- Corte dei Conti - Sezione Giurisdizionale per la Regione Siciliana
DISPUTE BETWEEN AN ITALIAN INDIVIDUAL AND AN ITALIAN PUBLIC AUTHORITY - USE OF UNIDROIT PRINCIPLES AS A MEANS OF INTERPRETING APPLICABLE DOMESTIC LAW (ITALIAN LAW)
LEGITIMATE EXPECTATIONS GENERATED BY THE BEHAVIOUR OF THE PUBLIC AUTHORITY - PROHIBITION OF INCONSISTENT BEHAVIOUR - REFERENCE TO ARTICLE 1.8 UNIDROIT PRINCIPLES
Claimant, an Italian national, brought an action against Defendant, the Regional Government of Sicily, claiming payment of the part of its pension the latter had failed to pay. Defendant objected that the claim was time-barred.
The Court decided in favour of Claimant. Although the limitation period had indeed expired, Defendant could not raise this objection because by its behaviour it had led Claimant to believe that there had been no change in the law. In fact, even though a new law imposing certain limitations with respect to the revaluation of pensions had come into force, Defendant had failed properly to inform Claimant of it. More precisely, by not mentioning the change in the law in the monthly notice of payments it sent to Claimant, Defendant had caused in Claimant the understanding that nothing had changed in the law, on which Claimant had reasonably relied and consequently did not exercise its right within the limitation period.
According to the Court, the prohibition of venire contra factum proprium, codified in other legal systems, is also present in the Italian legal system and derives from the more general principle of good faith. In support of its decision the Court expressly referred to Article 1.8 of the UNIDROIT Principles according to which “[a] party cannot act inconsistently with an understanding it has caused the other party to have and upon which that other party reasonably has acted in reliance to its detriment.”
NOTE: This judgment is part of a series of decisions of the same Court (Corte dei Conti - Sezione Giurisdizionale per la Regione Siciliana), in which the reference to Art. 1.8 of the UNIDROIT Principles has been used to specify a general principle which is deemed to be already present in the Italian legal system, but is considered to be rather vague and unclear.