Carriers are liable for damages regarding passengers, baggage, mail and cargo, and for third-party damages attributable to their carriage. Damage incurred by passengers or cargo consignors typically results in contractual liability of the carrier, whereas third-party damage typically results in tort liability.
There is no dedicated national legislation governing liability in the aviation market in Japan. Thus, in principle, general statutes such as the Civil Code, the Commercial Code, the Code of Civil Procedure and the Act on General Rules for Application of Laws apply to liability matters. However, a couple of international treaties are applicable to liability matters related to international carriage. Such treaties include the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules Relating to International Carriage by Air of 1929 (the Warsaw Convention) as amended by the Hague Protocol of 1955, the Montreal Protocol No. 4 of 1975 and the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air of 1999 (the Montreal Convention), to which Japan is a party. These treaties are directly applicable without implementing legislation. The Warsaw Convention and the Montreal Convention are applicable to international carriage only, so liability related to domestic carriage is governed by general domestic laws.
The Civil Aeronautics Act governs aviation regulation generally. The Civil Aeronautics Act was enacted to conform to the Convention on International Civil Aviation of 1944 (the Chicago Convention) and the standards, practices and procedures adopted as annexes thereto. Violations of the Civil Aeronautics Act may result in criminal liability.
Conditions of carriage, as established by the carriers, are important sources of contractual liability. Under the Civil Aeronautics Act, Japanese carriers are required to establish conditions of carriage and obtain approval from the MLIT. The conditions of carriage must stipulate matters related to liabilities, including compensation for damage. Foreign carriers are required to attach their conditions of carriage upon application to the MLIT for permission to operate international routes to and from Japan. There are no detailed requirements for conditions of carriage of foreign carriers, as foreign carriers are subject to the regulation of the aviation authority in the aircraft's state of registration.i International carriage
Japan ratified the Warsaw Convention in 1953, which limits carriers' liabilities for injury, death or damage up to 125,000 gold francs. Japan then ratified the Hague Protocol in 1967, which doubled the liability limitation to 250,000 gold francs. In 2000, Japan ratified the Montreal Protocol No. 4 and the Montreal Convention. The Montreal Protocol No. 4 amends the Warsaw Convention and primarily pertains to cargo liability. The Montreal Convention established a two-tiered liability regime, under which the carrier is strictly liable up to 100,000 special drawing rights (SDR) for death or injury of passengers, and liable for damages over 100,000 SDR based on fault. The Montreal Convention became effective in 2003.
Japan is not a party to the Convention on Damage Caused by Foreign Aircraft to Third Parties on the Surface (or the Rome Convention of 1952) or the Montreal Protocol of 1978 related thereto.
It is backed by a court precedent that ratified international treaties are accorded a higher status than domestic legislation, and are immediately applicable even without implementing legislation.ii Internal and other non-convention carriage
General statutes such as the Civil Code, the Commercial Code and the Code of Civil Procedure are applicable. There is no dedicated legislation governing liability in connection with internal carriage or carriage to which the international treaties do not apply.iii General aviation regulation
General statutes such as the Civil Code, the Commercial Code and the Code of Civil Procedure are applicable. There is no dedicated legislation governing liability in connection with general aviation.iv Passenger rights
There is no dedicated legislation governing compensation for delay or cancellation of flights or carriage of disabled passengers. Japanese carriers are required to include matters related to liability in their conditions of carriage; however, it is not a requirement to cover compensation for delay or cancellation of flights or carriage of disabled passengers. Although it is not a legal obligation, Japanese carriers typically provide compensation for delay and cancellation of flights and carriage of disabled passengers on a voluntary basis.
The Consumer Contract Act is applicable to contracts between a consumer and a business operator (consumer contracts), and is therefore applicable to the conditions of carriage between passengers and carriers. Under the Act, consumers may cancel consumer contracts if there is a major misrepresentation on the part of a business operator. In addition, clauses in consumer contracts are void if such clauses (1) totally exempt a business operator from its liability to compensate a consumer for damages on the part of a business operator, or (2) partially exempt a business operator from its liability to compensate a consumer for damages caused by intentional acts or gross negligence of a business operator.v Other legislation
The Act on Prohibition of Private Monopolisation and Maintenance of Fair Trade (the Anti-Monopoly Act) is applicable to any private monopolisation, unreasonable restraint of trade or unfair trade practices in the aviation market, and is discussed further in Section VI.
The Product Liability Act (the PL Act) is applicable when damages are caused by a defect in a product, such as aircraft, engines and components.
The Act for Prevention of Disturbance from Aircraft Noise in the Vicinity of Public Airports and related ordinances provide noise standards. Violation of the noise standards may result in the relevant flight crew being subject to criminal fines.