A Recent Decision of the Court of Cassation General Assembly of Civil Chambers on the Conditions of Unquantified Debt Lawsuits
Recently, the requirements of unquantified debt lawsuits have been subjected to the examination and review of the Court of Cassation. The Court of Cassation General Assembly of Civil Chambers, in its decision dated 07.07.2021 and numbered 2021/485 E. 2021/971 K. (“Decision”), examined whether a dispute regarding severance and notice payments and annual leave remunerations were filed as an unquantified debt lawsuit or a partial lawsuit. After the examination, the Court highlighted that the plaintiff filing a lawsuit as an unquantified debt lawsuit has to specify the type of the lawsuit as an unquantified debt lawsuit in the statement of claims. This article will examine the Decision, which is essential for unquantified debt lawsuits and also for the partial lawsuits, by comparing it with prior Court of Cassation decisions.
Before examining the content and rationale of the Decision, it would be helpful to briefly explain what unquantified debt lawsuits and partial lawsuits are, and to examine the conflicting precedents on this topic, especially regarding unquantified debt lawsuits.
A General Overview of Unquantified Debt Lawsuits and Partial Lawsuits
Unquantified debt lawsuits, as defined in Article 107 of the Code of Civil Procedure No. 6100 (“CCP”), are where the plaintiff brings an action for an unquantified debt by demonstrating a minimum quantity or value in cases when it is objectively impossible or unreasonable to specifically determine the amount of the receivable. The plaintiff can file an unquantified debt lawsuit by specifying the portion of the receivable that can be determined and the legal relationship. When it becomes possible to determine the amount or value of the receivable fully and precisely due to the information provided by the other party or after the inquiry, the plaintiff will have the opportunity to increase its claim without being subjected to the ban on the expansion of the claim. In cases where the receivable amount is not certain, it is understood that an unquantified debt lawsuit is often preferred in practice, since it eliminates the risks that the plaintiff may face and provides an advantage in terms of the statute of limitations.
The partial lawsuit defined under Article 109/1 of CCP, on the other hand, allows only a part of the receivable to be asserted through a lawsuit, in receivables where the subject of the claim is divisible by nature. Whether a lawsuit can be qualified as a partial lawsuit can only be understood from the petition of the lawsuit and the claim. In addition, the plaintiff who files a partial lawsuit pursuant to article 109/3 of CCP does not waive the remaining portion of the claim unless the plaintiff’s rights are explicitly waived while filing a lawsuit.
Different Views of Court of Cassation Chambers
For many years, disputes arising from employment claims were evaluated differently by two chambers of the Court of Cassation which adopted opposite views even regarding the same or similar subjects. For instance, if employment claims are subjected to an unquantified debt lawsuit but the claim is specified or specifiable, the 9th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation considered this matter as a procedural prerequisite. In this regard, the chamber in question adopted a view which prefers to maintain the lawsuit by providing an additional period of time to the plaintiff to declare the requested amount and to pay the missing fee, and by giving the opportunity to complete the deficiency within this period. On the other hand, the 22nd Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation rejected lawsuits on procedural grounds due to the lack of the legal interest if the employment claim can be objectively calculated by the plaintiff. Although this difference between the chambers’ ruling was brought before the Court of Cassation Grand General Assembly on the Unification of Judgements, that court decided that employment claims can be of many different types and natures, and since it would not be possible to categorize these claims as quantified or unquantified, even for the same type and nature of claims, this matter cannot be a subject of unifying judgments.
The Closure of the 22nd Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation and the Unified Court of Cassation’s Precedent
The disagreement regarding the disputes arising from the employment claims between the 9th and 22nd Chambers of the Court of Cassation, which both specialized in labor and social security law, created significant differences in practice and could have potentially led to unfair consequences. As a matter of fact, it would have been possible for a litigant to tailor its strategies to the jurisdiction of a particular Court of Cassation chamber while filing a case.
While this difference in practice continues, the 22nd Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation was closed with the decision of the First Presidency Board of the Court of Cassation numbered 173 and dated 07.07.2020, and thus, the pending cases were transferred to the 9th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation. Following this decision, the 9th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation, with its decision dated 14.09.2020, reversed its prior precedent regarding filing an unquantified debt lawsuit in disputes arising from employment claims and adopted the precedent of the 22nd Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation. From this point forward, the 9th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation, which is now the sole chamber of the Court of Cassation that examines labor and social security law disputes, will reject employment claims that can be objectively calculated, but which are filed as unquantified debt lawsuits on the procedural grounds of lack of legal interest.
Summary of the Decision
In a dispute regarding severance and notice payments and annual leave remunerations, the local court rejected the case on the grounds that there was no legal interest since the amount of the receivable can be specifiable, and the plaintiff’s attorney appealed this decision. During appellate review, the 22nd Civil Chamber emphasized that an unquantified debt lawsuit is a special type of lawsuit. It decided that the lawsuit should be accepted as a partial lawsuit since it was not clearly stated in the lawsuit petition that it was filed as an unquantified debt lawsuit, and it was understood from the lawsuit petition that it was filed as a partial lawsuit. However, the local court stood by its prior decision, claiming that the lawsuit should be classified as an unquantified debt lawsuit based on the plaintiff’s attorney’s statements in the hearing, and that the employment claims could not be considered as unquantified. Thereupon, the dispute came before the Court of Cassation General Assembly of Civil Chambers, and the General Assembly overturned the decision of the Local Court by making the same evaluation as the 22nd Civil Chamber.
