The concept of justice consists in giving to each one as each is due. Civil law is also known as private law in Costa Rica. This is because it regulates civil relationships between private individuals. If your rights have been violated, and you seek compensation, you can exercise the civil action through a lawsuit. For example, in case of a breach of contract, you can file for contractual resolution and request a civil claim of monetary compensation. On the other hand, in a tort case, you directly request compensation for the civil damages you suffered.
A civil action is exercised through a lawsuit. You should know that Costa Rica has two main types of civil responsibility: contractual and extra-contractual. In this section of my website, I will discuss both. As you probably guessed, contractual responsibility is claimed through a civil action when in breach of contract. On the other hand, extra-contractual civil claims are used to claim civil damages generated through torts and different types of situations.
The right to action is a natural right that the individual has. It consists of a legal power to request the satisfaction of a claim to the jurisdictional organs of the State. A civil action is exercised through a lawsuit containing one or various specific civil claims. The Judge, imbued with jurisdiction, will resolve the claims made through a judgment.
What is not asked for is not given. Knowing what to ask for is an art all in itself. An adage says that for a civil action to be successful, you must first be correct. But being right is not enough. You must also know what to request. Alas, this is still not enough: you must also hope that the Judge will award you with what you asked for.
The Civil Code regulates the formation, execution, and termination of contracts. Under Costa Rican law, agreements must be entered voluntarily, in good faith, and executed by their terms. However, it´s essential to know that there are instances where civil law does not regulate contracts. For example, when a commercial actor, such as a corporation, makes a contract. In such cases, the Commercial Code of Costa Rica governs the situation. Therefore, knowing what law applies is essential if you end up exercising a civil action due to a breach of contract.
There are two main types of civil responsibility in Costa Rican civil law:
Contractual responsibility stems from a contract. Breaches of contracts, and annulment causes, generate this type of responsibility. The civil claim will affect the contract itself and generate compensatory damages to the petitioner.
Extra contractual responsibility is born through violating the principle of “do no harm to others,” or “neminen laedere” in Latin. Torts are also known as civil wrongs. You become personally liable if you cause harm to other people´s rights. In Costa Rica, torts are governed by the Civil Code, article 1045. This is the realm of extra-contractual responsibility.
What can you do in case of a breach of contract? The law establishes specific routes you can take. In Costa Rica, a breach of contract occurs when one party fails to fulfill the obligations outlined in the agreement. Such violations may include failure to deliver goods or services. They can also stem from a failure to pay for goods or services or even an omission obligation. Breach of contract is defined as one´s failure to fulfill the terms and conditions of the agreement. When a breach of contract occurs, the non-breaching party has legal remedies available. These remedies are civil claims that can be requested in the lawsuit and are:
A civil claim may be filed to request that the contract be declared null and void. This civil claim may be triggered for varied reasons. One is the lack of cognoscitive capacity to understand what was being signed. Another is if the object of the contract is physically or legally impossible to fulfill. A person´s consent is essential as well. If there are consensual vices, they can render the negotiation null and void. The cause of the contract is a crucial element as well. If the contract’s cause is illegal, it renders the agreement null and void. There are many examples and reasons to render a contract null and void, and they should be considered. Contract annulments can only be deemed as such by the corresponding Judge.
This is what we call forceable execution or “ejecución forzosa.” The non-breaching party can request this civil claim. It seeks to forcibly execute the contract’s terms instead of the contract´s resolution. The civil plaintiff can also request civil damages restitution.
A non-breaching party can seek to terminate the contract. Everything returns to the initial state before the contract was even signed. This is called a contract resolution. Additionally, the non-breaching party may request civil compensation for civil damages and interest.
These civil claims render the contract null and void, as if it was not signed in the first place.
These actiosn procur to forceably enforces the contract, and claim civil damages.
This civil claim is requested, in case of a breach of contract. It resolves the contract with civil damages.
Actions committed with intent, or “dolus malus,” can generate civil responsibility if there is a violation of other people´s rights. These intentional torts occur when an individual or organization intentionally causes harm to another person. For example, if someone intentionally hits another person with a car, besides penal responsibility, they may be liable for civil litigation for damages caused. One act can infringe on several branches of the law all at once.
This is also true for actions done with a civil fault or “culpa.” The main torts in Costa Rica are negligence, imprudence, and incompetence. Negligence occurs when an individual or organization fails to exercise reasonable care and causes harm to another person. For example, suppose a driver causes a car accident because they didn´t provide the proper care for the vehicle driven. This is a negligent act that causes civil responsibility. Or say the accident was caused because the driver was distracted or driving under the influence. This is imprudence. Lastly, if the accident is caused because the person didn´t learn to drive correctly, this is incompetence. In that case, they may be liable for the damages caused to the other driver and passengers.
Defamation is also a form of tort in Costa Rica; it refers to the act of making false statements that harm the reputation of another person. It can consist of written statements, such as in a newspaper or online, or verbal statements, such as in a radio or television interview. On a side note, even though defamation torts are civil, they are judged in criminal courts. This is a curious aspect of torts in Costa Rica.
Another area of tort law in Costa Rica is product liability. This type of tort holds manufacturers, distributors, and sellers liable for harm caused by defective products. For example, if a defective product injures a consumer, the manufacturer may be responsible for the damages caused. Costa Rica also has specific laws regulating torts in certain areas, such as consumer protection. Consumer protection law governs companies’ liability for false advertising and other deceptive practices.
In summary, torts in Costa Rica are a type of civil law regulating individuals’ and organizations’ liability for harm caused to others. Negligence, intentional acts, defamation, and product liability can cause torts. Costa Rica also has laws regulating torts in certain areas, such as consumer protection and environmental law. It’s always recommended to seek legal advice if you believe you have been a victim of a tort or if you are facing a tort lawsuit.
Another important area of civil law in Costa Rica is property law. The Civil Code regulates the acquisition, ownership, and transfer of property. It also regulates the rights and obligations of property owners. Costa Rica’s property law establishes that the property is registered at the Public Registry of Property, and any transaction related to the property must also be registered there. Property civil actions include: the revindication civil action, posession civil claims, and real estate injunctions.
Succession law is also regulated by the Civil Code, which covers distributing a deceased person’s property and assets among their heirs. The Civil Code also establishes the rules for drafting and executing wills in Costa Rica. Wills in Costa Rica are prone to annulment civil actions if the essential legal requirements were not met adequately.
Overall, the Civil Code of Costa Rica provides a comprehensive framework for regulating the relationships between individuals and legal entities in the country, covering a wide range of civil law matters. For example, contract law, property law, civil obligations, torts, and civil responsibility, are many aspects of civil law in Costa Rica. However, it’s worth noting that Civil law can be complex and that it’s always best to seek the advice of a lawyer or a notary public if you have any doubts or need help with a specific matter.
Dr. Christopher Pirie.