A finding that a legal situation resulting from a legislative measure by the Community involving choices of economic policy is illegal is insufficient by itself to involve the Community in liability under the second paragraph of article 215 of the EEC Treaty; in addition the measure must be vitiated by a sufficiently serious breach of a superior rule of law for the protection of the individual. In the context of community legislation in which one of the chief features is the exercise of a wide discretion essential in particular for the implementation of the common agricultural policy, the liability of the community can arise only exceptionally, that is to say, in cases in which the institution concerned has manifestly and gravely disregarded the limits on the exercise of its powers. Grave disregard is to be understood as meaning conduct verging on the arbitrary.
This concept is confirmed in particular by the fact that, even though an action for damages under article 178 and the second paragraph of article 215 of the Treaty constitutes an independent action, it must nevertheless be assessed having regard to the whole of the system of legal protection of individuals set up by the treaty. If an individual takes the view that he is injured by a community legislative measure which he regards as illegal he has the opportunity, when the implementation of the measure is entrusted to national authorities, to contest the validity of the measure, at the time of its implementation, before a national court in an action against the national authority. Such a court may, or even must, in pursuance of article 177 of the treaty, refer to the court of justice a question on the validity of the community measure in question. The existence of such an action is by itself of such a nature as to ensure the efficient protection of the individuals concerned.
C-143/77,  EUECJ C-143/77
Updated: 21 May 2022; Ref: scu.132567