Analysis of the Decision
In the Decision, the General Assembly of Civil Chambers held that the unquantified debt lawsuit could not be filed due to lack of the required conditions. In this regard, the Decision is in line with the recent approach of the 9th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation. In other respects, in the Decision, the Court highlighted the fact that the unquantified debt lawsuit is an exceptional lawsuit type, and that an intention to file such a suit should be expressly specified in the statement of claims. Additionally, it decided that the plaintiff"s statements during the hearing were not sufficient to consider the case to be an unquantified debt lawsuit, and that it was not possible to change the type of the lawsuit in this way.
The most significant and remarkable part of the Decision is the rationale of the General Assembly of Civil Chambers rejecting the request to file an unquantified debt lawsuit. In the Decision, it did not discuss in detail whether the receivable was unquantified or not; instead, it emphasized that while filing an unquantified debt lawsuit, an explicit specification concerning the lawsuit type is required. In other words, the General Assembly of Civil Chambers has envisaged another condition in addition to the conditions stipulated in the law for the unquantified debt lawsuit. Therefore, it can be concluded that in all lawsuits to be filed as unquantified debt lawsuits from now on, stating this issue clearly in the lawsuit petition is a new condition.
An essential point about partial lawsuits was also repeated in the Decision. That is to say, the General Assembly of Civil Chambers rightfully considered the phrase “without prejudice to our rights regarding the surplus” as a declaration of filing a partial lawsuit. By referring to prior General Assembly of Civil Chamber’s decision, the General Assembly stated that if it is understood from the explanations in the petition of the lawsuit that the plaintiff has more receivables and there is a statement in the claim section stating “I am suing for this much for now,” this would be sufficient for the case to be accepted as a partial lawsuit. In this respect, it concluded that it is not obligatory to clearly state the type of case in the petition when filing a partial lawsuit. On the other hand, it is obligatory to state this matter in the petition of the lawsuit without any hesitation at the time of filing an unquantified debt lawsuit.
Additionally, an essential point about changing the type of lawsuit was emphasized in the Decision. Although the plaintiff’s attorney presented a statement that “the lawsuit type is an unquantified debt lawsuit” during the hearing, the existence of this statement was not accepted as sufficient to change the type of the lawsuit from a partial lawsuit to an unquantified debt lawsuit. As a matter of fact, it is not legally possible to change the type of lawsuit by any verbal or written statement which is submitted during the trial, except for the change of the type of case through wholly rectification pursuant to Article 180 of CCP, or with the express consent of the defendant. For this reason, changing the type of lawsuit with an oral statement at the hearing was not accepted in the Decision either.
The unquantified debt lawsuit, which has entered into force through CCP in 2011 and provided some advantages to the creditors, has become a type of lawsuit that is adopted and frequently preferred by all actors of the legal order. However, there were differences in views even among different Court of Cassation chambers on the requirements for filing such a lawsuit and the cases in which it can be filed. Recently, with the merger of the different chambers of the Court of Cassation that specialize in labor and social security law, it has finally become possible to achieve unity in practice. The Decision of the General Assembly of Civil Chambers that is the subject of this article, is a decision that supports this uniformity that is slowly starting to emerge in practice and will shed light on this subject for practitioners. Pursuant to the Decision, it should not be forgotten that in the case of an unquantified debt lawsuit to be filed after this date, it should be clearly stated in the petition of the lawsuit that the type of the lawsuit is an unquantified debt lawsuit, especially in order to avoid loss of rights in terms of the statute of limitations.
- Postacıoğlu, İlhan E. / Altay, Sümer: Medeni Usul Hukuku Dersleri, Vedat Kitapçılık, İstanbul 2020, p. 242 and Kuru, Baki: Medeni Usul Hukuku El Kitabı, Yetkin Yayıncılık, 2020, p. 428
- Postacıoğlu, İlhan E. / Altay, Sümer: Medeni Usul Hukuku Dersleri, Vedat Kitapçılık, İstanbul 2020, p. 240
- Pekcanıtez, Hakan / Atalay, Oğuz/ Özekes, Muhammet: Medeni Usul Hukuku Ders Kitabı, On İki Levha Yayıncılık, İstanbul 2020, p. 2020
- The decision of the 9th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation dated 26.01.2014 and numbered 2014/1962 E., 2014/6034 K. (www.lexpera.com.tr)
- The decision of the 22nd Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation dated 09.10.2015 and numbered 2014/16510 E., 2015/28942 K. (www.lexpera.com.tr)
- The decision of the Court of Cassation Grand General Assembly on the Unification of Judgements dated 15.12.2017 and numbered 2016/6 E., 2017/5 K.(www.lexpera.com.tr)
- 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/ (Date of Access 23.11.2021)
- The decision of the 9th Civil Chamber of the Court of Cassation dated 14.09.2020 and numbered 2016/24476 E., 2020/7547 K. (www.lexpera.com.tr)
- However, it should be emphasized that this change in case law will be valid for lawsuits to be filed after the official publication of the Decision, within the scope of the ban on surprise decisions. Until this announcement, chambers will render decisions according to the case law before the merger.
- The decision of the Court of Cassation General Assembly of Civil Chambers dated 02.04.2003 and numbered 2003/4-260 E., 2003/271 K. (www.lexpera.com.tr)
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