constitutional Court annulled the challenged judicial decisions.