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Major air law treaties
To which major air law treaties related to carrier liability for passenger injury or death is your state a party?
Greece (The Hellenic Republic) is a party to the following conventions:
- Montreal Convention (1999), ratifying Law No. 3006/2002, in effect since 4 November 2003;
- Montreal Protocol No. 1 (1975), ratifying Law No. 1778/1988, in effect since 15 February 1996;
- Montreal Protocol No. 2 (1975), ratifying Law No. 1778/1988, in effect since 15 February 1996;
- Montreal Protocol No. 3 (1975), ratifying Law No. 1778/1988, not yet in force;
- Montreal Protocols No. 4 (1975), ratifying Law No. 1778/1988, in effect since 14 June 1998;
- Guatemala City Protocol (1971), ratifying Law No. 1778/1988, not yet in force;
- Tokyo Convention (1963), ratifying Legal Decree 734/1971 in effect since 29 August 1971;
- Guadalajara Supplementary Convention (1961), ratifying Legal Decree 766/1970, in effect since 17 December 1973;
- Hague Protocol (1955), ratifying Legal Decree 4395/1964, in effect since 21 September 1965;
- Rome Convention (1952) has not been ratified; and
- Warsaw Convention (1929) ratifying Obligatory Law No. 596/1937, in effect since 11 April 1938.
No implementing legislation is needed. Under article 28(1) of the Hellenic (Greek) Constitution, a ratified treaty supersedes all (prior and posterior) Acts of Parliament.
International carriage – liability for passenger injury or death
Montreal Convention and Warsaw Convention
Do the courts in your state interpret the similar provisions of the Montreal Convention and the Warsaw Convention in the same way?
Affirmative. Domestic case law expressly mentions the need for a homogenous and stable normative environment, given the existing similarities. Usually, there is a comparative analysis between the Warsaw and the Montreal 1999 regimes.
Do the courts in your state consider the Montreal Convention and Warsaw Convention to provide the sole basis for air carrier liability for passenger injury or death?
Greek case law seems to suggest that all legal requirements with regard to the compensation for a passenger’s death or injury derive solely from the two international instruments. That said and despite their fully acknowledged autonomous content, it continues:
- the term ‘damage’ is interpreted by and in accordance with the Greek Civil Code, for its legal breadth or substance is not specified in detail in the instruments themselves; and
- while a contractual liability (carriage) covers only pecuniary damage, if the very same facts also trigger tortious liability, non-pecuniary (moral) damage is also upheld in the form of monetary satisfaction (moral damages), where the court enjoys a wide margin of appreciation or discretion.
Definition of ‘carrier’
In your state, who is considered to be a ‘carrier’ under the Montreal and Warsaw Conventions?
The term ‘carrier’ is interpreted quite restrictively. There must be a legally direct contact or connection between the parties concerned: ground handling agents and other service providers are not considered and, thus, cannot act as carriers, for they do not operate in their own name or capacity, but rather on behalf of the carrier. As for successive carriage, the intention of the contracting parties is of paramount importance: knowledge and adherence to the fact that the trip is perceived by the contracting parties as a unitary activity are the integral parts.
Carrier liability condition
How do the courts in your state interpret the conditions for air carrier liability - ‘accident’, ‘bodily injury’, ‘in the course of any of the operations of embarking or disembarking’ - for passenger injury or death in article 17(1) of the Montreal Convention and article 17 of the Warsaw Convention?
Greek courts interpret the term ‘accident’ in conformity with Regulation (EU) No. 996/2010 and Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention:
- a carrier that has undertaken the contractual obligation to provide its air services to the passenger,
- the air accident takes place during the air transportation (ie, during a particular air transportation in an abrupt and violent way, owing to external causes); and
- causing death or physical harm to the passenger.
