ECJ decides on airlines' liability for checked baggage pursuant to the Montreal Convention

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

The Montreal Convention provides that an air carrier must pay compensation to each passenger, limited to 1 000 Special Drawing Rights (‘SDRs’) per passenger, in the event of the loss of his baggage during a flight operated by the carrier or while the baggage was in the carrier’s charge. The carrier must provide passengers with an identification tag for each piece of checked baggage.

On 1 August 2008, Mr Espada Sánchez, Ms Oviedo Gonzáles and their two children, both minors, boarded a flight from Barcelona to Paris operated by Iberia. The baggage of that family of four had been packed into two suitcases which were lost during the flight and have not been recovered. Accordingly, the four passengers seek damages from Iberia in the amount of €4,400, corresponding to 4 000 SDR (1 000 SDR per passenger).

The Spanish court hearing the case on appeal asks the Court of Justice whether an air carrier is required to compensate only passengers in receipt of baggage identification tags or whether it must also compensate a passenger who claims compensation for the loss of baggage checked in in another passenger’s name.

In its judgement of Nov. 22, 2012, the ECJ held that a passenger may claim compensation from an air carrier for the loss of items belonging to him which were in baggage checked in in the name of another passenger. Consequently, not only a passenger who has checked in his own baggage in person, but also a passenger whose items were placed in the baggage checked in by another passenger on the same flight, must be compensated. However, it will be for the passengers concerned to prove, subject to review by the national court, that items belonging to them had in fact been in baggage checked in in the name of another passenger.

Source: ECJ press release 151/12 of Nov. 22, 2012

Full text of judgement in Case C-410/11 (Pedro Espada Sánchez ea v Iberia) availbale here>>.

Remarks:

1) The German Supreme Court (BGH) had decided similary in 2011; see here>>.

2) The liabilty limit of SDR 1000 was increased to SDR 1131 with effect from 30 December 2009.

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