The Supreme Court rendered the 108-Tai-Shang-1542 Decision of October 30, 2019 (hereinafter, the “Decision”), holding that when a court investigates evidence at its own initiative, the parties should be given a chance to state their opinions; and if this procedure is not followed and the results of evidence investigation are directly relied on as the basis for its judgment, the judgment would be legally defective.
According to the facts underlying this Decision, Appellant W had driven a vehicle (hereinafter, the “Vehicle at Issue”) owned by Individual A, not a party to this lawsuit, gone through a red light and sped when Individual B walked across a traffic island to reach the other side of the road. Because the car could not be stopped in time, the care hit Individual B before colliding with an original heavy-duty motorcycle ridden by Individual C, not a party to the lawsuit, with Individual D, not a party to the lawsuit, as the passenger (hereinafter, the “Accident at Issue”). Because of W’s negligence, B died with C and D injured. Appellant X asserted that as the spouse of B, she was entitled to a solatium because of her expenditure of the funeral and graveyard costs and great sufferings. Appellants Y and Z, B’s sons, also suffered greatly and were both entitled to a solatium. The original court held that the B’s funeral cost should be NT$1.23 million, and that X’s claim for NT$7.23 million plus the solatium and X、Y’s claim for NT$3 million each were appropriate. Since W should assume 60% of the liability for the Accident at Issue, X could still claim NT$1,338,000 from W, while Y and Z could each claim NT$800,000 from W after deduction of X’s receipt of NT$2 millionfrom a compulsory automobile liability insurance indemnity payment and X、Y、Z’s receipt of NT$1 million for each from settlement payment.
According to the Decision, Article 288 of the Code of Civil Procedure provides that when the court cannot reach an inner conviction based on the evidence presentedby the parties and finds it necessary to discover the truth, the court may investigate evidence ex officio. When such investigation is conducted pursuant to this requirement, the parties should be given an opportunity to state their opinions. Therefore, when a court investigates evidence at its own initiative, the parties should be given a chance to state their opinions. If this procedure is not followed and the results of evidence investigation are directly relied on as the basis for its judgment, the judgment would be legally defective.
The Decision further stated that although the original trial court had held that NT$1.23 million would be appropriate for the B’s funeral cost when it ex officio referenced a circular from the Ministry of Finance, still there is nothing in the court files that reflects the court’s instruction to the parties to state their opinions on the circular. Therefore, if the original trial court elected to rely on this as the basis of a judgment unfavorable to W, this would be legally inappropriate. Therefore, this portion of W’s appeal is well-grounded.