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A Precedent Decision of the Court of Cassation on Uncertain Receivable Lawsuits and the Prohibition to Give Unexpected Judgments

October 2020

Introduction

Through Civil Procedural Law No. 6100 (“CPL”), which entered into force in 2011, a new type of lawsuit, uncertain receivable lawsuit, was introduced into our law system. This introduction brought about differences of opinion on various significant issues regarding lawsuits for indefinite claims. In fact, in practice, and in the doctrine, there are different opinions as to which lawsuits could be filed as uncertain receivable actions, and how to decide if the receivable subject to the lawsuit is specifiable. Even amongst the chambers, whose area of specialization is “Labor and Social Security Law,” different evaluations were made on similar cases and opposing decisions were given. In this context, some chambers argued that in the case of bringing a legal action for an unspecified claim where the amount or value of the receivables could actually be determined, the claimant should be given time to declare the requested amount or value and to pay the remaining fee, while the others defended that the lawsuit should be rejected due to the lack of legal interest. The mentioned differences of opinion were even subject to the claim for unification of the decisions. However, the Grand General Assembly of the Unification of the Case Law of Court of Cassation did not decide to unify the case law, stating that it is not possible to specify the receivables as certain or uncertain every time, even for the same type of labor receivables, and that a decision should be made according to each concrete case[1].

However, the 9th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation, through its decision concluded in September, signed an exemplary and guiding judgment that would put an end to these differences of opinion. In this newsletter, we will examine this important decision made by the 9th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation.

What Does The Decision Say?

The Fundamental Criteria Regarding the Action for Uncertain Receivables

The 9th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation firstly defined uncertain receivable lawsuits, and then emphasized the fundamental criteria sought for filing the lawsuits in its decision dated 14.09.2020 and numbered 2016/26476 and 2020/7547[2]. Accordingly:

  1. On the date the case is filed, the amount or value of the receivable subject to the dispute cannot be specified exactly and precisely;
  2. This inability to specify should be based on objective impossibility. In other words, the determination of the amount or value should not be expected from the plaintiff, despite the necessary care and attention given. The documents that needed to be examined for the determination of the value of the lawsuit that cannot be obtained when filing the case, or which are possessed by the other party, may be given as examples for this. Situations where the determination of the amount of the receivable depends on the discretion of the judge are also considered as legal impossibilities. Therefore, in these cases, actions for uncertain claims may be filed;
  3. The fact that there is a dispute between the parties in terms of the amount of receivable does not necessarily mean that the determination of the claim amount cannot be expected from the plaintiff;
  4. The characteristics of each case should be taken into account in order to reach a definite conclusion as to whether the receivable is uncertain, certain or determinable;
  5. Especially in labor disputes, whether the receivable is certain should be assessed separately for each claim. An action for uncertain receivables could be filed for some demands, while a partial lawsuit could be initiated for the others, within the same petition in the form of a joinder of the claims; and
  6. As the amount of severance pay, notice pay, wage receivables and annual leave payment may be known by the employee, as a rule, the action for uncertain receivables shall not be filed. However, if the amount of side benefits (such as food or transportation allowances), which are the elements of the calculation, depends on the employer’s records, or the total amount could only be specified throughout the trial, the severance pay and the notice pay may be subject to uncertain receivable action. In other words, as indicated above, each case and claim should be separately evaluated.

The Court of Cassation also underlines that in cases where the receivable is definite or determinable, it is not legally possible to benefit from the advantages of lawsuits for uncertain receivables. Based on this remark, it has been concluded that if the amount or value of the receivable could be determined at the beginning of the case, the lawsuit should be rejected on procedural grounds due to the absence of the pre-condition.

During these assessments, the recent amendment made to Article 107 of the CPL[3], which regulates lawsuits for uncertain receivables, is also criticized. According to the 9th Chamber of the Court of Cassation, in accordance with the mentioned amendment, the judge must give time to the creditor (plaintiff) to increase his/her claims when the uncertain receivables become certain upon the trial. In brief, the amendment of the law does not allow the plaintiff to complete the lack of legal interest by granting time in the lawsuit, which was filed as the action for uncertain receivables, although not bearing the conditions.

