A. General principles
I. Conditions of liability
1 Any person who unlawfully causes loss or damage to another, whether wilfully or negligently, is obliged to provide compensation.
2 A person who wilfully causes loss or damage to another in an immoral manner is likewise obliged to provide compensation.
II. Determining the loss or damage
1 A person claiming damages must prove that loss or damage occurred.
2 Where the exact value of the loss or damage cannot be quantified, the court shall estimate the value at its discretion in the light of the normal course of events and the steps taken by the injured party.
3 The costs of treating animals kept as pets rather than for investment or commercial purposes may be claimed within appropriate limits as a loss even if they exceed the value of the animal.
III. Determining compensation
1 The court determines the form and extent of the compensation provided for loss or damage incurred, with due regard to the circumstances and the degree of culpability.
1bis Where an animal kept as a pet rather than for investment or commercial purposes has been injured or killed, the court may take appropriate account of its sentimental value to its owner or his dependants.
2 Where damages are awarded in the form of periodic payments, the debtor must at the same time post security.
IV. Grounds for reducing compensation
1 Where the injured party consented to the action which caused the loss or damage or circumstances attributable to him helped give rise to or compound the loss or damage or otherwise exacerbated the position of the party liable for it, the court may reduce the compensation due or even dispense with it entirely.
2The court may also reduce the compensation award in cases in which the loss or damage was caused neither wilfully nor by gross negligence and where payment of such compensation would leave the liable party in financial hardship.
V. Special cases
1. Homicide and personal injury
a. Damages for homicide
1 In the event of homicide, compensation must cover all expenses arising and in particular the funeral costs.
2 Where death did not occur immediately, the compensation must also include the costs of medical treatment and losses arising from inability to work.
3Where others are deprived of their means of support as a result of homicide, they must also be compensated for that loss.
b. Damages for personal injury
1In the event of personal injury, the victim is entitled to reimbursement of expenses incurred and to compensation for any total or partial inability to work and for any loss of future earnings.
2 Where the consequences of the personal injury cannot be assessed with sufficient certainty at the time the award is made, the court may reserve the right to amend the award within two years of the date on which it was made.
In cases of homicide or personal injury, the court may award the victim of personal injury or the dependants of the deceased an appropriate sum by way of satisfaction.
3. Injury to personality rights
1 Any person whose personality rights are unlawfully infringed is entitled to a sum of money by way of satisfaction provided this is justified by the seriousness of the infringement and no other amends have been made.
2The court may order that satisfaction be provided in another manner instead of or in addition to monetary compensation.
VI. Multiple liable parties
1. In tort
1 Where two or more persons have together caused damage, whether as instigator, perpetrator or accomplice, they are jointly and severally liable to the injured party.
2The court determines at its discretion whether and to what extent they have right of recourse against each other.
3 Abettors are liable in damages only to the extent that they received a share in the gains or caused loss or damage due to their involvement.
2. On different legal grounds
1 Where two or more persons are liable for the same loss or damage on different legal grounds, whether under tort law, contract law or by statute, the provision governing recourse among persons who have jointly caused damage is applicable mutatis mutandis.
2 As a rule, compensation is provided first by those who are liable in tort and last by those who are deemed liable by statutory provision without being at fault or in breach of contractual obligation.
VII. Self-defence, necessity, legitimate use of force
1 Where a person has acted in self-defence, he is not liable to pay compensation for loss or damage caused to the person or property of the aggressor.
2 A person who damages the property of another in order to protect himself or another person against imminent damage or danger must pay damages at the court’s discretion.
3 A person who uses force to protect his rights is not liable in damages if in the circumstances the assistance of the authorities could not have been obtained in good time and such use of force was the only means of preventing the loss of his rights or a significant impairment of his ability to exercise them.
VIII. Relationship with criminal law
1 When determining fault or lack of fault and capacity or incapacity to consent, the court is not bound by the provisions governing criminal capacity nor by any acquittal in the criminal court.
2 The civil court is likewise not bound by the verdict in the criminal court when determining fault and assessing compensation.
B. Liability of persons lacking capacity to consent
1 On grounds of equity, the court may also order a person who lacks capacity to consent to provide total or partial compensation for the loss or damage he has caused.
2 A person who has temporarily lost his capacity to consent is liable for any loss or damage caused when in that state unless he can prove that said state arose through no fault of his own.
C. Liability of employers
1 An employer is liable for the loss or damage caused by his employees or ancillary staff in the performance of their work unless he proves that he took all due care to avoid a loss or damage of this type or that the loss or damage would have occurred even if all due care had been taken.1
2 The employer has a right of recourse against the person who caused the loss or damage to the extent that such person is liable in damages.
D. Liability for animals
1In the event of loss or damage caused by an animal, its keeper is liable unless he proves that in keeping and supervising the animal he took all due care or that the damage would have occurred even if all due care had been taken.
2 He has a right of recourse if the animal was provoked either by another person or by an animal belonging to another person.
II. Seizure of animals
1 A person in possession of a plot of land is entitled to seize animals belonging to another which cause damage on that land and take them into his custody as security for his claim for compensation or even to kill them, where justified by the circumstances.
2 He nonetheless has an obligation to notify the owner of such animals without delay or, if the owner is not known to him, to take the necessary steps to trace the owner.
E. Liability of property owners
1 The owner of a building or any other structure is liable for any damage caused by defects in its construction or design or by inadequate maintenance.
2 He has a right of recourse against persons liable to him in this regard.
II. Safety measures
1 A person who is at risk of suffering loss or damage due to a building or structure belonging to another may insist that the owner take the necessary steps to avert the danger.
2 Orders given by the police for the protection of persons and property are unaffected.
F. Liability in respect of cryptographic keys
1 The owner of a cryptographic key used to generate electronic signatures or seals is liable to third parties for any loss or damage they have suffered as a result of relying on a valid certificate issued by a provider of certification services within the meaning of the Federal Act of 18 March 20162 on Electronic Signatures.
2 The owner is absolved of liability if he can satisfy the court that he took all the security precautions that could reasonably be expected in the circumstances to prevent misuse of the cryptographic key.
3 The Federal Council defines the security precautions to be taken pursuant to paragraph 2.
G. Time limits
1A claim for damages or satisfaction becomes time-barred one year from the date on which the injured party became aware of the loss or damage and of the identity of the person liable for it but in any event ten years after the date on which the loss or damage was caused.
2 However, if the action for damages is derived from an offence for which criminal law envisages a longer limitation period, that longer period also applies to the civil law claim.
3 Where the tort has given rise to a claim against the injured party, he may refuse to satisfy the claim even if his own claim in tort is time-barred.
H. Liability of civil servants and public officials
1 The Confederation and the cantons may by way of legislation enact provisions that deviate from those of this Section to govern the liability of civil servants and public officials to pay damages or satisfaction for any damage they cause in the exercise of their duties.
2 The provisions of this Section may not, however, be modified by cantonal legislation in the case of commercial duties performed by civil servants or public officials.
SWISS CIVIL CODE: Obligations in Tort(41 – 61)