Dispute resolution

Spain's Supreme Court limits prohibition of monetary sentences subject to a discharge order

Published on 26th Oct 2023

The ruling emphasises the need to flexibly interpret the prohibition in light of the reasonable grounds of each case 

Zoom view of a euro banknote

The Supreme Court's decision on the interpretation of the ban on sentences with a reservation of liquidation – numbered 1228/2023 and dated 14 September – has significant practical importance.

Regulatory developments 

The regulation of sentences with a reservation of liquidation has significantly changed over the years. 

Under the previous Civil Procedure Act of 1881, it was allowed to defer the quantification of financial sentences to the enforcement stage, leading to enforcement becoming a declaratory process in which the amount of debt had to be settled.

However, the Civil Procedure Act of 2000 eliminated the settlement reserve from judicial practice due to the delays and problems it caused. 

The rule's preamble states that it should only be applied in cases where it is necessary. The articles (209.4 and 2019 LEC) explicitly prohibit deferring the sentence's quantification to the enforcement phase, although there are some exceptions.

Interpretation of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has often emphasised the need for a flexible interpretation of this issue.

A strict criterion could undermine the right of defence and adequate judicial protection of the parties, particularly in cases where the plaintiff has not been able to quantify the damages incurred or the basis for calculating them due to reasons outside their control. As the Supreme Court observed, rejecting compensation for the lack of a suitable procedural instrument to determine it is unacceptable. 

The judgment states that article 219.2 LEC should be considered a limitation instead of a prohibition. This means the article excludes the deferral of the sentence settlement to the execution phase or a subsequent lawsuit without a valid explanation.

In exceptional circumstances, it should be possible to defer the calculation of the quantum to the enforcement of the judgment, even if it requires more than a simple arithmetical operation. 

Osborne Clarke comment

The Supreme Court's application of article 2019 LEC strikes a practical balance, preserving the content of the precept without compromising the fundamental rights of the claimants, thus ensuring the satisfaction of their legitimate interest through an efficient procedure.


* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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