Yesterday (15 September 2022), the Court of Justice delivered the judgment on the case No C-18/21, Uniqa Versicherungen AG v. VU.
In the dispute in the main proceeding, VU, a natural person resident in Germany, was served with a European order for payment on 4 April 2020; the order was issued on 6 March 2020, at the behest of the plaintiff, by the Bezirksgericht für Handelssachen Wien (District Court for Commercial Matters, Vienna). VU lodged a statement of apposition to that order for payment on 18 May 2020, after the 30-day time limit laid down in Art 16(2) od Regulation (EC) No 1896/2006.
However, in those days of the Covid-19 outbreak in Europe, the Austrian Law on Covid-19 of 21 March 2020 was enacted. According to its Para 1(1) “in civil proceedings, all procedural periods that started to run after 21 March 2020 or which had not yet expired by that date were to be interrupted until 30 April 2020 and were to run anew from 1 May 2020”.
To decide whether the interruption of the procedural period also applies to the 30-day time limit prescribed by Regulation No 1896/2006, the Oberster Gerichtshof (Austrian Supreme Court) referred the following question for a preliminary ruling: “are Articles 20 and 26 of Regulation No 1896/2006 to be interpreted as meaning that those provisions preclude an interruption of the 30-day time limit for lodging a statement of opposition to a European order for payment, as provided for in Article 16(2) of that regulation, by Paragraph 1(1) of the Austrian Law on Covid‑19, pursuant to which all procedural periods in proceedings in civil cases for which the event triggering the period occurs after 21 March 2020 or which have not yet expired by that date are to be interrupted until the end of 30 April 2020 and are to begin to run anew from 1 May 2020?”
In the decision, the Court of Justice stated that those Articles “must be interpreted as not precluding the application of national legislation, which was adopted when the Covid‑19 pandemic arose and which interrupted the procedural periods in civil matters for approximately five weeks, to the 30-day time limit laid down by Article 16(2) of that Regulation for the defendant to lodge a statement of opposition to a European order for payment”.
On the European Order of Payment and on Covid-19 as a case of force majeur, the readers of RDIPP may refer to:
Bertoli, 2008, No 2, 395 ff.; Marrella, 2021, No 3, 533 ff.
Moreover, see, in our Book Series:
Villata (ed.), Book No 86.