|Abstract: ||Žalos instituto esmė yra visiško žalos atlyginimo principas (restitutio in integrum). Lietuvos Respublikos civilinio kodekso 6.251 straipsnyje įtvirtinta nuostata, jog padaryti nuostoliai (turtinės žalos piniginė išraiška), turi būti atlyginti visiškai, išskyrus atvejus, kai specialūs įstatymai ar sutartis nustato ribotą atsakomybę.
Tačiau visiško žalos atlyginimo principas gali būti ribojamas Lietuvos Respublikos civilinio kodekso straipsniuose nustatytų kriterijų, į kuriuos teismas gali atsižvelgti. Vienas iš tokių kriterijų yra žalą padariusio asmens turtinė padėtis. Taigi teismui yra suteikiama diskrecija nukrypti nuo visiško žalos atlyginimo principo remiantis žalą padariusio asmens turtine padėtimi. Tokiu atveju pagrįstai kyla klausimas ar nėra pažeidžiamos žalą patyrusio asmens teisės tais atvejais, kai atlygintinos žalos (tiek turtinės tiek neturtinės) dydis sumažinamas, arba žalą sukėlusio asmens, kai yra galimybė priteisti didesnį žalos atlyginimą. Paprastai žalą sukėlusio asmens turtinės padėties kriterijus Lietuvos teismų praktikoje vertinamas aspektu ar žalą sukėlusio asmens turtinė padėtis yra pakankamai sunki, kad teismas galėtų sumažinti žalos atlyginimo dydį. Toks žalos sumažinimas turėtų užkirsti kelią galimiems sunkiems padariniams, kurie kiltų žalą sukėlusiam asmeniui iš jo priteisiant kompensaciją didesnę nei jis būtų pajėgus atlyginti.
Kita vertus žalą patyrusiam asmeniui taip pat gali kilti sunkūs padariniai nevisiškai atlyginus jo patirtą žalą, jei žalos dydis būtų sumažintas. Be abejo tokiu atveju teismas vadovaujasi bendraisiais proporcingumo, teisingumo, sąžiningumo, protingumo principais. Kitaip tariant visa diskrecija su tam tikromis gairėmis vis dėlto paliekama teismui, kur sprendimas vis tik priimamas pagal proceso metu teisėjo susiformuotą vidinį įsitikinimą.|
The essence of damage institution is the principle of full reimbursement of damage (restitutio in integrum). It is provided in the article 6.251 of the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter – LR Civil Code) that the caused losses (pecuniary expression of tangible damage) have to be reimbursed in full, except when the special laws or contract provides limited liability. According to the paragraph 2 of the article 6.263 of the LR Civil Code, the damage caused to the person and property, as well as intangible damage (in certain cases) has to be reimbursed in full. With regard to such legal regulation, the conclusion should be made that the principle of full reimbursement of damages is valid in cases of contractual and tort liability and should be applied for reimbursement of tangible (losses) and intangible damage in general meaning.
However it is necessary to note that when the amount of damage due to reimbursement is solved, the aforementioned the principle of full reimbursement of damage may be limited by criteria provided in other articles of the LR Civil Code, which have to be taken into account by the court. One of such criteria is the material situation of the person, who has caused damage. Therefore the court is granted discretion to deviate from the principle of full reimbursement of damage on the ground of material situation of the person, who has caused damage. So the reasonable question arises whether the rights of the person, who has incurred damage, are not violated in the cases when the amount of damage due to reimbursement (tangible and intangible) is reduced in accordance with the paragraph 3 of the article 6.282 of the LR Civil Code, or whether the rights of the person, who has caused damage, are not violated when there is a possibility to adjudge bigger reimbursement in accordance with the paragraph 1 of the article 6.250 of the LR Civil Code.
With regard to the function of damage reimbursement, three main positions may be distinguished: 1) damage reimbursement as compensation for the aggrieved person, 2) damage compensation as prevention with regard to other third persons, or 3) damage reimbursement as sanction for the person, who has caused damage. It is recognized in the Lithuania legal system that damage reimbursement has a compensatory function, i.e. in essence its purpose is to return the aggrieved person to the situation before damage. Therefore it is considered that damage has to be evaluated precisely and reimbursed in such an amount as incurred by the person factually. Too high reimbursement of damage would result in improvement of material situation of the person and this would lead to formation of other legal relations between the parties (e.g., unlawful enrichment).
On the other hand, the principle of full reimbursement of damage consolidated in the LR Civil Code must ensure that the damage reimbursement would not be too small. Regardless to this, the conditions are provided in the LR Civil Code, which allow reducing the amount of damage due to reimbursement. One of such conditions is the material situation of parties. Usually this criterion is assessed in the Lithuanian case law with regard to evaluation whether the material situation of the person, who has caused damage, is severe enough to reduce the amount of reimbursable damage by the court’s decision. Such reduction of damage should prevent probable severe consequences, which would be caused to the person, who had caused damage, when the compensation exceeding his/her capacities was adjudged.
The provisions, which allow reducing the amount of damage because of severe material situation, were contained in the civil code of the Lithuanian SSR, as well. Of course, it was stated directly that the criterion of material situation may lead only to reduction of damage. It is not directly stated in all the norms related to this criterion in the current Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania that damage may be only reduced. However, there are no cases encountered in practice of the Lithuanian Supreme Court when the amount of reimbursable damage would be increased on the ground of material situation of the person, who has caused damage.
With regard to the case law formed by the cassation court when the amount of damage reimbursement is considered in the cases related to damage caused to health and life, the court assesses requests to reduce damage on the ground of difficult material situation of the person, who has caused damage, very critically and takes into account not only the current situation but also all the possibilities of future income and perspectives of that person. Therefore the court reduces the amount of reimbursement very rarely in such cases on the ground of this criterion. However, when the damage is not related to personal health or life, the courts are more liberal to apply the criterion of financial situation of the person with regard to reduction of damage reimbursement. Yet in any case, it is always necessary to remember that this evaluation criterion is not absolute and usually is evaluated within other circumstances. Usually the decision to reduce amount of reimbursement is made not solely on the ground of that criterion, although it has impact, without any doubt.
On the other hand, the person, who incurs damage, also may encounter severe consequences if the damage is not reimbursed in full and is reduced. Of course, in such cases the court follows general principles of proportionality, justice, fairness, and reasonability. In other words, the discretion remains with the court (in application with certain guidelines), where the decision is made according to the internal belief of the judge formed in the course of proceedings.
As the Lithuanian courts are cautious to reduce the damage reimbursement due to the material situation of the person, who has caused damage, after having assessed the case circumstances very carefully, in order to ensure equality between the parties with regard to all the aspects, the material situation of both – the person, who has caused damage and the person, who has incurred damage, has to be taken into account, so the amount of damage could be not only reduced but also increased. However, it is necessary not to forget that the Lithuanian legal system recognizes compensatory and not punitive or preventive function of damage reimbursement, so such an approach would be contrary to general conception.
Therefore the largest country of common law – the United States of America – recognizes all three goals of damage reimbursement. In case of such a model the damage reimbursement may be divided substantially into two main sorts: compensatory damage (when the function for actually incurred damage is implemented) and punitive damage (that is applied in order to punish the person, who has caused damage, and to prevent similar situations). The European countries of civil law, Lithuania including, are not ready for such damage reimbursement system yet. According to the formed long-term practice, culture and legal customs, such a system could even be detrimental in modern Europe.