Privacy has become a hot topic in personality rights protection in the 21st century all over the world. Classic personality rights did not cover all aspects of modern privacy law and the lack of an exhaustive list for personality rights also left many questions unanswered. The right to privacy is hard to define and it is even mo...re difficult to identify the limits of this sensitive right. Our goal is to analyze various definitive attempts to privacy and synthetize them with actual judicial practice in order to get closer to what privacy law truly covers in modern jurisdictions. Even if brand new challenges arise almost every day, privacy remains a powerful instrument to provide autonomy to individuals and sometimes to legal entities.
Since 1992, date of Constitutional Court’s decision No. 34/1992, certain rules cannot be found in Hungarian Civil Code. There is only a part of a sentence that gives right to any injured person to claim damages in case of personal injuries. More than 10 years after the cassation we are able to look through the legal practice in connection wit...h damages for non-pecuniary loss. The recent re-codifying process plans a brand new institution to substitute and follow damages for non pecuniary loss: pain award. To establish a decent regulation of pain award, jurisdiction of the last decade cannot be neglected. This essay aims to gather typical and crystallized methods of judgements in certain cases, which could be seen as essential and accepted unwritten rules of jurisdiction concerning this field of damages.
One of the most difficult problems to solve is the question of amount. This field of damages for non-pecuniary loss is always problematic, because all of the cases are different. Although there are similarities between cases if we examine just damages themselves, but due to the difference of human personality it is almost impossible to give exact phrases and rules to help our judges. We can say that highest amounts are generated by assaults against physical integrity and life. Examination during a legal procedure concentrates on the stress caused by the injury, number of injured rights, age of the injured person and the durability of the harm. If the injured person contributed to the injury, it generates reduced amount of damages.
Method of compensation is really simple for the first time. Hungarian legal system knows two different types for the method of damages: in kind or in money. Former one is inapplicable for non-pecuniary losses. If we compensate in money, there are two solutions: injured person can get the whole sum immediately or we can choose allowance as well. The adaptation of allowance is rather small in Hungary, in spite of the advantages this legal institution could offer. It does not mean res iudicata, so it is flexible and offers opportunity to adjust to changed circumstances in the future: both duration and amount of allowance could be changed.
It is an interesting question whether personal circumstances of the misdoer could be examined when calculating the amount of allowance. The answer is not unambiguous. Civil law focuses on compensation for the injured party, not the punishment of the misdoer. In spite of this essential lemma, it is necessary to take into account the solvency of the defendant, if we want the plaintiff to get the adjudged amount really.
Youth is not the only reason of allowance, sometimes old age could be a well-based legal ground for application of this method of compensation as well. It is really important to examine the personal circumstances of the injured party to choose between these two methods: which one serves the aim of compensation, moderation of lost joy of life the most.
Civil Code precludes the possibility to apply both methods together for the same plaintiff. In my opinion the solution of German Civil Code (BGB) should be considered. BGB allows both methods together. It means that possibilities could be wider and fit better to the actual case and its circumstances.
Although obligation of damages has two parties traditionally, in a legal procedure of damages for non-pecuniary loss this bipolar situation can be proven false. On the part of the misdoer it is an interesting question what kind of damages can be blamed the state. In Hungary we can meet rules order the responsibility of the state in the field of medical damages or damages for unlawful arrest and illegal imprisonment. Amounts of damages are the highest in these situations.
On the part of the injured person an often argued problem the position of secondary victims’ claims. These claims are always problematic, because personality rights belong closely to the person himself and there is no possibility to inherit them. Hungarian Civil Code admits compensation for relatives only in case of injuring reputation of a dead person. There are several decisions in which courts admit these claims on the ground of their sui generis base. It is a decent solution, but because of the uneven jurisdiction it needs codifying.
We can say that there are a lot of jurisdictional constants in Hungary in connection with damages for non-pecuniary loss. These are easy to collect and most of them are able to be codified in a strictly non-taxative style. But this examination showed that doubtful questions can also be found in Hungary especially the application of allowance, claims of secondary victims. To arrange these problems, starting point should be jurisdiction itself.
