Irish High Court confirms exclusivity of Montreal Convention with respect to international air carriage

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

On the 12th March, 2008, the plaintiff, a businessman and resides at Cullion, Dungloe in the County of Donegal, was travelling with Aer Lingus from Dublin to Vilnius, Lithuania on flight EI 396 which departed Dublin at 15:15 in the afternoon. At the beginning of the flight the plaintiff asked the third named defendant (a flight attendant) to provide him with four alcoholic drinks. This request was refused and the plaintiff informed that only two alcoholic drinks could be provided at any one time. The plaintiff rang the bell on a number of occasions requesting more alcohol and questioning the first named defendant’s policy in relation to serving alcoholic drinks. On arriving in Lithuania, the plaintiff, on reaching the door to exit the aircraft was approached by the second and third named defendants who claimed that he had been intoxicated on board the aircraft. The second named defendant (the pilot) contacted the Lithuanian police and two police officers escorted the plaintiff from the aircraft. The Lithuanian police spoke to the plaintiff on the tarmac and then allowed him to leave. The second named defendant wrote a report to the Lithuanian Police. The incident was subsequently reported in the Lithuanian Press.

The airline maintained that this action was covered by the Montreal Convention which provided the exclusive cause of action for a passenger who claims for damage sustained in the course of international carriage. The defendant therfore argued that the plaintiff’s statement of claim disclosed no reasonable cause of action as the Convention provided that the carrier was liable for damage sustained in the case of death or bodily injury of a passenger only and the plaintiff made no such claim. The plaintiff argued that this was not an action covered by the Montreal Convention as the defamation by the defendants occurred not only during the carriage of the passenger but also subsequently in Vilnius when the defendants maliciously and wrongfully published a false report to the police which caused the plaintiff to be arrested. In circumstances where the defamation continued after the carriage had taken place, the provisions of the Montreal Convention would not apply.

The court held that it was clear from the convention that the liability of the carrier was limited to cases of death or bodily injury. The rationale for this limitation was set out by the House of Lords in the joined cases Sidhu and Others v. British Airways PLC and Sykes v. British Airways PLC. The Irish Courts had followed the Sidhu decision in finding that the Convention contains an exclusive and exhaustive code governing actions against carriers arising out of international carriage. In this case the actions complained of had occurred on the aircraft, on the steps of the aircraft and on the tarmac immediately adjacent thereto. They were consequently encompassed and governed by Article 17 of The Montreal Convention and could therefore not give rise to the action pleaded by the plaintiff. For these reasons the plaintiff had no reasonable chance of succeeding in his claim and the claim was ordered to be struck out.

Case:  Mc Auley -v- Aer Lingus Ltd & Ors [2011] IEHC 89

Full text of judgement available here>>.

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