This contribution argues that the standard of proof in civil proceedings, understood as the degree of conviction required before a judge may accept contested factual statements as true, should be such that a judge accepts a factual statement if he believes it more likely to be true than not. A higher degree of conviction, such as “full conviction”, i. e. a conviction bordering on certainty, should be reserved for criminal cases. This standard is both normatively appropriate as well as compatible with positive German law. The argument has been more fully developed in my Habilitationsschrift; the main purpose of this article is to present it to English speakers that do not read German. Like in all summaries, some subtleties are lost. The only substantially new argument is that European law may require a lower standard of proof than the one traditionally applied in civil matters in Germany because national procedural rules must not undermine the effectiveness of European law, which a too demanding standard of proof could. This arose from the discussion at the seminar so generously organized by Professor Luboš Tichý and the Charles University, Prague.
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While the ethics and politics of nudging have received a great deal of attention, the legality of non-coercive interventions aimed at changing human behavior has received less attention. In this contribution, I examine firstly which limits, if any, the principle of proportionality (“Verhältnismäßigkeitsgrundsatz”) as applied by the German Federal Constitutional Court imposes on governmental “choice architects”. While nudges as such generally do not interfere with fundamental rights, including the very broad “right of personal development” of art. 2(1) Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, their implementation will often interfere with the fundamental rights of citizens other than the decision makers and therefore trigger constitutional scrutiny. Since paternalistic motives are – in principle – not accepted as legitimate ends that may justify an interference with fundamental rights, nudges solely intended to protect the decision maker from self-harm may not pass the proportionality test. Secondly, I examine whether the necessity prong of the proportionality principle may force the legislator to choose a non-coercive nudge over a more traditional coercive measure. Given the empirical evidence of the limited effectiveness of nudges in changing behaviour compared to traditional regulatory means, I come to the conclusion that the proportionality principle does not compel the use of nudges.
Dieser Beitrag untersucht, ob in Zivilsachen generell ein tieferes Beweismaß der „überwiegenden Überzeugung“ Anwendung finden soll. Die innere Begründung für ein Beweismaß der überwiegenden Überzeugung in Zivilsachen folgt aus der normativen Entscheidungstheorie, gemäß der sich die Entscheidungsgrenze nach den relativen Fehlerkosten bestimmt. Da diese nach hier vertretener Auffassung bei Sachurteilen in Zivilsachen symmetrisch sind, d. h. es ein ebenso schwerwiegender Fehler ist, einen bestehenden materiellrechtlichen Anspruch nicht zu schützen wie einen nicht bestehenden Anspruch durchzusetzen, ergibt sich ein optimales Beweismaß der überwiegenden Überzeugung für Sachverhaltsfeststellungen, die einem Sachurteil in Zivilsachen zugrunde liegen. Hingegen ist in Strafsachen weithin anerkannt, dass es ein schwerwiegender Fehler ist, einen Unschuldigen zu verurteilen, als einen Schuldigen freizusprechen,1 weshalb es sich rechtfertigt, die Entscheidungsgrenze in Strafsachen höher anzusetzen.
This article shows how insights from cognitive psychology, namely loss aversion, omission bias and status quo bias, explain the intuitive appeal of a standard of proof in civil cases that is considerably higher than the “preponderance of the evidence” or “balance of probabilities” standard employed by Common Law. These insights may explain the almost visceral rejection any suggestions lowering the standard of proof in civil matters have received in Germany. They do not, however, provide a normative basis for a standard of proof higher than 50% posterior subjective probability in civil cases.
Country report for Switzerland.