The Italian Supreme Court, with judgment No. 4959/12, has dealt with the legal nature of amounts owed to Lawyers and whether damages may be awarded for losses suffered as a result of currency devaluation.
Specifically, the Supreme Court Judges have ruled that amounts due to lawyers for professional fees must be paid in terms of the currency expressed in the original obligation and not in terms of the value thereof, since, right from the start, only a sum of money is owed.
Therefore, an unexpected devaluation does not lead to a revaluation of such amount ex oficio, and the creditor must bring a supplementary action for recognition of the extra costs incurred in accordance with art. 1224, second paragraph of the Italian Civil Code (with the burden of proof being borne by the latter).
Contrary to the rulings of the courts that judged on the merits of the case, the Supreme Court held that article 429 of the Italian Code of Civil Procedure, as amended by Law no. 533/1973 (which, as is well known, requires the judge to award ex oficio damages for losses caused by currency devaluation), applies only when the lawyer’s work takes the form of a continuous and coordinated activity which is typical of so-called parasubordinated relationships (cfr., to this Italian Supreme Court judgment no. 11777/2005). The Supreme Court held that no proof of currency devaluation had been given in the case at hand.
The Supreme Court held, therefore, that the applicant could not request the re-evaluation of the amount in question, but only damages suffered as a result of the devaluation of such amount and should have provided, at the very least, presumptive evidence of devaluation (that could not exceed the rate applied to annual treasury bonds; cfr., on this point, Italian Supreme Court United Sections, judgment no. 19499/2008).
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