Deputy Ombudsman Maija Sakslin criticises two cities for their procedures for processing claims for damages
Decisions by the city of Oulu's wellbeing services sector concerning claims for damages did not include attached instructions on submit a claim for a revised decision. The Supreme Administrative Court's case-law has emphasised that pursuant to the Local Government Act decisions by municipal authorities on private law contracts may be appealed with an appeal against the decision of a municipal authority. The Chancellor of Justice has advised that decisions by municipal authorities concerning contracts must include instructions on how to submit claims for a revised decision and appeals against the decision of a municipal authority.
The incorrect assertion that decisions concerning claims for damages could not be appealed is based on a single decision by the Supreme Administrative Court in 2003. In 2006, the Supreme Administrative Court specified matters resolved according to the sequence of administrative judicial procedure.
The Deputy Ombudsman emphasised that the legal protection guaranteed by the Constitution of Finland includes the right to have one's case heard by a legally competent court of law. According to the Deputy Ombudsman, there is a danger that the procedures used by the city of Oulu's wellbeing services sector had prevented the correct processing of its customers cases and the realisation of the customers' legal protection.
The city of Kouvola in turn processed claims for damages in accordance with an agreement between an insurance company and the city, so that the insurance company was asked to resolve cases of personal injury and instances in which damages exceeded the own risk sum. The city only decided on compensation in cases concerning damages to property in which damages did not exceed the sum paid by the customer out of pocket without hearing the insurance company.
The Deputy Ombudsman found that the city could not transfer its legal obligation to make administrative decisions concerning submitted claims for a revised decision to an insurance company. Although, claims for damages can also be brought as an action to the District Court, this did not void the city's obligation to process the claim it had been submitted in the manner provided in the Local Government Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. A decision on a claim for damages must pursuant to the Local Government Act include attached instructions on how to submit a claim for a revised decision. Due to the possible claim for a revised decision, the issued decision must pursuant to the Local Government Act include instructions on how to submit an appeal to the Administrative Court.
Additionally, in her decisions the Deputy Ombudsman assessed the instructions supplied to customers on submitting appeals.
Deputy-Ombudsman Sakslin: "This is an issue of implementing the service principle guaranteed in the Constitution of Finland and the Administrative Procedure Act as good administrative practice and the obligation to provide advice. The same claim for damages case can be processed in an administrative judicial procedure and general court of law."
According to the decision of the Deputy Ombudsman, a decision concerning a municipality's claim for damages must include attached instructions for submitting a claim for a revised decision and an appeal to the Administrative Court. In addition to this, it is good administrative practice to advise customers on the possibility of submitting an application for a summons to the District Court in civil matters.
"This is generally difficult for the public to understand, for which reason the need for guidance and advice is great in these complex matters. The obligation to provide advice is underlined by with a 250 court fee for Administrative Court decisions pursuant to the Finnish Act on Court Fees (1455/2015). When a customer is provided sufficient guidance, he or she can better assess the available means of legal protection. It is also in the common interest to avoid unnecessary legal processes."
Decisions (in Finnish) by Deputy Ombudsman Maija Sakslin EOAK/4661/2016 (Oulu) and EOAK/2802/2017 (Kouvola). Further information is available from Referendary Counsellor Ulla-Maija Lindström, tel. +358 (0)9 432 3355.