Facts

On 6 April 2015 the plaintiff boarded Aeromexico Flight 401 in New York bound for Buenos Aires with a stopover in Mexico City on 6 April 2015.

When boarding, the crew required that the plaintiff's hand luggage be sent to the aircraft's baggage container. On arrival in Mexico City the plaintiff found her carry-on bag, but claimed that her laptop, containing the work that she had done in the United States, had been lost.

According to the plaintiff, her lost Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition contained her work as communications press manager at Penguin Random House in Argentina.

The plaintiff filed a claim against Aeromexico (Claim 1393/TU0542NC), but received no copy of the claim. On 2 October 2015 she sent a legal letter to Aeromexico, but received no reply. As a result, the plaintiff claimed Ps180,000 from Aeromexico (approximately €20,000 at the date of the trip) for material and moral damages.

Aeromexico responded to the complaint arguing that:

  • the plaintiff's carry-on luggage had exceeded the permitted weight and volume; and
  • the plaintiff had placed no value on her carry-on luggage and had made no objection to Aeromexico and reserved the right of limitation of liability under the Montreal Convention.

Decision

Based on the facts and allegations of the parties, the first-instance court held that as both parties had agreed on the flight number and date of the plaintiff's flight, the court had to examine which party was responsible and what damage (if any) was owed to the plaintiff.

The court based its decision on presumptions as no evidence had been clearly provided that the laptop had been inside the plaintiff's carry-on bag.

The plaintiff was a communications press manager at Penguin Random House and her trip to New York had been for business purposes. She claimed to have used her laptop for work purposes, which seemed feasible.

In order to establish the missing laptop's value, the plaintiff sent a request to Dell Argentina, which replied that that model of laptop cost between Ps37,000 and Ps40,000 (approximately between $4,100 and $4,500 at the date of the trip). However, Dell also informed the court that said model had never been sold in Argentina.

The first-instance court ordered Aeromexico to pay the plaintiff Ps40,000 (approximately $2,000 at the date of the trip) for material damages and Ps25,000 (approximately $2,700 on the date of the flight) for moral damages with interest since the date of the flight.

Civil and Commercial Court of Appeals decision

Both parties appealed the first-instance decision to the Civil and Commercial Court of Appeals.(1) Judge Guillermo Alberto Antelo argued that the first-instance decision should be revoked on the following grounds:

  • The defendant had indicated that her laptop had not been in her luggage. In fact, the witnesses that the plaintiff had provided had not been present when the plaintiff's luggage had been packed and the customs document that the plaintiff had provided to show that her laptop had departed with her from Argentina had been issued two years before the trip under review. Further, there was no evidence that the plaintiff had made her claim against Aeromexico in a timely manner, as she had only produced a legal letter sent to Aeromexico six months after the flight in question.
  • It was up to the plaintiff to prove her claim. While it had been difficult to do so in the case at hand, in the plaintiff's request to Dell Argentina regarding the value of her laptop, the company had stated that the model of laptop in question had never been sold in Argentina.

Judge Antelo voted to revoke the first-instance decision and the other two Chamber III judges agreed unanimously.

For further information on this topic please contact Elizabeth Mireya Freidenberg at Freidenberg Freidenberg & Lifsic by telephone (+54 11 4311 4991) or email (emf@emfrl.com.ar).

Endnotes

(1) Ure Florencia Raquel v Aerovias de Mexico SA. Damage to luggage. File 6546/2016, Civil and Commercial Federal Court 9, Secretary 7.

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