Canada: no suspension of Warsaw Convention limitation period because of a plaintiff’s disability

The Plaintiff flew with Air France on May 23, 2003, from Toronto to Paris. She was seated in a wheelchair and required assistance to access her seat on the airplane. Upon arrival at CDG airport in France, the Plaintiff claimed that Air France personnel failed to assist despite numerous requests by her mother. Because of this failure to assist, the Plaintiff’s mother had to carry her daughter to the waiting wheelchair on the bridge. While doing so, she tripped on the uneven surface between the exit door of the plane and the bridge platform and the Plaintiff sustained injuries to her knees. Although the incident occurred on May 23, 2003, an action was not commenced until May 20, 2009. Air France argued that the Plaintiff’s cause of action was extinguished because the lawsuit was not commenced within two years (as required by Article 29 of the Warsaw Convention); the Plaintiff’s lawyer argued that since the accident occurred in France, the French interpretation of Article 29 of the Warsaw Convention should govern and that French courts had ruled that the running of the two year limitation period in the Convention was suspended by the minority, disability or guardianship of a Plaintiff.The Ontario Court noted that the French courts’ interpretation was out of the mainstream of the overwhelming majority of international interpretations of Article 29 and dismissed the claim.Full text of judgement in case Sakka et al v. Societe Air France et al 2011 ONSC 1995 available here>>.PS: Following Air France’s motion to dismiss the claim because it had not been filed within the limtiation period, the Plaintiff added a claim of negligence against her former lawyer for failing to file the action in time.

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