You don't have to fight your way through every decision
Photo: Felix Kästle / dpa
Everyone has probably had the feeling – a mountain of paper comes into the house, be it the notification for pension or for student loans, and one asks the anxious question: Do I really have to read and understand all of this?
This is exactly what happened to a trained painter who had been a gardener for the past 30 years.
In 1992 he had divorced his wife, so that his pension entitlements were shared with her as part of a pension equalization.
The man's pension entitlements were reduced as a result.
You don't have to see a mistake on the last pages
When he applied to his pension insurance agency for a pension for particularly long-term insured persons, this was also approved.
A 32-page pension notice stated that he was entitled to a monthly pension of EUR 1,320.
On page 28 of the notice it was pointed out that the pension equalization carried out decades ago had an effect on the amount of the pension to his advantage.
But when his divorced wife also applied for a pension and pointed out the pension equalization, the pension insurance agency found that he had calculated the husband's pension incorrectly. Instead of reducing the plaintiff's pension because of the pension equalization, it was increased accordingly.
In the period from February 2017 to the end of August 2019, the pensioner received a total of 6762 euros too much. Since the pension insurance was responsible for the error, they waived a third of the overpaid amount. The pensioner should pay back 4508 euros. The fact that the pension was too high should have "since made sense" to the plaintiff when he read the notification. Because on page 28 of the notice, the incorrect invoice is clearly visible. Because there it is pointed out that the pension equalization was carried out "in his favor" and not "at his expense".
The judges at the Karlsruhe social court saw it differently (file number: S 12 R 1017/21).
In the event of an unlawful pension notice, too many benefits received would normally have to be repaid.
Since the pensioner spent the money, he could invoke protection of legitimate expectations, according to the judges.
The overpayment of the pension was evident on page 28 of the decision.
However, the plaintiff did not breach his duty of care through gross negligence just because he did not read the notice to the end.
A »bureaucratic monster«
If the pension does not deviate significantly from the expected pension amount, a simply educated citizen cannot be required to read a complicated 32-page pension notice through to the end and understand it.
With such a "bureaucratic monster" he could not be expected to read the whole thing.
This is not grossly negligent, so that the protection of legitimate expectations applies.
The legal concept of “pension equalization” is also not explained in more detail in the notification.
"Even fully qualified lawyers who have held two state examinations regularly have at most the basics of this highly complex legal institute, even if they happen to have chosen a family law or social law major and have above-average professional skills," according to the Karlsruhe social judges in their decision.