On the very swampy field of damages for non-pecuniary loss there is a special problem called claims of relatives. These claims are also known as claims of secondary victims or third parties. In this legal situation the injury itself hurts not the claimer himself. The claimer has non-pecuniary or moral loss because of his connection with the inj...ured person. He is not the direct and suffering subject but the one who has a loss in his personal rights.
In Hungary the question is whether these claims can be permitted or not. During the changing structure of damages for non-pecuniary loss in the second half of the 20th century, this problem fitted to the actual judgement of moral damages. Now days the question is a little bit easier: in almost every decision courts admit the right of relatives to claim damages for an injury against there beloved relative, but in most of the cases they demand that plaintiffs has to demonstrate manifested losses not only the infringement of their personality rights.
In this essay beside the Hungarian jurisdiction I examine German, French, English, Belgian and Dutch legal points of view too. The most interesting and – in my opinion – the one that can be useful for the upcoming new Hungarian Civil Code is the Dutch system.
Dutch Civil Code limits the possibility of ‘third parties’ to claim damages for non-pecuniary loss as a result of the injury or death of another person. In typical cases the plaintiff would like to claim compensation because he suffered mental illness from witnessing the death of another person, namely a relative. This claim is not awarded by Dutch courts because of the prohibition of Civil Code, but the interpretation of the mentioned provision lives restrictively in jurisdiction. We can find two situations when the claim of third parties can be awarded. First of all, the claimant can only claim for damages, caused by a mental trauma because of being witness of an injury against another person, if he can establish that the aggressor (defendant) also committed an unlawful act vis-à-vis the claimant himself, which resulted in the trauma. It is really difficult to be demonstrated because of the causation required by BW. The process to verify that the aggressor, who committed an unlawful act against another person, causes the trauma is almost impossible in some cases. The second chance of the secondary victim to claim for compensation is if he verifies that the trauma amounts to physical or non-physical injury. If this is the case, the claimant can get compensation of his pecuniary loss (such as cost of medical treatment) and non-pecuniary loss on the basis of his non-physical personal injury.
A famous case in Dutch case law is ‘Taxi bus case’. A 5-year old little girl was riding her bike close to her home, when a taxi bus overruns her. The bus actually rides over the girl’s head. The mother was immediately warned by one of the neighbours and found her daughter with her face turned to the ground. First, the mother called the ambulance hoping that the girl was still alive. When the mother tried to turn her daughter’s head to look her in the face, she experienced that her hand disappeared into the skull of the girl. The mother noticed that the substance next to her girl’s head was not, as she considered, her vomit, but appeared to be the girl’s brain itself. The mother suffered severe mental illness because of the shock of this sight and the realization. Dutch law is consequent in the question that there is no claim for non-pecuniary damages subsequent to death of a relative. Taxi bus case was the first when Dutch Supreme Court awarded the right to compensation of non-pecuniary damages to somebody who lost his relative. The decision contained that the act committed towards the child, must also be regarded as tortuous towards the mother. The Court emphasized that there was a distinction between the consequences of the child’s death, for which no non-pecuniary damages may be awarded, and the consequences of the confrontation with the accident, for which damages may indeed be awarded. The mother received 14,000 Euros for non-pecuniary damages. This case shows that although in principle the plaintiff has a right to claim compensation for the exact damages he suffered, the courts are free to assess the damage in a more abstract way, if that corresponds better to its nature.
Examining this case it is obvious that extra conditions are demanded to claim for non-pecuniary damages because of the loss of a relative. Only the fact of losing a close relative is not enough for a successful action. There have to be special circumstances, which demonstrate that the unlawful act made a direct effect to the plaintiff, who became the primary victim.
The English solution is interesting because not only the relatives have right to claim but almost anybody who can verify a close relationship with the injured person. In my opinion this system ensures a more coherent and logical jurisdiction, because during the examination of authorization not only a legal fact – being a relative of the injured person – establishes the right to claim but a real emotional relationship.