The prevailing view seems to suggest that, since the international instruments remain silent on the matter, domestic legislation comes into play. ‘Bodily injury’ is interpreted as physical harm caused by the accident. Danger faced by passengers during flight time is not interpreted as physical harm. There is no established case law on:
- the disputed issue of whether mental or moral damages are covered, although it has been held that should a passenger suffer from a physical injury he or she is also entitled to moral damages; or
- the precise time liability is triggered - the basic criterion of whether the carrier actually controls the place where the accident took place is merely proposed by theory.
No negligence defence
How do the courts in your state interpret and apply the ‘no negligence’ defence in article 21 of the Montreal Convention, and the ‘all reasonable measures’ defence in article 20 and the ‘wilful misconduct’ standard of article 25 of the Warsaw Convention?
No established corpus of case law under the Montreal Convention 1999 regime could be traced. The courts will follow the existing case law pattern under the Warsaw system. In short, for claims of more than 113,100 special drawing rights (SDR), the presumption against the carrier may be rebutted in cases where it is proven by the carrier that the latter acted in a prudent and diligent manner during both the preparation of, and the carriage itself, in accordance with article 330, section 2 of the Greek Civil Code. The ‘wilful misconduct’ exception cannot be found (as a legal institution) in domestic (Greek) legislation. According to case law, its essential content is formed partially of dolus (intent) together with the actual practice of the carrier. The latter knows that its acts or omissions might lead to an increase in the risk of loss-making; the final consequences for the acts or omissions attributable to the carrier are of no importance to the carrier itself. This does not mean that the carrier accepts the eventual consequences as a matter of fact. Wilful misconduct is somewhere between intent and negligence.
Advance payment for injury or death
Does your state require that advance payment be made to injured passengers or the family members of deceased passengers following an aircraft accident?
Article 5 of Regulation (EC) No. 2027/1997 (as amended subsequently) is directly applicable in the Greek legal order, superseding all prior and posterior domestic legislation. Domestic courts and other authorities follow its provisions strictly.
How do the courts of your state interpret each of the jurisdictions set forth in article 33 of the Montreal Convention and article 28 of the Warsaw Convention?
The ‘black letter’ rule of interpretation is usually applicable for all four bases of jurisdiction. Courts follow existing case law under the Warsaw system. As for the fifth jurisdiction, no reported case law could be traced. The doctrine of forum non conveniens is not recognised verbatim in the Greek legal order. On a few occasions, the courts take into serious consideration issues of bona fides and public order. That said, if the courts are not satisfied when examining their jurisdiction ratione loci and cannot find any valid link, the writ is usually dismissed.
Period of limitation
How do the courts of your state interpret and apply the two-year period of limitations in article 35 of the Montreal Convention and article 29 of the Warsaw Convention?
The very same way they interpret article 279 of the Greek Civil Code. It is subject to tolling (suspension of time limit, eg, in cases of force majeure). It encompasses and regulates the rights and duties of all persons concerned (eg, by reduction, by substitution, insurers).
Liability of carriage
How do the courts of your state address the liability of carriage performed by a person other than the contracting carrier under the Montreal and Warsaw Conventions?
As an issue of concurrent liability, civil action may be instituted against all or some carriers (claimant’s prerogative). The contractual carrier bears full responsibility for the overall transportation, while the actual carrier is liable for the part of the trip that it performed or operated.
Domestic carriage – liability for passenger injury or death
What laws in your state govern the liability of an air carrier for passenger injury or death occurring during domestic carriage?
Regulation No. 2027/1997, as amended by Regulation (EC) No. 889/2002, is directly applicable in the Greek legal order, where the MC1999 regime was transplanted and also governs the liability of an air carrier for passenger injury or death during a domestic carriage.
Nature of carrier liability
What is the nature of, and conditions, for an air carrier’s liability?
As already mentioned in question 11, article 17 et seq of the MC1999 regime is directly applicable. It is designed as a two-tier liability: a non-fault based one for damages less than 113,100 SDR and a fault-based one with a presumption against the carrier for damages of more than 113,100 SDR.
Is there any limit of a carrier’s liability for personal injury or death?
The MC1999 regime applies here, too.
What are the main defences available to the air carrier?
