Since the entry into force of Act No. 89/2012 Coll.,
Civil Code, as amended, a number of lawyers have considered this issue. On 10 March
2020, the Supreme Court issued a decision file no. No. 21 Cdo 710/2019, in
which the court outlined that in a situation where there is no right to
compensation under the Labour Code, a right to compensation under the Civil
Code can exist.
Two survivors - adult children - sought compensation
from the employer for the non-pecuniary damage caused to them by their father's
death from an accident at work, which infringed their personal rights. The
employer rejected their claim on the grounds that the employee's death was due
to the fault of the deceased himself. Employer further argued that the
survivors are not dependent children and one-off compensation for survivors
belongs only to dependent children (Section 378 (1) of the Labour Code).
The courts of first and second instance upheld the
survivors in part, basing the defendant's liability on a combination of
employment and civil liability. Based on the appeal of the employer
(defendant), the whole question was re-examined by the Supreme Court of the
The Supreme Court concluded that one-off compensation
for survivors according to the Labour Code belongs only to cases defined in the
Labour Code and this scope cannot be further extended to other survivors.
Therefore, if the Labour Code stipulates that one-off compensation belongs only
to dependent children, it cannot be provided to non-dependent children. The
provisions of the Civil Code, which regulates the
extent of non-pecuniary damage consisting of mental suffering due to the bodily
injury and death, cannot be used for this purpose either.
However, in this case, the Supreme Court concluded
that causing the death of a family member is an unjustified intrusion on the
privacy of family members. This also corresponds with the interpretation of the
Constitutional Court, which within respect for private life also includes the
right to develop relationships with other people, including (of course) family
members. Compensation for non-property damage caused by an interference with
the absolute right to personality is thus possible according to the general
regulation of compensation for damage under the Civil Code.
It means that the obligation to compensate non-pecuniary
damage to another as a result of an interference with the right to personality
rests only with the person who has interfered with this right through a culpable
breach of an obligation stipulated by law; fault is presumed.
The Court of first and second instance therefore erred
in holding that the employer was liable for damage under employment law. The
strict liability for damage under the Labour Code applies only to those
compensations which are regulated directly by the Labour Code. As this was not
a case of compensation under the Labour Code, the courts had to decide whether
the employer was guilty of a breach of a statutory obligation, what was the
fault and whether there was a causal link between the breach and the harmful
consequence (death of the employee).
The Supreme Court returned the case to the Court of
What does this mean? The concurrence of liability for
damage under the Labour Code and the Civil Code is clearly possible. However,
in the case of liability under the Labour Code, it is necessary to proceed in
accordance with labour law regulations, and in the case of liability under the
Civil Code, it is necessary to follow the rules and conditions under the Civil
Code. You cannot combine individual rules. In this case, the survivors were not
among those entitled to the payment of one-off compensation to the Labour Code.
But how will the situation be assessed when the survivors will be paid the
one-off compensation according to the Labour Code? Will they be able to demand compensation
for interference with personal law? And if the conditions are met, how will the
court consider the fact that they have already received or will receive compensation
under the Labour Code? We still have to wait for the answer to this question.
The specific issue addressed in this case, i.e. the
question of whether one-time compensation, which serves not only as a security
but also as a compensation for emotional damage, also belongs to the non-dependent
children of the deceased employee, will be resolved by 1.1.2021 by amendment of
the law – the compensation will be paid to these persons in the amount (equal
to other entitled persons) determined as at least twenty times the average wage
in the national economy recorded from the first to third quarters of the
calendar year preceding the calendar year in which the right to this