German Supreme Court (BGH) decides on air carrier liability for passenger fall on boarding bridge

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

The claimant was about to embark for his flight from Düsseldorf to Hamburg on Feb. 9, 2013, when he slipped on the boarding bridge because of a wet floor caused by condensation. As a result he suffered from a fracture of his patella. He filed a claim for damages against the defendant air carrier. The first instance court (LG Düsseldorf) dismissed the claim and the appelate court (OLG Düsseldorf) confirmed this decision: according to the Montral Convention, the air carrier was only libale for accidents caused by a hazard which was characteristic for aviation. Any event which in a similar way could happen in other areas of life was not covered by the Convention. Hence, as a wet floor wasn't a spezific risk of aviation, there was no liabilty.

Upon further appeal of the claimant, the German Federal Court (Bundesgerichtshof/BGH) set aside the appelate court's judgment and referred the case back to the latter for new consideration. The BGH held that it was not necessary to decide on whether liability under the Montreal convention was limited to hazards characteristic for aviation: the facts that passenger bridges for technical reasons do not have any handrails, there usually  is a certain slope and condensation was likely to happen because these bridges connect areas of different temparatures were suffcient to be qualified as part of the hazard characteristic for aviation.

Source: BGH press release 185/2017 of Nov. 21, 2017 on judgement X ZR 30/15 of Nov. 21, 2017

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