As in the MC1999 regime, mutatis mutandis.
Is the air carrier’s liability for damages joint and several?
As in the MC1999 Convention. In cases where an accident was caused partly due to a third party’s negligence (eg, it has been adjudged that the Greek state and the air carrier are jointly albeit severally liable for damages caused). The Greek state’s liability is based on failure to enforce all safety measures required for a safe civil aviation performance.
Rule for apportioning fault
What rule do the courts in your state apply to apportioning fault when the injury or death was caused in whole or in part by the person claiming compensation or the person from whom the right is derived?
Generally, courts follow the principle of apportioning blame; they focus on the gravity of the fault in order to define the compensation. This does not apply to children under the age of 10 or people mentally incapacitated or with reduced mental capability. It is also well established that, as far as contractual rights are concerned, the defendant may raise an objection of contributory negligence (article 300 of the Greek Civil Code) against the claimant, the burden of proof falling on the defendant, the one raising the objection.
Statute of limitations
What is the time within which an action against an air carrier for injury or death must be filed?
Since article 35 of the MC1999 is by reference applicable, the two-year period governs the subject matter as well. Its interpretation is very much the same as that concerning article 279 of the Greek Civil Code; it is subject to tolling (suspension of time limit, eg, in cases of force majeure). It encompasses and regulates all persons’ rights and duties concerned (eg, by reduction, by substitution, insurers). The proper service of the writ must have taken place during the said period (lex fori).
What are the applicable procedures to seek recovery from another party for contribution or indemnity?
Usually it takes the form of a legal action of a particular type (prosepiklisi dikonomikou eggyitou, procedural guarantor), where the defendant air carrier institutes subsequent and in parallel proceedings against, for example, its insurer (or any other person the carrier considers responsible) and calls the latter to participate in the initial case or ask for indemnity to be paid, both of the cases being tried at the same time, before the civil courts. In most cases, the carrier asks the court to adjudge and declare that the third party is liable and thus obliges to render damages to the carrier, consisting of what the carrier is obliged to pay to the injured party. If recovery is asked from the state (for its acts and omissions within and as a result of its civil servants not properly discharging their functions and duties), the legal action (writ) must be brought before the administrative courts.
What time limits apply?
The two-year period of limitations (article 35 of the MC1999) is directly applicable, its content covering all persons concerned or contractually involved (eg, by reduction, by substitution, insurers, etc). As for the state, administrative courts have ruled (resting on a different legal basis) that the applicable period is five years, commencing from the date the accident took place.
Liability for ground damage
What laws apply to the liability of the air carrier for injury or damage caused to persons on the ground by an aircraft accident?
Apart from Regulations (EC) No. 2407/1992 and (EC) No. 785/2004, only domestic legislation is applicable, namely the Greek Civil Code, articles 117 to 120, 137, 139, 155 and 167 of the domestic Aviation Code, the insurance code and secondary administrative legislation.
Nature and conditions of liability
What is the nature of, and conditions for, an air carrier’s liability for ground damage?
Strict and ab indiviso liability of both the owner of the aircraft and its user or operator.
Is there any limit of carriers’ liability for ground damage?
Notwithstanding the provisions of Regulations (EC) No. 2407/1992 and (EC) No. 785/2004, domestic legislation provides for a limitation of the owner of the air carrier’s liability covering up to the real value of the aircraft the day ground damage took place. For the user or operator of the aircraft, there is also a limitation of his or her liability covering up to three times of the aircraft’s value or price (as if it was a new aircraft) the day ground damage took place. Having said so, dolus and severe negligence attributable to the user or the owner or their agents, employees, etc, remove any cap on liability. There is also a two-year time limit for instituting proceedings (ie, serving the writ).
What are the main defences available to the air carrier in a claim for damage caused on the ground?
No case law has been found. It depends heavily on the facts. Liability can be minimised if damage took place owing to a fault of the person who suffered the damage, his or her agents or employees. If no one else is involved or has contributed to the event, one would suspect there would be a plea for a force majeure exception.
