A sportsman’s career may constitute a personal good

Patrycja Rejnowicz-Janowska

Art. 23 of the Law of April 23, 1964. – The Civil Code (hereinafter ,,KC”) contains an open catalog of personal property. In practice, this means that in addition to the elements listed in the text of this provision, the category of personal property may also include other components[1]. Such a situation often creates problems in recognizing (or refusing to recognize) some good as a personal good and often ends up initiating a case in court.

Such a dispute was recently encountered by the Supreme Court, which had to decide whether a sports career, or more broadly the right to self-realization of an athlete, can be considered a personal good, and thus subject to legal protection.

The essence of the matter

Jakub W. had a dispute with the Board of Directors of the Central Academic Sports Association (hereinafter , “AZS”) regarding the violation of his personal rights by not calling him to participate in the “Taipei City Universiade,” despite the fact that he was the only one in his weight category who met all the required criteria. According to Jacob W., The ability to showcase the skills gained in competition with other athletes is central to the athlete’s development, ergo his inadmittance to the Universiade as a result of an arbitrary decision by the AZS (deviating from the previous criteria for participation in the competition) constitutes a manifestation of an unlawful violation of his personal rights in the form of the right to a sports career and the right to self-realization[2].

Position of common courts

Seeking legal protection, the athlete requested in the lawsuit, in particular, to oblige AZS to desist from violating his personal rights, to oblige the defendant to publish an apology, to inform the Minister of Sports and Tourism about the violation of the plaintiff’s personal rights, and to order the defendant to pay the plaintiff the sum of PLN 23,500. The District Court of Warsaw[3] (hereinafter , “the Court of First Instance”) partially granted Jakub W.’s claim, awarding him moral damages and ordering AZS to publish an apology. Following appeals by both parties, the Court of Appeals in Warsaw[4] disagreed with the judgment of the Court of First Instance and held that the right to develop a sports career does not belong to the catalog of personal rights.

The right to develop a sports career may constitute a personal asset

Jacob W.’s dispute, which had been ongoing since 2019, found its finale on January 30, 2024,[5] when, following Jacob W.’s cassation appeal, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment and remanded the case back to the Court of Appeals.

The Supreme Court, hearing the cassation appeal, held that the right to develop a sports career can constitute a personal good. According to the Supreme Court, in the case in question, the social factor – the reception of the AZS decision among judo fans (the negative reactions of the sports community in connection with the failure to select the only athlete who meets all the criteria for international competition), coaches, family – was unjustifiably disregarded, as well as the subjective circumstances, such as the athlete’s sense of harm/impairment.

According to experts from Jablonski Kozminski Law Firm, the above view can be considered a kind of deviation from the previous line of jurisprudence treating that, as a general rule (in assessing whether there has been an unlawful violation of personal rights in a given case), the subjective feelings of the person concerned (the injured party) are irrelevant[6], but only objective criteria (reactions of reasonable people).

Jabloński Kozminski Law Firm has specialized for many years in handling complex and often precedent-setting personal injury cases. If you have any questions or concerns about this issue, you are welcome to contact us.

[1] See. sh. P. Nazaruk [w:] Civil Code. Comment updated , ed. J. Ciszewski, LEX/el. 2023, Art. 23; A. Sylwestrzak [w:] Civil Code. Comment updated , ed. M. Balwicka-Szczyrba, LEX/el. 2023, Art. 23.

[2] K. Zaczkiewicz-Zborska, SN: sports career can be a protected good, “law.pl,” 01.02.2024, accessed 07.02.2024. – A sports career can be a protected good (law.co.uk); Is the right to develop a sports career a personal good subject to legal protection under the Civil Code?“, “prawosportowe.pl”, 29.03.2021, accessed 07.02.2024. – Is the right to develop a sports career a personal good subject to legal protection under the Civil Code? – LawSports.co.uk

[3] Judgment of the District Court of Warsaw of 31.01.2019, II C 181/18.

[4] Judgment of the Administrative Court in Warsaw of 20.10.2020, V ACa 314/19.

[5] Judgment of the Supreme Court of 30.01.2024, II CSKP 1578/22.

[6] See, in more detail, Judgment of the District Court in Warsaw of 15.12.2021, I C 1214/20, Judgment of the Supreme Court of 16.01.1976, II CR 692/75, Judgment of the Supreme Court of 11.03.1997, III CKN 33/97.


Patrycja Rejnowicz-Janowska
Advocate, Senior Associate+48 22 416 60 04patrycja.rejnowicz-janowska@jklaw.pl

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