Austrian Supreme Court lodges request for CJEU preliminary ruling on Montreal Convention

Michael Wukoschitz's picture

According to Article 17 of the MC, an air carrier is liable for damage sustained in case of death or bodily injury of a passenger upon condition only that the accident which caused the death or injury took place on board the aircraft or in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking. In Saks v Air France, the US Supreme Court has defined the term "accident" as "an unexpected or unusual event or happening that is external to the passenger" and caused the injury. There is no consensus, however, on whether the unexprected or unsual event must be related to the typical risks of aviation - an additional requirement in particular applied by German Courts.

In the case concerend, hot coffee served to a passenger was spilled over legs and chest of his six year old daughter sitting next to him. The first instance court granted the claim. The appelate court reversed the the judment and dismissed the claim: the claimaint had not produced evidence on what had caused the coffee cup to fall and therefore there was no basis to assume it had been due to an avaiation related risk.

Upon appeal of the claimant, he Austrian Civil Supreme Court (OGH) lodged a request for preliminary ruling to the European Court of Justice (CJEU) on wthether the term "accident" in Article 17 of the MC must be interpreted as including a situation when a cup of hot coffee placed on the fold-up table in an aircraft falls over due to an unknown cause and causes bodily injury to a passenger.

As the MC is part of European Union Law, the CJEU has the authority to give an interpretion of the Convention which is binding for all EU member states.

Case details: OGH June 26, 2018, Case 2 Ob 79/18h