Liability for unruly passengers and terrorist events
What laws apply to the liability of the air carrier for injury or death caused by an unruly passenger or a terrorist event?
It will be treated as a matter falling within the ambit of article 17 et seq of MC1999. No relevant case law could be traced.
Nature and conditions of liability
What is the nature of, and conditions, for an air carrier’s liability for injury or death caused by an unruly passenger or a terrorist event?
The air carrier is under the obligation to provide a safe environment (safety, security, effectiveness) and ultimately cover all damages taking place during the carriage, whatever their origin. That said, the air carrier enjoys the status of article 17 et seq of the MC1999 regime.
Is there any limit of liability for injury or death caused by an unruly passenger or a terrorist event?
The MC1999 regime is also applicable, as per the air carrier. No other limits of liability are in force.
What are the main defences available to the air carrier in a claim for injury or death caused by an unruly passenger or a terrorist event?
The defences available to the carrier under the MC1999 regime also hold valid in the cases under examination.
Consumer protection and passenger rights
Summarise aviation-related consumer-protection laws or regulations related to passengers with reduced mobility, flight delays and overbooking, tarmac delay and other relevant areas.
Secondary EU legislation is directly applicable in the Greek legal order, along with domestic statutory instruments providing for enforcement measures and administrative penalties. Needless to say, it overrides any domestic piece of legislation. In short, Regulations (EC) No. 1107/2006 and (EC) No. 261/2004 constitute the main framework of the relevant areas, respectively.
Liability of government entities providing services to carriers
What laws apply to the liability of the government entities that provide services to the air carrier?
Government entities providing services are in principle liable for damages (strict tortious liability) in accordance with article 105 of the Introductory Law of the Greek Civil Code. That said, in the case a ‘public’ contract has been concluded between, for example, airport authorities and an air carrier, the applicable law is to be found in:
- the public contract itself;
- the principles of administrative law and public contracts legislation;
- the specific Act of Parliament, if a public contract has been incorporated therein and ratified by an Act of Parliament; and
- the provisions of the Greek Civil Code for all other purposes.
Nature and conditions of liability
What is the nature of, and conditions for, the government’s liability?
Strict liability. Courts examine:
- whether the state has violated its law-derived obligations;
- the existence of a causal link to the damage (together with the attribution to the state of its illegal acts or omissions); or
- any damage was suffered by the air carrier.
Fault is not a prerequisite. Notice of a claim is not mandatory.
Are there any limitations to seeking recovery from the government entity?
Only if the illegal act or omission of the governmental entity took place in contravention of a valid legal norm for the benefit of public interest (public policy exception), the latter being strictly examined.
Responsibility for accidents
Can an air carrier be criminally responsible for an aviation accident?
A legal entity cannot stand trial as an accused (it does not enjoy a locus standi) before a criminal court. That said, the CEO of the carrier or any other implicated person (agent, employee and the like) of the air carrier may be brought before the criminal justice system as an accused person or an accessory or such like.
Effect of proceedings
What is the effect of criminal proceedings against the air carrier on a civil action by the passenger or their representatives?
Although criminal judgments do not provide for or produce res judicata on the civil jurisdiction, in reality there is a strong feeling or indication that they affect civil cases.
Can claims for compensation by passengers or their representatives be made against the air carrier through the criminal proceedings?
Affirmative. Compensation or moral damages may be instituted (under reservation) against the air carrier during criminal proceedings. The compensation and or monetary satisfaction claimed through criminal proceedings is of symbolic character (currently up to €44). Bringing a claim for damages before a criminal court does not exclude per se the availability of bringing a claim before a civil court.
Effect of carrier's conditions of carriage and tariffs
What is the legal effect of a carrier’s conditions of carriage or tariffs on the carrier’s liability?
If incorporated in the ticket or made public by reference, they form part of the ticket (general transaction terms); a passenger enjoys full consumer protection, especially for clarity and transparency, under both European and domestic legislation.
