Friday, 9 December 2016

Air carrier liability: Greek CA rules against compensability of pure mental injury under Montreal Convention

The Court of Appeals (CA) of Athens, Greece, in its decision No 4326/2015, ruled that a passenger who suffered mental distress, but no bodily injury, does not have a right to compensation under Art. 17 of the 1999 Montreal Convention on air carrier liability (MC).

The case concerned a claim brought against an airline by a passenger, who, a few days after the completion of his flight from London to Athens, read in a newspaper that aircraft of the airline of the type he had embarked himself during that flight (Boeing 767) had been found contaminated with Pollonium 210. Pollonium 210 is a radio-active substance, potentially fatal to humans, which had been used a few days earlier to assassinate a former Russian spy. Despite repeatedly contacting the airline about this fact, the passenger received no reply. Therefore, he initiated legal proceedings claiming compensation in the amount of € 70.000 for negligent failure of the airline to prevent its aircraft from being contaminated and to inform its passengers on the actions taken to address the problem.

The CA affirmed the judgment of the court of first instance, which had rejected the claim. The Court found that applicable was Article 17 MC, which provided for compensation of only bodily injury, while additional mental injury could be compensated according to national law. At the same time, Art. 29 MC obliged claimants to bring any action for damages, however founded, only under the conditions and the limits of the Convention. Since the conditions of Art. 17 MC were not fulfilled, no mental damages could be awarded. As a result, the lawsuit was rejected.

With this decision, Greek courts join the prevailing view among courts in common-law countries, which hold that stand-alone mental injuries are not compensable.

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