The Taiwan High Court rendered the 105-Shang-Guo-Yi-10 Civil Decision of July 19, 2016 (hereinafter, the “Decision”), holding that when civil servants exercise government authority in the discharge of their responsibilities, it should be recognized that the administrative agency enjoys “room for discretion” at this juncture with respect to uncertain legal concepts. Therefore, even if its penal disposition turns out to be different from the findings of a court that grants remedies, the national compensation liabilities are still not constituted.
According to the facts underlying this Decision, A was subject to the penal disposition rendered by Taoyuan City Government for his violation of the Food Sanitation and Administration Law due to an advertisement inserted by A in Ruten’s auction website for the product at issue. After A sought remedies through administration action and the penal disposition was set aside by the Administrative Court, A further asserted that his reputation was materially undermined by the penal disposition at issue and sought damages in the amount of NT$100,000 from Taoyuan City Government in accordance with Article 2 of the National Compensation Law to compensate his loss in reputation
According to the Decision, whether an administrative disposition is appropriate is a different matter from whether the civil servants in charge constitute a tort in the discharge of the responsibilities. If the civil servants adopted “uncertain legal concepts” based on their expertise associated with their responsibilities and determine the advertisement at issue was false, exaggerative and misleading, there would be no abnormal and obvious error or other illegal acts. Even if their decision was subsequently set aside by the Administrative Court, they could not be held at fault on such basis. Therefore, the conditions for national compensation under Article 2 of the National Compensation Law are still not satisfied.
It was further held in the Decision as follows. The civil servants of Taoyuan City Government found the advertisement at issue “false, exaggerative or misleading,” which is an uncertain legal concept, and imposed the maximum fine of NT$200,000 due to A’s repetitive and material violations. In addition, the finding was upheld by the Petition and Appeals Committee and was thus well-based. Although the determination standard was based on uncertain legal concepts and was different from the finding of the Administrative Court, still there was no deliberate, negligent or illegal violation of the Appellant’s rights and A’s claim for national compensation on such basis was groundless. Therefore, his appeal was dismissed.