What damages are recoverable for the personal injury of a passenger?
Greek courts have consistently held that, since the MC1999 does not specify the nature of damage, its content and notion are to be interpreted in accordance with domestic legislation. There is no limitation on damages, save for the stipulations of MC1999 regime. In that sense, damage takes the form of a harmful situation, having repercussions on bodily, property and psychological level. Thus, pecuniary damage is fully recoverable, moral damages are also adjudged, provided there is some kind of tortious liability present (eg, bodily harm), the courts enjoying a wide margin of appreciation on the adjudged monetary satisfaction; damages for psychological or mental harm (without any bodily injury) are quite rare. Punitive damages are unknown (as an institution) to the Greek legal system and the courts have repeatedly denied enforcing any kind of damages that merely resemble punitive damages. An injured passenger is entitled to initiate proceedings and claim compensation owing to his or her injury, as well as monetary satisfaction (an institution quite different from compensation - with the courts enjoying full discretion).
What damages are recoverable for the death of a passenger?
The reply to question 36 is also applicable. There is no limitation on damages, save the stipulations of the MC1999 regime. Punitive damages are unknown (as an institution) in the Greek legal system. Thus, the dead passenger’s pecuniary damage is fully recoverable. Courts also adjudge monetary satisfaction for the psychological damage of the loss (dead passenger) suffered by his or her next of kin. There is also a kind of family law compensation owed to the spouse if the deceased was married. Case law repeatedly recognises the individual standing of a person in one’s own right, namely, the spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters and their children or parents-in-law (beneficiaries). In principle, a court-appointed representative is not required to seek recovery; only exceptionally it is imperative to have one appointed (eg, to minors or to persons with (at least) reduced mental capabilities).
Accident investigation and family assistance
Who is responsible in your state for investigating aviation accidents?
The Public Procurator (ex officio), in order to investigate whether any criminal responsibility arises from the acts or omissions of all implicated in the accident and if so, institute criminal proceedings; and an independent public authority, namely the Greek Air Accident Investigation and Air Safety Board (AAIASB). The investigation is carried out by a committee (panel) of investigators. They are appointed by the president of the AAIASB.
Set forth any restrictions on the disclosure and use of accident reports, flight data recorder information of cockpit voice recordings in litigation.
Given that Regulation (EU) No. 996/2010 and Directive 2003/42 (EC) as amended by Regulation (EC) No. 596/2009 are directly applicable in Greece with an overriding effect on the relevant provisions of the domestic Code of Criminal Procedure, the board is obliged to follow the mandatory norms of the European legislation and all restrictions contained therein. The very same has to be underlined for the current edition of Annex 13 of the Chicago Convention (1944). No other restriction is imposed on the disclosure and use of reports and all other relevant material.
Relevant post-accident assistance laws
Does your state have any laws or regulations addressing the provision of assistance to passengers and their family after an aviation accident?
Notwithstanding the secondary European legislation mentioned in question 39, there is also a complementary domestic legislation (in the form of a statutory instrument), where EU norms are supplemented.
Are there mandatory insurance requirements for air carriers?
The Greek Aviation Code (article 137) provides for compulsory insurance (covering liability to passengers, baggage and cargo). In addition, the operator of any aircraft has to be insured as regards members of the crew and other persons on board who are employed for the purposes of the flight, as well as in respect of liability to third parties for damage caused on the surface. On top of that, one must note the relevant secondary EU legislation, namely Regulation (EC) No. 785/2004, on insurance requirements for air carriers and aircraft operators (the insured risks to be covered, on an each-and-every flight basis, including, inter alia, acts of war, terrorism, hijacking, acts of sabotage, unlawful seizure of aircraft and civil commotion). According to Regulation (EC) No. 1137/2008, the EU Commission is empowered to adapt the required minimum amounts of insurance cover. Regulation (EU) No. 285/2010 has revised the minimum amounts of insurance cover. Compulsory insurance is also provided by article 50 of the Montreal Convention, as well as by article 7 of the EU Licensing Regulation (Regulation (EC) No. 1008/2008).
