Judgment IV. ÚS 3035/15 – Hospital charges for a father attending the birth of his child

14 June 2016

The complainant was a father who was charged by a hospital 500 CZK (19 EUR) for attending the birth of his child. He filed an action against the hospital, alleging that the hospital unjustly enriched itself by charging him for the common costs, covering one-time garment and shoes plus training, and for a small profit. The first instance court dismissed the action in part. The complainant lodged a constitutional complaint, alleging that his right to family life was breached. 

The Constitutional Court found that complainant’s right to fair trial was violated as the lower court dismissed the complainant’s action for unjust enrichment despite the hospital’s sweeping justification for the charge. The enjoyment of the right to attend the birth of one’s child may not be conditioned by contribution to common costs of running the hospital, such as one-time garment and shoes. The first-instance court did not examine the extent of the training, its content and necessity. The decision was also surprising as the court relied on a different legal qualification than the one brought by the complainant, without previous notification of the modification to the parties of the proceedings.

As for the charge, the Constitutional Court considered that it was a regular private law fee, albeit imposed in relation to a public law service. The Constitutional Court further held that hospitals may not charge fathers for their mere attending the birth of their children. Such charges may be imposed only for services going beyond statutory obligations of hospitals and fathers (or any other persons in similar situation) must be first consulted. Such charges must be reasonable and foreseeable. The failure to pay in advance must not affect the right to attend the birth.