Private Parties in European Community Law: Challenging Community Measures

By Albertina Albors-Llorens | Go to book overview

7
The Action for Damages

7.1 GENERAL FEATURES

The system of judicial protection provided for by the Community Treaties would not be complete if there was no action aimed at obtaining compensation for loss caused by acts of the Community institutions. The determination of the non-contractual liability of the European Community is one of the competences attributed to the European Court of Justice, in addition to its other heads of jurisdiction. This remedy is regulated by Articles 178, 215(2), and 215(3) EC Treaty which read:

The Court of Justice shall have jurisdiction in disputes relating to compensation for damage provided for in the second paragraph of Article 215 [Article 178].

In case of non-contractual liability, the Community shall, in accordance with the general principles common to the laws of the Member States, make good any damage caused by its institutions or by its servants in the performance of their duties [Article 215(2)].

The preceding paragraph shall apply under the same conditions to damage caused by the ECB or by its servants in the performance of their duties [Article 215(3)].1

The case law of the European Court has developed the conditions that are the basis of non-contractual liability. Relevant to this work are those situations where non-contractual liability arises from acts intended to produce legal effects. The Court made clear that in order to obtain damages from acts of the Community institutions, there must be (a) the existence of a wrongful act or omission, (b) damage, and (c) the existence of a causal relationship between the wrongful act and the damage caused.2

As far as the first requirement is concerned, whether liability arises from a decision,3 or from a regulation4 it is necessary that the act be declared unlawful. Initially, the Court required the act to be annulled first and only then could an action for damages be brought.5 This would clearly have been

____________________
1
The italicized words represent the Maastricht amendments to Art. 215. See also Arts. 151 and 188 Euratom Treaty. In the framework of the ECSC Treaty, see Art. 40.
2
Case 4/69 Lütticke v. Commission [1971] ECR 325, at point 10;. Case 153/73 Holtz & Willemsem v. Council and Commission [1974] ECR 675 at point 7; Joined Cases 197 to 200, 243, 245 and 247/80 Ludwigshafener Walzmülhle v. Council and Commission [1981] ECR 3211, at point 18.
3
Case C-200/89 Funoc v. Commission [1990] ECR 1-3669, at point 30; Case 59/84 Tezi Textiel v. Commission [1986] ECR 887, at point 70.
4
Case 5/71 Aktien-Zuckerfabrik Schöppenstedt v. Council [1971] ECR 975, at point 11.
5
Case 25/62 Plaumann v. Commission [1965] ECR 95 at 108.

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