U.S. Court of Appeals: Montreal statute of limitations begins to run when aircraft arrives - even if the claim has not yet accrued

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

On December 26, 2008, Panansam Narayanan boarded a British Airways flight from Los Angeles, California, to Bangalore, India, with an intermediate stop in London, England.  Mr. Narayanan, who suffered from terminal lung disease, was assured prior to boarding that should he need it, supplemental oxygen would be provided to him during the flight. During the flight, however, Narayanan was denied access to this oxygen.  He received medical treatment in both London and Bangalore, and received further treatment upon his return to the United States in January 2009. Nonetheless, his health deteriorated, and on June 11, 2009, he passed away.

On March 7, 2011, Mr. Narayanan’s widow and two adult children filed a claim against British Airways under  Article 17(1) of the Montreal Convention, alleging that the airline’s denial of supplemental oxygen hastened Mr. Narayanan’s death. British Airways moved to dismiss, arguing that the Complaint was time-barred under the two- year limitations period established by Article 35(1) of the Convention. The District Court agreed, dismissing the complaint with prejudice, and the plaintiffs appealed.

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit confirmed that the complaint was time-barred.  As the claim arised under the Convention it was subject to Article 35(1) meaning that the plaintiffs' right to damages for their wrongful death claim would be “extinguished if [their] action [was] not brought within a period of two years, reckoned from the date of arrival at the destination.” The plain language of Article 35(1) left no room for flexibility as to the commencement of the limitations period.

Case: Narayanan v. British Airways, No. 11-55870 (9th Cir. 2014); full text of judgement of March 19, 2014 available here>>.

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