JUDGMENT OF THE CIVIL SERVICE TRIBUNAL (First Chamber)

11 May 2010

Case F-55/09

Allan Maxwell

v

European Commission

(Civil service — Officials — Secondment in the interests of the service — Leave on personal grounds — Accommodation and education expenses — Action for damages — Liability for a wrongful act — Unjust enrichment)

Application: brought under Articles 236 EC and 152 EA, in which Mr Maxwell seeks an order that the Commission reimburse him the accommodation and education expenses he claims to have incurred while performing, during leave on personal grounds, the duties of senior adviser within an international organisation.

Held: The applicant’s application is dismissed. Each party is to bear its own costs.

Summary

1.      Officials — Actions — Action for damages — Application for annulment of the pre-litigation decision rejecting a claim for compensation — Application not independent of the claim for compensation

(Staff Regulations, Arts 90 and 91)

2.      Officials — Actions — Action for damages — Pleas in law

(Staff Regulations, Arts 90 and 91)

3.      Officials — Actions — Time-limits — Claim for compensation addressed to an institution — Duty to act within a reasonable time — Criteria for assessment

(Statute of the Court of Justice, Art. 46; Staff Regulations, Arts 90 and 91)

4.      Officials — Non-contractual liability of the institutions — Conditions — Unlawfulness — Injury — Causal link — Definition

5.      Community law — Principles — Principle of the prohibition of unjust enrichment on the part of the Community — Definition

1.      An institution’s decision rejecting a claim for compensation forms an integral part of the preliminary administrative procedure which precedes an action to establish liability before the General Court. Consequently, claims for annulment brought by an official cannot be assessed in isolation from the claims relating to compensation. The measure setting out the position adopted by the institution during the pre-litigation stage only has the effect of allowing the party who has suffered damage to apply to the General Court for compensation.

(see para. 48)

See:

T-90/95 Gill v Commission [1997] ECR-SC I‑A‑471 and II‑1231, para. 45; T-77/99 Ojha v Commission [2001] ECR-SC I‑A‑61 and II‑293, para. 68; T-209/99 Hoyer v Commission [2002] ECR-SC I‑A‑243 and II‑1211, para. 32

2.      An official who has failed within the time-limit laid down in Articles 90 and 91 of the Staff Regulations to institute proceedings for the annulment of an act adversely affecting him cannot, by means of a claim for compensation for the damage caused by that act, make good that omission and thus contrive to make time begin to run afresh.

(see para. 65)

See:

T-547/93 Lopes v Court of Justice [1996] ECR-SC I‑A‑63 and II‑185, paras 174 and 175

3.      Officials or other staff seeking to obtain compensation from an institution for damage alleged to be attributable to that institution must submit a claim to that effect within a reasonable time after the point in time when they became aware of the situation they complain of.

Moreover, the requirement to act within a reasonable period must be assessed in the light of criteria such as the importance of the case for the person concerned, its complexity, the conduct of the parties and, for guidance, the reference to the time-limit laid down in Article 46 of the Statute of the Court of Justice, regarded as a maximum.

A period of more than six years between the date on which the official became aware of the situation he complains of and the date when he submitted his claim for compensation cannot be regarded as reasonable.

(see para. 67)

See:

T-144/02 Eagle and Others v Commission [2004] ECR II‑3381, paras 60 and 65; T-114/08 P Marcuccio v Commission [2009] ECR-SC I‑B‑1‑53 and II‑B‑1‑313, para. 25

4.      For the liability of an institution to be incurred a number of conditions must be satisfied as regards the unlawfulness of the conduct of which the institutions are accused, the actual harm suffered and the existence of a causal link between the act and the damage alleged to have been suffered.

Furthermore, for a causal link to be accepted between the unlawfulness of the conduct of which an institution is accused and the damage alleged to have been suffered, evidence must, in principle, be adduced that there is a direct causal nexus between the fault committed and the injury pleaded.

(see para. 69)

See:

C‑136/92 P Commission v Brazzelli Lualdi and Others [1994] ECR I‑1981, para. 42

T-36/93 Ojha v Commission [1995] ECR-SC I‑A‑161 and II‑497, para. 130; T-45/01 Sanders and Others v Commission [2004] ECR II‑3315, para. 149; Eagle and Others v Commission, para. 148; T-250/04 Combescot v Commission [2007] ECR-SC I‑A‑2‑191 and II‑A‑2‑1251, para. 95

F‑5/05 and F‑7/05 Violetti and Others v Commission [2009] ECR-SC I‑A‑1‑83 and II‑A‑1‑473, para. 125, on appeal before the General Court of the European Union, Case T‑261/09 P

5.      According to the principles common to the laws of the Member States, a person who has suffered a loss which increases the wealth of another person without there being any legal basis for that enrichment has the right, as a general rule, to restitution from the person enriched, up to the amount of the loss. Given that unjust enrichment is a source of non‑contractual obligation common to the legal systems of the Member States, the European Union cannot be dispensed from the application to itself of the same principles where a natural or legal person alleges that the Union has been unjustly enriched to the detriment of that person.

(see para. 95)

See:

C-47/07 P Masdar (UK) v Commission [2008] ECR I‑9761, para. 47