Provide a brief overview of the court structure as it relates to civil aviation liability claims and appeals.
Notwithstanding the procedural type prerequisites before instituting civil proceedings imposed by the MC1999 treaty, a claimant has to file a writ before the competent court of first instance (magistrates’ court, one judge or three judges court of first instance), has to serve it to his or her adversary and (within 100 days from the day of filing for Greek residents) has to submit his or her memorial or submissions along with all evidence (of a written form). The defendant is obliged to act in the same way. Within the following 15 days, each litigant has to file his or her re-joinder along with evidentiary support of his or her rejoinder only. The judge will fix a date for hearing. If there is no need for witnesses’ examination, the case will proceed in the deliberation phase. If not, witnesses may be cross-examined. The judgment will be rendered in the fullness of time. It may be partially (or wholly) enforceable. In principle, the litigant who lost (wholly or partially) the case may file for an appeal (on both points of facts and law) and ask for a hearing (particular date and time). The procedure before the court of appeal is, in principle, in writing. The appellate court will re-examine the case, based, in principle, on the evidence presented before the lower court. It will render its judgment in the fullness of time. Its judgment is final on points of fact, wholly enforceable and provides for res judicata between the litigants.
What is the nature and extent of allowable discovery/disclosure?
There is no obligation to disclose (as understood in the common-law system). That said, a litigant has to act in a bona fide way during proceedings before a court of law.
Does the law of your state provide for any rules regarding preservation and spoliation of evidence?
For civil matters, article 348 of the Greek Code on Civil Procedure provides for the ‘conservatory evidence’ and is directly applicable. One can apply before the competent court if there is:
- an agreement between the adversaries;
- a risk of having some evidence destroyed or the use of evidence may be rendered difficult; or
- the current status of a thing or works has to be noted.
There is no legal obligation to have proceedings instituted. As for criminal matters, the Public Procurator is obliged to use all means necessary for the preservation of evidence.
Recoverability of fees and costs
Are attorneys’ fees and litigation costs recoverable?
Only partially and to a very low degree.
Judgments and settlement
Pre and post-judgment Interest
Does your state impose pre-judgment or post-judgment interest? What is the rate and how is it calculated?
There is a pre-judgment interest of 2 per cent on top of the default interest (now at 7.25 per cent), commencing from the filing of the writ, unless the defendant acknowledges and accepts the writ before submitting his or her statement or concludes an extrajudicial settlement. There is a post-judgment interest of 3 per cent on top of the default interest, commencing on the date the court of first instance rendered its final judgment, whereby the defendant is ordered to pay (with interest) the monetary debt.
Is court approval required for settlements?
For civil cases, there is no obligation to have an approval for settlements obtained by the court, save in cases of mentally incapacitated and minors, where a particular procedure has to take place before any final settlement is reached and inked. As for criminal cases, once commenced they cannot be suspended or halted because of a civil settlement.
What is the effect of a settlement on the right to seek contribution or indemnity from another person or entity? Can it still be pursued?
This really depends on the parties involved in the transaction of a settlement. It is quite common for the ‘internal relationship’ either to be prescribed by the conditions of a valid insurance policy or from a quite different lex causa. To avoid problems, it is prudent to submit the text of the settlement before the competent court (for enforcement purposes and indemnities).
Are there any financial sanctions, laws or regulations in your state that must be considered before an air carrier or its insurer may pay a judgment or settlement?
Many tax and stamp duty obligations fall on the carrier. In order to be on the safe side, the air carrier has to know in advance the tax, duty stamp, etc, public burdens it must deduct from the overall amount (settlement) and pay the inland revenue and any other domestic authority directly before enforcing the settlement itself.
Updates and Trends
Updates & Trends
Updates and trends
New legislation (article 180, Law No. 4512/2018) has introduced an alternative dispute resolution, namely, conciliation if the parties agree to this effect (voluntary basis).