FOURTH SECTION

FINAL DECISION

AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

Application no. 57468/00 
by Jan DAŃCZAK 
against Poland

The European Court of Human Rights (Fourth Section), sitting on 4 May 2004 as a Chamber composed of:

Sir Nicolas Bratza, President
 Mr M. Pellonpää
 Mrs V. Strážnická
 Mr J. Casadevall
 Mr R. Maruste
 Mr L. Garlicki, 
 Mrs E. Fura-Sandström, judges
and Mr M. O'Boyle, Section Registrar,

Having regard to the above application lodged on 24 May 1999,

Having regard to the Court's partial decision of 3 July 2001;

Having deliberated, decides as follows:

THE FACTS

The applicant, Mr Jan Dańczak, is a Polish national who was born in 1954 and lives in Sapy, Poland.

The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be summarised as follows.

A.  Facts prior to 1 May 1993

On 17 July 1992 the applicant lodged with the Skierniewice Regional Court (Sąd Wojewódzki) an action for damages against his neighbours. He claimed that the defendants had caused damage to his barn by improperly storing silage and animal waste.

In 1992 two hearings were adjourned.

On 16 February 1993 the court held a hearing at which it heard the parties and witnesses and ordered an expert opinion.

B.  Facts after 30 April 1993

On 3 August 1993 an expert submitted his opinion to the court. The defendants' lawyer contested the expert's opinion.

A hearing scheduled for 17 September 1993 was adjourned due to the absence of the defendants' lawyer.

On 14 October 1993 the court held a hearing and heard an expert witness.

On an unknown later date, at the applicant's lawyer request, the court ordered another expert opinion. In January 1994 the opinion was submitted to the court. Subsequently, the defendants' lawyer requested the court to order a supplementary expert opinion.

On 29 March 1994 the court held a hearing. It heard two witnesses and an expert witness.

Subsequently, the defendants' lawyer requested the court to order yet another expert opinion.

In August 1994 the applicant's and the defendants' lawyers requested the court not to schedule any hearings until 30 September 1994 because of their respective holidays.

On 8 December 1994 the court dismissed the defendants' request for exemption from the court fees. They lodged an appeal but on 9 January 1995 the Łódź Court of Appeal dismissed it.

In May 1995 the trial court asked the defendants to indicate an expert who would prepare an opinion.

Two subsequent hearings scheduled for 31 January and 23 February 1996 were adjourned due to the illness of the defendants and their lawyer.

On 10 July 1996 the court, sitting in camera, ordered another expert opinion.

On 6 August 1996 the defendant's lawyer requested the court to appoint two other experts indicated by him. On 15 November 1996 the trial court dismissed this application.

On 17 March 1997 an expert opinion was submitted to the court.

In June 1997 the case was assigned to another judge.

Subsequently, the applicant's lawyer requested the court not to schedule any hearings until 30 August 1997 because of his holidays.

On 8 September 1997 the court stayed the proceedings because one of the defendants had died. Later, his heirs joined the proceedings.

On 21 January 1998 the trial court resumed the proceedings and sent the case-file to an expert in order to obtain an opinion.

On 20 March 1998 the expert submitted his opinion to the court.

Between 28 March 1994 and 5 May 1998 no hearings were held.

On 6 May 1998 the court held a hearing.

On 15 July 1998 the applicant's lawyer again requested the court not to schedule hearings during his holidays.

A hearing scheduled for 30 October 1998 was adjourned due to the absence of the defendants' lawyer.

In December 1998 the defendants' lawyer requested the court not to schedule any hearings between 1 December and 20 December 1998, and subsequently, until 1 February 1999.

A hearing scheduled for 8 February 1999 was adjourned because of the absence of the defendants' lawyer.

Between 7 May 1998 and 17 March 1999 no hearings were held.

On 18 March 1999 the court held a hearing.

On 31 March 1999 the Regional Court gave judgment in which it dismissed the applicant's claim.

The applicant lodged an appeal against the judgment.

On 21 October 1999 the Łódź Court of Appeal (Sąd Apelacyjny) dismissed his appeal and upheld the first-instance judgment.

THE LAW

The applicant complaint relates to the length of the proceedings, which began on 17 July 1992 and ended on 21 October 1999 with the Łódź Court of Appeal's judgment. They therefore lasted seven years and three months, out of which a period of six years, five months and twenty-one days falls within the Court's jurisdiction ratione temporis.

According to the applicant, the length of the proceedings is in breach of the “reasonable time” requirement laid down in Article 6 § 1 of the Convention. The Government reject the allegation.

The Court considers, in the light of the criteria established in its case-law on the question of “reasonable time” (the complexity of the case, the applicant's conduct and that of the competent authorities), and having regard to all the information in its possession, that an examination of the merits of this complaint is required.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously

Declares the remainder of the application admissible, without prejudging the merits of the case.

Michael O'Boyle Nicolas Bratza 
 Registrar President

DAŃCZAK v. POLAND DECISION


DAŃCZAK v. POLAND DECISION