Mr Köbler has been employed since 1 March 1986 under a public-law contract with the Austrian State in the capacity of ordinary university professor in Innsbruck (Austria). He applied for the special length-of-service increment for university professors. He claimed that, although he had not completed 15 years? service as a professor at Austrian universities, he had completed the requisite length of service if the duration of his service in universities of other Member States of the European Community were taken into consideration. He claimed that the condition of completion of 15 years service solely in Austrian universities amounted to indirect discrimination unjustified under Community law.
The Verwaltungsgerichtshof (Supreme Administrative Court) referred to the Court a request for a preliminary ruling, which it later withdrew. It also dismissed Mr Köbler?s application on the ground that the special length-of-service increment was a loyalty bonus which objectively justified a derogation from the Community law provisions on freedom of movement for workers. Then Mr Köbler brought an action for a declaration of liability against the Republic of Austria for breach of a provision of Community law by a judgment of the Verwaltungsgerichtshof, Austria before the Landesgericht für Zivilrechtssachen Wien (Regional Civil Court, Vienna), which referred to the Court for a preliminary ruling several questions.
The Court held that the principle that Member States are obliged to make good damage caused to individuals by infringements of Community law for which they are responsible is also applicable where the alleged infringement stems from a decision of a court adjudicating at last instance where the rule of Community law infringed is intended to confer rights on individuals, the breach is sufficiently serious and there is a direct causal link between that breach and the loss or damage sustained by the injured parties. In order to determine whether the infringement is sufficiently serious when the infringement at issue stems from such a decision, the competent national court, taking into account the specific nature of the judicial function, must determine whether that infringement is manifest.
Secondly, the Court held that a measure such as the special length-of-service increment under Austrian law results in an obstacle to freedom of movement for workers which cannot be justified by a pressing public-interest reason. Finally, the Court decided that an infringement of Community law, such as that stemming in the circumstances of the main proceedings from the judgment of the Verwaltungsgerichtshof, does not have the requisite manifest character for liability under Community law to be incurred by a Member State for a decision of one of its courts adjudicating at last instance.European Review of Private Law