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préjudice moral<br />
personne morales<br />
cour de cassation

For the first time, the Court of Cassation explicitly recognizes that a company – but the solution certainly applies to all legal persons – can invoke moral damage.

Com. May 15, 2012, F-P+B, n° 11-10.278

That a company – and, in general, any legal person – can suffer material or economic damage is self-evident. On the other hand, the question was, to date, far from being settled in terms of non-pecuniary damage. It is true that it is a diffuse notion, which refers to certain evils, which, a priori, can only affect a physical person: suffering, injury, stress, harassment, etc.

The Paris Court of Appeal had however admitted, in a judgment which, at the time, caused a sensation, that a company could suffer such damage (Paris, June 30, 2006, D. 2006. AJ. 2241 , obs. X. Delpech RTD com. 2006. 875, obs. N. Rontchevsky; Banking and Law July-August 2006, p. 34, note H. de Vauplane; Bull. Joly Societies, 2006. 1453, note D Schmidt; RD banc. end of Nov. 2006, p. 51, note V. Magnier; RTDF Sept. 2006, p. 6, note A. Pietrancosta; Dr. and patr. March 2007. 97, obs. J.- P. Mattout and A. Prüm) .

The Court of Cassation, in a judgment which strikes by its lapidary character, has just explicitly recognized the moral prejudice of a company.

This involved acts of unfair competition committed against a company operating a pizzeria by the assignors of all the shares issued by this same company. The latter logically assigned the assignors, whom it accuses of misappropriation of customers, for the purpose of obtaining damages for the repair of both the material and moral damage they suffered.

She obtains, before the trial judges, reparation only for economic damage, because, according to the Court of Appeal of Pau, “as regards companies, they cannot claim any moral damage”.

Cassation for violation of the law, the appeal judgment being quashed and annulled “but only insofar as it rejected the claim [of the company] for non-pecuniary damage”. The breach is open: the recognition of the moral prejudice of companies – since, of course, that they are endowed with legal personality – is now consecrated, and it is hardly taking any risks to affirm that the solution is worth for all legal persons.

The principle of the moral prejudice of legal persons having been established, it remains to give substance to it. On this, the concept of May 15, 2012 remains completely silent. There is no doubt that other judgments will soon come to enlighten us on this point.

DAMY Law Firm