Van Bael & Bellis successfully assists heirs of Commission official in action for damages
In a landmark judgment issued on 7 December 2017, the EU General Court (Appeal Chamber) upheld the appeal brought by the heirs of the European Commission official Alessandro Missir Mamachi di Lusignano against the ruling of the Civil Service Tribunal of 12 May 2011.
The original application was filed by Livio Missir Mamachi di Lusignano, the father of Alessandro Missir, who was seeking compensation for material and nonmaterial damage resulting from the death of his son, a senior European Commission official posted to the Commission's delegation in Morocco as political and diplomatic counsellor, and his daughter-in-law on 18 September 2006 in Rabat (Morocco). At first instance, the Civil Service Tribunal, while finding that the Commission was co-liable, limited the amount to be reimbursed by the Commission to 40% of the overall material damage suffered, quantified at €3 million.
Upholding Missir’s appeal, the General Court (Appeal Chamber) found that the Civil Service Tribunal erred in concluding that the Commission had incurred only partial liability by failing to fulfil its duty to ensure the safety of its official and his family. As a result, the General Court ruled that the Commission is severally and jointly liable for the total €3 million of material damage suffered by the applicant. Moreover, the General Court (Appeal Chamber) also found that the Civil Service Tribunal had erred in declaring inadmissible the request for non-material damage and, accordingly, awarded €450,000 as non-material damage to the children and father of the victim. It also ordered the Commission to pay the legal costs for the proceedings before the Civil Service Tribunal and the General Court.
All the EU Courts have been involved in this case. The case was initially heard by the Civil Service Tribunal and on appeal by the General Court, which declared itself competent as first instance judge. This triggered a motu proprio intervention by the Advocate General of the EU Court of Justice (“ECJ”) who objected to the decision of the General Court. The ECJ followed the opinion of the Advocate General and, consequently, ordered the General Court to hear the case as appeal judge.
The complexity of this case also lies in the fact that it presented elements of contractual liability (resulting from the employment of Alessandro Missir by the European Commission), with the application of the pre-litigation rules laid down by the Staff Regulations of EU officials, and elements of non-contractual liability (the damage suffered by Alessandro’s relatives).
The heirs of Alessandro Missir were represented in this matter by partner Fabrizio Di Gianni and associates Gabriele Coppo and Aldo Scalini.
Further details on the case can be found on the website of the Court of Justice of the EU.