The Prohibition to Make Unexpected Judgments

In line with the recent decision numbered 173 given by the First Presidential Board of the Court of Cassation, the 22nd Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation was closed, and the current works were assigned to the 9th Civil Chamber. This unification raised the question as to how these Chambers would decide as of this date, which had adopted different precedents in legal disputes on the same issues in the past. The 9th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation answered this question, in addition to giving its opinion on important debates regarding uncertain receivable lawsuits. By not choosing to unify the case law on differences of opinion, the Chambers drew attention through its decision on the “prohibition to give unexpected judgments,” which is a reflection of the right to a fair trial.

In the doctrine, the unexpected judgment is defined as “A decision that is unexpected and unforeseen by the parties and third parties, which is contrary to the course of the trial, the legislation and the established case law, when the legal situation and grounds of the trial are taken into account"[4]. The decision given by the courts that is contrary to their case law precedents may be deemed as an unexpected judgment[5]. The prohibition to make an unexpected judgment is considered as one of the elements of the right to a fair trial, which is regulated in Article 36 of the Constitution. Pursuant to the prohibition to give unexpected judgments, reversing from the established case-law, and suddenly making a new decision without any justification or indicating what actual or legal reason(s) led to this change of case law and / or without giving any opportunity to the parties for explanation and preparation, may be deemed as a violation of fundamental rights.

In this context, the 9th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation did not revoke the decision, which set an example for the prohibition to give unexpected judgments with the principles of legal certainty and predictability, since before the unification of the chambers, the uncertain receivable lawsuits were not rejected on procedural grounds due the absence of legal interest. In addition, it was highlighted that the previous applications would continue in terms of the case files relying on the pre-unification case law. The Supreme Court hereby aimed not to damage the trust of the plaintiffs / creditors in cases filed by relying on the precedent case law.

Conclusion

The 9th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation responded to the ongoing discussions regarding the uncertain receivable lawsuits from the effective date of the CPL until today, and put forward its view with justification instead of the contrary case law of the Chambers subject to the unification. Thus, some fundamental criteria regarding the action for uncertain receivables have been determined, as well. The said decision also sheds light as to how the amendment made on the lawsuit for uncertain receivables through the Law on the Amendment to Civil Procedural Law and Certain Laws No. 7251 should be interpreted for practitioners. However, the most remarkable feature of the decision is that it is a precedent in terms of the implementation of fundamental rights and principles, such as legal certainty, legal security, and the right to a fair trial in procedural law, and is a decision at international standards.

Evaluated from all aspects, it is clear that the decision of the Court of Cassation will guide the right holders and the practitioners of law in many different aspects in similar disputes in the future. This decision should, therefore, be thoroughly examined and evaluated.

[1] The Grand General Assembly of the Court of Cassation on the Unification of the Case Law, 2016/6 E., 2017/5 K., 15.12.2017 (www.lexpera.com.tr).

[2] The 9th CC of the Court of Cassation, 2016/26476 E., 2020/7547 K., 14.09.2020 (www.lexpera.com.tr).

[3] The Law on the Amendment to Civil Procedural Law and Certain Laws No. 7251, Official Gazette, No. 31199, 28.07.2020 (www.lexpera.com.tr); For more information regarding the amendment, see Uzun, Alper: “Significant Changes to be made in the Civil Procedural Law,” Erdem&Erdem Newsletter, June, 2020, http://www.erdem-erdem.av.tr/publications/newsletter/significant-changes-to-be-made-in-the-civil-procedure-law/.

[4] Özekes, Muhammet: Gerçek Bir İçtihat: 9. Hukuk Dairesi’nin Belirsiz Alacak ve Sürpriz Karar Yasağıyla İlgili Emsal Kararı”, https://blog.lexpera.com.tr/gercek-bir-ictihat-9-hukuk-dairesinin-belirsiz-alacak-ve-surpriz-karar-yasagiyla-ilgili-emsal-karari/?fbclid=IwAR2CSErVzP_e57y55jSuqBHk8JKy0b7CTQJBHjWLRbWkHCYX9htP-e_uMys (Access Date: 26.10.2020).

[5] Pekcanıtez, Hakan: Hukuki Dinlenilme Hakkı”, Makaleler, On İki Levha Yayıncılık, August, 2016, p. 509-560, (www.lexpera.com.tr).